Has Banning Credit Cards Stopped Problem Gambling?

Regulations in UK betting are often the subject of fierce debate between operators, regulators and customers. But the recent, outright ban on the use of credit cards in betting in the UK has been met with broad spectrum approval as a common-sense move. But now that the ban has been in place for some time, we can begin to see the results of the ban. Problem gambling is a huge issue in the UK, affecting as many as 2.2 million people. Credit cards contributed enormously to this kind of hardship—so has the ban stopped problem gambling?

Let’s take a look at a few reasons why banning credit cards has been successful in combating problem gambling, and how more could be done.

Success of the ban

Naturally, the ban of the use of credit cards in gambling has had many positive effects that are clear to see. One of the initial concerns with and objections to the credit card ban was that bettors would simply move their borrowing elsewhere and find somewhere else to get funds from. But survey data shows that this is not the case.

Overdrafts, payday loans, and indeed loans in general, showed no signs of speeding up after the ban was implemented. Plainly, no great numbers of people were looking elsewhere to borrow money. While there were minor increases in borrowing from relatives, this could be reliably put down to other factors.

On average, the UK problem gambler is as much as £10,000 in debt before they seek help for their problem. It is absolutely vital that bettors are encouraged not to borrow money for their betting. The number one golden rule of any kind of betting is that you should never bet more than you can afford to lose. Credit cards are one of the most easily accessible ways to borrow money, so banning them is clearly necessary.

Another place we can look to see if the credit card ban has successfully prevented people from engaging in unsafe betting practices is the use of unlicensed and unregulated operators. Again, data shows no increase in the moves to unlicensed sites which would continue to accept credit card payments.

Beyond this, opinion polls show that leisure gamblers on the whole do not feel inconvenienced by the move, and it’s also clear from the data that the breaches of the regulation from licensed operators have been minimal.

The move has worked as intended, then. Gamblers have largely reduced the habit of borrowing money to gamble. This is one step in addressing the issue of problem gambling, but it could never have been expected to fully resolve the problem. So, what more can be done?

What more needs to be done

There are two main ways that the effects of problem gambling can be minimized. The first is through continuing to update the regulations by which operators must abide. Sites like Betfree show that betting sites are more popular than ever and this growth has meant that bettors should ensure that they stick with licensed operators who have to abide by these anti-problem gambling measures. As the industry is constantly changing and evolving, regulations must be expected to become obsolete more quickly. Regulation must be seen as an ongoing process.

On the other hand, greater importance must be placed on awareness and education around the issues. Data gathered by the UKGC in relation to the credit card ban also showed that, for more casual gamblers, the ban also improved general awareness of the nature of the problem. Far too much money was being borrowed to gamble with. Public awareness of issues is one of the biggest factors which drives companies to operate in a more responsible way. Because the issue with credit card gambling is not, in principle, borrowing money, but the debt and destitution into which it drives people.

Practices around advertising and the way that games are run also contribute to players spending more than they can afford and driving people into debt. Problem gambling can’t stop entirely until there is a broad if not universal awareness of this.

Problem gambling is an endemic problem and is not the result of any one root cause. Rather, many factors affect the levels of problem gambling, and so a holistic approach must be taken if problem gambling is ever to be fully eliminated. Banning the use of credit cards is a major step forward, but it cannot be expected to resolve problem gambling on its own.


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