GamCare urges a unified response ‘to address gambling block loopholes’

GamCare has called for a more collaborative response to address “gambling block loopholes,” after the charity hosted a sector wide Gambling Related Financial Harm workshop.

It says that a number of ways were identified which would allow self-excluded gamblers to deposit to online operators, which highlights the need for more information to be available to banks, payment processors and operators to prevent these from being sidestepped and to enhance protection.

“Tackling gambling-related harm is an important way of building people’s long-term financial capability and enabling them to thrive,” said Sue Shilling, customer protection at NatWest.

“Our 48-hour gambling-block is one step that we’ve taken to equip people with practical tools to support their recovery, and through our work with GamCare we’re actively committed to finding new and better ways to help customers access the support they might need.”

The workshop has recommended the creation of a a central registry containing bank account details associated with gambling operators, which could be made available to financial services, after stating that “faster payments to gambling operators are also not currently covered by gambling blocks”.

It was also suggested that gambling blocks similar to those applied by banks across the UK are introduced by e-wallet providers, with a system of cross-referrals between financial service firms and partners from the TalkBanStop pilot, including GamCare, Gamstop, and Gamban, also endorsed. 

Further recommendations include raising awareness about the dangers of unregulated gambling operators; developing a mechanism for consumers to report when gambling blocks fail, and active monitoring of new payment methods which do not get traced by gambling blocks. 

Raminta Diliso, financial harm manager at GamCare, explained: “Year on year, around 70 per cent of callers to our National Gambling Helpline mention some level of gambling debt and financial hardship.

“For those trying to stop gambling, banking blocks offer an invaluable layer of protection, but people that use our services have reported that they have managed to circumvent the blocks.

“Whilst different payment methods offered by gambling operators give a lot of flexibility for consumers, it can also leave them vulnerable to gambling harm when these payment methods are not subject to gambling blocks.

“We’re pleased that so many organisations have shown interest in this issue, and we would like to see a collaborative cross-sector response to drive through a number of additional changes to further protect people from gambling related harm.”

The event brought together 45 representatives from financial services, including banks, payment systems, electronic money institutions; the debt advice sector; and gambling businesses and gambling support services; as well as people with lived experience of gambling harms; to come up with practical solutions to provide a safer gambling landscape for vulnerable gamblers.

Natalie Ledward, head of vulnerable customers at Monzo, added: “Monzo was the first bank in the UK to launch a gambling block. Since then more than 300,000 of our customers have used it, with less than 10 per cent turning it off. 

“With more and more gambling companies offering new ways to pay, we’re working to make sure our gambling block covers all of these new payment options. This year, we piloted an extension block with TrueLayer, to help extend our block to cover open banking payments.”

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