GambleAware urges UK banks to improve gambling transaction blocking capabilities

GambleAware Chief Exec

UK-based gambling charity GambleAware has urged banks in the country to improve their card-blocking services, following the publishing of recent research by the University of Bristol.

The research, carried out on behalf of GambleAware, revealed that up to 26 million current accounts do not have any help mechanisms for helping problem gamblers to block such transactions. 

That translates to around 40% of bank accounts of this kind throughout the UK, with eight banks in the country currently offering card-blocking services for gambling. 

Player safety has been strengthened this year, with a ban on gambling via credit cards coming into force on 14th April. 

Some banks’ gambling transaction-blocking services are not sturdy enough, according to report 

The research was carried out by the UoB’s Personal Finance Centre. It found that of the eight banks offering some kind of transaction-blocking service for gambling, three could immediately switch these off if they chose to. Moreover, while both Nationwide and Capital One block gambling payments on a case-by-case basis, this is not a standard feature. 

As was quoted in The Guardian, Professor Sharon Collard of the UoB had the following to say about her university’s research. 

“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.”

Meanwhile, GambleAware Chief Executive Marc Etches called on UK banks to do more in aiding player protection. He said that “keeping people safe from gambling harms requires banks to play their full part in providing consumers with effective means to block gambling transactions.”

How many people have used the banks’ gambling transaction-blocking services so far?

According to data gathered from various financial institutions, 500,000 customers across the eight banks have utilised this feature so far. Data from one bank revealed that those using a blocking feature stopped an average of 2-3 gambling transactions per month. This translates to between 390,000 and 585,000 transactions altogether. 

Collard also spoke about the need for blocking tools to be more effective and not just something that people can turn on and off without restrictions. 

“The people affected by gambling harms who took part in the review stated that the more positive friction that can be built into a bank blocker, the more effective it can be.  

“It is vital, therefore, that the blockers cannot just be turned on and off, as the benefits of the technology become redundant. Instead, we recommend all financial service firms require consumers to wait at least two days between requesting to turn the blocker off, and the blocker technology stopping.”