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GambleAware calls for all bank customers to have access to gambling blockers

7th July 2020 9:17 am GMT

Problem gambling prevention charity GambleAware has called on banks in the United Kingdom to give all customers access to tools to block gambling expenditure.

The recommendation follows research commissioned by GambleAware into the availability, uptake, and effectiveness of bank card gambling blockers, which found that although the technology works, millions of customer do not have access to it.

The research shows that just eight financial service firms in the UK offer blockers on certain products and ranges, estimated to cover only 60 per cent of personal current accounts, leaving an estimated 28 million personal current accounts without access to such tools.

Researchers also found that among the banks that do offer gambling blocking tools, the ease with which customers can immediately switch them off means that they cannot effectively protect problem gamblers.

“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 gambling harms. We are calling on the Financial Conduct Authority to urgently recommend that gambling blocks are standard on all debit and credit cards,” said Professor Sharon Collard, Research Director of the PFRC at the University of Bristol, which conducted the research.

“We examined the effectiveness of all existing blockers and found that serious changes are required. 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.”

The research also shows a low level of awareness of blockers among a range of customers, while those who do use the tool find workarounds to their gambling block, such as cash withdrawals and using e-wallets.

An estimated 500,000 customers are thought to be using tools to prevent gambling deposits by debit  card, resulting in between 390,000 and 585,000 blocked gambling transactions per month.

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

“While some banks have taken proactive steps to help shield their customers from gambling harms, the findings of this research indicate that improvements can and should be made. We encourage the banking industry to work together alongside the Government and regulators to implement the proposed recommendations.”

The eight financial service firms currently offering bank card gambling blockers to their customers in the UK are Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Santander, Cashplus, Monzo and Starling.

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