The Gambling Commission is considering banning people from using their credit cards to place bets.
The regulator said on Monday gambling on credit cards “increases the risk that consumers will gamble more than they can afford” and it would “consider prohibiting or restricting the use of credit cards” in order to protect gamblers from racking up huge debts that they cannot pay.
The announcement that the Gambling Commission would consider banning betting on credit was included in the regulator’s report into how to make online gambling safer. The report showed that profits in the online gambling industry jumped by 10% in 2017 to £4.7bn, and more than 9 million Britons gamble online.
Campaigners have long called for restrictions to prevent people from using their credit cards to gamble. Carolyn Harris, a Labor MP who campaigns for safer gambling, said: “The thought of credit card gambling terrifies me. Gambling debts already are a major concern not just for the individual, but for their family who pay the price of the consequences.
“Currently the focus is on the industry and we know big changes are coming. When we have campaigned so heavily to reduce stakes [on fixed-odds betting terminals], to be anything other than critical of such credit card gambling would be unbelievable.”
The report said: “We will consider prohibiting or restricting the use of credit cards and the offering of credit but will explore the consequences of doing so. For example the danger of some consumers switching to more risky and higher cost payment methods such as payday loans.”
Neil McArthur, the chief executive of the Gambling Commission, said: “The proposals we have announced today are intended to protect children better, reduce the risks to vulnerable consumers and build on the measures we already impose on operators to know their customers and intervene at an earlier stage before consumers experience harm.”
Tracey Crouch, the Conservative MP and minister for sport and civil society, said: “These proposals for additional regulations will strengthen the controls already in place and further safeguard children and vulnerable people from the risks of online gambling.”
Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour party, called for stronger action from the gambling regulator. “We need tougher restrictions to make online gambling safer and make self-exclusion easier,” he said. “There’s a strong argument that we shouldn’t use debt to finance gambling and therefore we should be thinking seriously about whether people should be able to use credit cards to gamble at all.”
Marc Etches, the chief executive of GambleAware, said: “Being able to use a credit card significantly increases the risk of gambling more than you can afford, so a ban on credit cards online could be hugely beneficial in protecting the vulnerable.”