Gambling charity urges UK banks to improve card blocking systems

Miles Brignall
·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Tim Goode/PA</span>
Photograph: Tim Goode/PA

An anti-gambling charity has called on banks to improve card blocking systems introduced to help those whose gambling is out of control after it emerged 40% of current accounts offer no help in this area.

Research on behalf of GambleAware found that just eight financial companies offered customers the chance to block future payments to gambling sites.

The ability for customers to ask for payments to gambling sites to be blocked is considered important as it helps those whose betting is out of control. Problem gambling is thought to cost the UK up to £1.2bn a year and can devastate the lives of those affected.

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Researchers at the University of Bristol’s personal finance centre found that many banks were failing to offer the ability to block such spending, or the controls were easily turned off.

GambleAware said Nationwide and Capital One currently offered no opportunity to block payments to gambling companies. Of the eight banks that do offer the option, customers of three could immediately turn them off.

The report’s authors have called on the regulators to ensure all banks have card blockers in place, with the restrictions unable to be removed for at least 48 hours. They have also called on financial institutions to do more to raise awareness among customers that the blockers are available.

Prof Sharon Collard, of the University of Bristol, said: “Our research has found bank card gambling blockers are not available on roughly 40% of personal current accounts. This means an estimated 28 million people are missing out on this crucial tool to block gambling expenditure which helps protect them from harm. We are calling on the Financial Conduct Authority to urgently recommend that gambling blocks are standard on all debit and credit cards.”

The GambleAware chief executive, Marc Etches, said: “Keeping people safe from gambling harms requires banks to play their full part in providing consumers with effective means to block gambling transactions.”

Last week ministers pledged to review the 2005 Gambling Act in the face of a growing consensus among MPs and addiction experts that the current legislation is no longer effective.