The culture secretary has said the government will follow the lead of the Gambling Commission, which is conducting a call-for-evidence on the issue of credit card use in gambling.
The government may be contemplating a blanket ban on the use of credit cards for gambling transactions.
The Gambling Commission is already in the process of mulling over whether or not the cards should be accept by UK licensees, and comments made by culture secretary Jeremy Wright last week suggest that the government will take the regulator’s lead – whichever side of the fence they come down on.
“It is very clear that those who gamble with money they haven’t got find themselves very quickly in serious trouble,” he remarked. “The Gambling Commission is looking at the specific question of gambling on credit…the government will intend to take action on the back of what they say.”
Wright’s comments were in response to a case raised by Labour deputy leader (and erstwhile leader of the anti-gambling lobby in parliament) Tom Watson, in which one woman recently managed to rack up debts in excess of £100,000 in just two days of play. The woman had spread her spending out across nine separate cards in total.
Speaking publicly on the subject, Watson seemingly waived the woman in question of all personal responsibility – and placed the blame instead squarely with operators.
“The operators which took her bets should be held responsible for their disgraceful conduct,” said the shadow cabinet member. “No one should go into debt to place a bet.”
When pressed on Watson’s comments, Wright said that he had “a good deal of sympathy” for people in situations similar to the one described – but was markedly less thirsty for the blood of the operators involved.
“It is important that not just gambling companies but all of us take an interest in the way this kind of problem gambling is developing,” he stated.
The regulator’s ongoing call-for-evidence as to credit card usage within the gambling industry was issued earlier this year, after Wright himself raised concerns that as many as 20 per cent of gambling transactions were being made with borrowed money. Wright met with industry heads within the betting and remote gaming sector at the time, and issued a stark warning – saying that operators could potentially lose their licences if they failed to “step in and act when people are showing signs of risky gambling.”
Meanwhile, the year has already seen almost all of the major high street banks introduce online methods to block attempted gambling transactions linked to debit cards – a feature campaigners hope will allow consumers to effectively “self-exclude” without need for approaching individual operators in turn.