The UK government is banning the use of credit cards to place bets in an attempt to control problem gambling and curb “gambling harm.”
The Gambling Commission has announced the ban, which comes into effect on 14 April, after separate reviews of the industry by the commission and the government.
In the UK, 24 million adults gamble, including 10.5 million who gamble on betting sites online, according to figures from the Gambling Commission.
UK Finance, a banking and financial services industry body, estimate that 800,000 consumers use credit cards to gamble.
The Gambling Commission research also shows that 22% of online gamblers who use credit cards to gamble are classed as problem gamblers. The commission hopes that the ban will “will provide a significant layer of additional protection to vulnerable people.”
Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive, said: “Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm. The ban that we have announced today should minimise the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have.
“Research shows that 22% of online gamblers using credit cards are problem gamblers, with even more suffering some form of gambling harm.
‘“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.
“We realise that this change will inconvenience those consumers who use credit cards responsibly but we are satisfied that reducing the risk of harm to other consumers means that action must be taken. But we will evaluate the ban and watch closely for any unintended circumstances for consumers.”
The ban will apply to all online and offline gambling products with the exception of non-remote lotteries.
The commission said that people will still be able to use credit cards to pay for tickets for the National Lottery and other society lotteries, and scratchcards in supermarkets and newsagents.
It said it would be a "disproportionate burden on retailers" to stop credit card payments as the tickets are often purchased with other products as part of a wider shop, but said lotteries had the lowest problem gambling rate at only 1%.
Culture minister Helen Whately said: “Whilst millions gamble responsibly, I have also met people whose lives have been turned upside down by gambling addiction.
“There is clear evidence of harm from consumers betting with money they do not have, so it is absolutely right that we act decisively to protect them.
“We will not hesitate to take any further action necessary to protect people from gambling harm.”