In our recent UK Gambling in 2020 article, we made the prediction that the government would ban gambling on credit cards sometime this year.
That wasn’t exactly a tough call, given the noises from all sides that credit cards should indeed be prohibited. What was surprising, however, was how fast the Great Britain Gambling Commission moved, just 14 days into the New Year.
By April 14th, it will no longer be possible to fund customer accounts with credit cards at GBGC-licenced casinos and bookmakers. This move applies to both land-based and online operators but does NOT extend to scratch cards and National Lottery tickets.
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), the UK gambling industry trade association has come out in support for the ban and pledged to take further steps to identify problem gambling earlier.
Whether that proves to be empty rhetoric remains to be seen. Country managers across the gambling industry are under constant pressure to increase New Depositing Customers (NDC’s) – and poaching problem gamblers from other operators is the easiest way to do that in saturated markets like the UK.
It’s not yet clear what – if any – steps the GC will use to strong-arm eWallet providers like Skrill, Neteller or PayPal to prevent users funding those balances with credit cards, and then using their wallets to then transfer those funds to their gambling accounts.
The GC are clearly aware of this potential loophole, as the full consultation notes state that “Licensees must not accept payment for gambling by credit card. This includes payments to the licensee made by credit card through a money service business”.
That seems to cover eWallets, but how can casinos reliably be expected to police that kind of financial money trail? Most likely, the GC will have to either force the likes of Neteller and PayPal to block gambling transactions if the user has funded their account through credit cards in the past year or so.
Alternatively, UK operators might simply stop accepting eWallets as deposit methods, as they won’t want to face heavy fines.
It will be interesting to see how that side-story plays out.
In a related announcement, the GC announced that all licensees must sign up to the GamStop online self-exclusion scheme by 31st March. This service allows customers to bar themselves from any UK operator for a period of 6 months, 1 year or 5 years.
Over 100,000 customers have already made use of the GamStop service since its launch in April 2018. GamStop has steadily been closing any loopholes found in the software, and it’s now a fairly foolproof system.
Already, most of the large UK-based operators have committed to GamStop, and this announcement will force smaller casinos and bookies based in countries like Malta to adopt the scheme.
Of course, any operators who don’t bother to apply for a GBGC licence can bypass the GamStop system. It remains to be seen whether the government goes after offshore bookies and casinos who still accept British customers, perhaps by getting UK ISP’s to block access to certain websites. That’s the method used by countries like Turkey – but with rather limited success.
On that matter, as well as the loopholes present in banning credit cards, we will be monitoring the situation in 2020 and beyond.