13 April 2020
By Bryan Smyth
There is an old saying: “Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose”. Wise advice that any gambler should have engraved in their grey matter before betting a single cent.
Unfortunately, it is no secret that compulsive gamblers will take on risk to get their fix. The financial risk, increased when gamblers are chasing losses is the first step in their destructive behaviour and incurring in gambling debt has on the long-term a collateral impact that furthers not only on the gambler itself but also everyone related to its surrounding.
The Recent UKGC Changes
Neil McArthur the Gambling Commission’s Chief Executive stated that “22% of online gamblers using credit cards are problem gamblers, with even more suffering some form of gambling harm,” he added. “We also know that there are examples of consumers who have accumulated tens of thousands of pounds of debt through gambling because of credit card availability. There is also evidence that the fees charged by credit cards can exacerbate the situation because the consumer can try to chase losses to a greater extent.”
Only in the UK, there are 24 million people that gamble actively. 10.5 million of them are online. Approximately an overall of 800.000 people incurred in credit card debt at least once to sustain their gambling.
With all this evidence the UK Gambling Commission in association with the government has established a ban on credit cards online casinos that will start on 14 April 2020, but in practice, it’s understood that some UK casinos still accept payments. The sole exception will be the National Lottery tickets that are usually sold in grocery stores or newsagents, as retailers will have a large burden to separate them if they come part of a wider purchase. Besides that matter, any gambling instance is barred from allowing gamblers (both live and online) to be financially compromised.
“Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm. The ban that we have announced today should minimize the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have” said McArthur.
The impacts of this ban have a global effect. It will have a negative impact on the tourism industry as visitors mostly rely on credit cards to finance their activities on gambling venues. However, we must recognize that the target of this measure are problem gamblers, especially online users who are most susceptible to incurred in gambling debt due to the (almost invasive) access they have to online gambling providers.
As we stated in the beginning, compulsive gamblers will assume any risk to get their fix. With the appearance of new restrictions in the verification process, UKGC tries to make a safer environment. And without any credit support to fuel their gambling, this means stepping up into the next phase of gaming debt: loaning or its legal version, payday loans. With more than 53% of gamblers having incurred a payday loan back in a 2017 census, the numbers will definitely increase, evidencing how large problem gambling endanger UK citizens.
Because this ban has been taken based on principles rather than economic collaterals, it will reduce the economical and social costs that problem gambling has in the UK. Deterring problem gamblers before they start to spread damage to their surroundings definitely has a positive impact on their families, and over the gambler itself, as the urge will be more evident in its behaviour, making intervention possible.
Will that Work for Problem Gamblers?
The challenges for the Gambling Commission and the Government will continue like their efforts for a proper regulation on gambling. Many groups still ask for a total ban but this will only increase the financial power of criminal organizations that already pose a threat with illegal gambling and shark loaning.
With all that being said, we must recognize that debt, alcohol, and gambling share one common aspect: they must be practised with responsibility. And is the responsibility of the stakeholders: the government, gambling operators and regulators, along with families to teach this important principle.
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