Laptop with padlock and credit cards on keyboard

UKGC: Online Gambling Credit-Card Restrictions Likely Following Call for Evidence

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) has confirmed that it is likely to implement some form of restrictions on the use of credit cards to fund UK consumers’ online gambling accounts. The Gambling Commission’s revelations on the topic come as it has released the results of a call for evidence on the use and misuse of credit cards held between between February and May 2019.

The Commission has released the results of what was in essence a stakeholder survey while also announcing an open consultation on the topic, in which it hopes to hear from more credit card-using gamblers as to why the practice shouldn’t be restricted or banned outright.

UK Gambling CommissionThe problem is that the UKGC believes that gambling on credit, in essence borrowing money to gamble, is bad societal form. For the remote-gambling industry, as with most other e-commerce, credit cards are an ease-of-use medium. Yet as gambling foes repeatedly headline, problem gamblers commonly magnify their problems and their debt by gambling with money they don’t have and can’t afford to borrow.

The Commission stated: “We are persuaded that there are risks of harm associated with using credit cards for online gambling and that we need to act to protect consumers. We are therefore now consulting specifically on two separate options of either banning or restricting the use of credit cards for all forms of remote gambling ie betting, gaming and lotteries.”

The UK’s chief regulator doesn’t state that it absolutely will be instituting a ban or some restrictions, instead of leaving the status quo in place, but the tone of language suggests the latter is unlikely. “Credit cards provide a convenient means of borrowing money to fund gambling and can facilitate high levels of gambling debt eg through maximising credit limits across multiple cards,” the UKGC wrote. “We propose to introduce measures that will be effective in reducing gambling harms associated with the use of credit cards. The preferred option for most who responded to the call for evidence was to prohibit gambling online with credit cards in order to achieve this aim. We will take the most appropriate course of action in view of any further evidence obtained during this consultation, alongside the data already submitted.”

One key point already on the UKGC’s radar is finding a way to prevent gamblers from using easy workarounds, such as using plastic to fund an online wallet, then moving funds from the e-wallet to an online gambling site. Per the Commission:

We note from responses to the call for evidence that where online gambling deposits are made through some e-wallets, the operator has no means of knowing which method the payment originated from (eg whether it emanated from a debit card, a credit card or a separate balance within the wallet). Unless this current lack of transparency is addressed, a prohibition or a restriction on gambling online with credit cards could be easily circumvented by making a credit card deposit into an e-wallet instead of a direct payment to the gambling operator. We will therefore need to prevent gambling operators from accepting any payments via e-wallets unless e-wallet providers can prevent credit cards being used for online gambling through their facilities. Or, in the case of regulatory measures short of a ban, we would need to ensure that any limits or controls on gambling with credit cards can be equally applied to the use of credit cards through e-wallets. We will be writing to e-wallet providers at the start of the consultation and we encourage them to consider, and provide details of, the solutions they can deliver to facilitate any regulatory change.

In truth, it is unlikely that the UKGC will find a way to place any blanket restriction on e-wallets themselves, since they are simultaneous used for innumerable non-gambling purposes. Instead, as noted, the Gambling Commission is going to apply more heat on online operators, perhaps seeking to restrict the use of e-wallets for certain types of transactions involving UK gamblers.

Industry pushback is inevitable in the UK’s ever more-regulated gambling space. Nonetheless, more restrictions are coming.

Interested UK gamblers who can offer sound reasoning for their continuing use of credit cards as a payment medium are encouraged to fill out a survey provided by the UKGC.

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