Debate Should the UK government really consider banning credit card gambling
Following reports the UK government is considering banning the use of credit cards to gamble, the Gambling Insider editorial team argues for and against the latest potential regulatory hurdle for the industry.
The essence of a free market is consumer choice and a ban on gambling with credit cards restricts that fundamental right.
In fact, if the UK government goes ahead and bans credit card gambling, why not just scrap credit cards altogether? After all, a gambler losing more through a credit card is no different to a clothes shopper, sports car enthusiast or customer at a bar. Are we then to prohibit buying clothes, cars and alcohol with credit cards too?
Ultimately, this is where measures recently introduced by banks such as Barclays are far superior: consumers can categorise what they lose money on – gambling being only one option of many – and block the category in question. The same principle should be adopted across the board, whether it’s debit or credit cards, mobile or online.
If you were told to spend on chicken but not bacon, you’d not only feel patronised, you’d wonder if we were part of George Orwell’s Big Brother universe.
The UK government would be best served leaving such issues to the private sector – as the whistle-to-whistle television advertising ban and responsible banking measures have proven.
The problem begins with the banks. In my opinion, gambling companies should take more responsibility and cut off credit card deposits entirely. However, it is so easy in this day and age to be issued with a credit card, it’s frightening. A few quick questions online, with no real proof required, and your brand spanking new credit card is in the post.
I understand banks and credit card companies aren’t encouraging gambling, nor are they promoting it, but they are providing an easy way to spend money an individual may not have.
The idea of a credit card is to help an individual build up a credit rating or help for those with an expensive month, be it on purpose or one of those things which can crop up in life. The idea is for the credit to assist an individual who can pay it back and avoid charges.
Those using credit cards to gamble are spending money which they do not own. It is as simple as that. Having access to thousands of pounds can ultimately lead to debt if in the wrong hands, which is proving to be the case.
Don’t get me wrong, both parties are responsible and need to come together to unite and support those with gambling addictions or people who may be vulnerable. The problem stems from those issuing the credit cards, but it certainly doesn’t end with them.
When I was at school, there was a constant frustration about the number of websites we were unable to access that were deemed inappropriate for use. How I longed for a day when Miniclip.com’s free-to-play games could pass the time while my wandering imagination was taking my focus away from IT lessons.
The main difference in my life between then and now is that I was a child back then, but now, as a responsible adult that goes to work and pays bills, I am expected to know what is and isn’t good for me.
Why should and I and all the other responsible players be punished as a result of others playing with money they do not have? Come to think of it, isn’t the very point of having a credit card to spend money you don’t have, or at least money you don’t wish to spend at that moment? Perhaps we’re debating the wrong thing here.
We as human beings are not infallible to temptation, but gambling is not the only activity people are prone to splurging money on, so that’s why we have credit card limits in the first place.
I can understand the argument that banning the use of credit cards in gambling could prevent addicts from racking up more debt after they have run out of money, but how would this tackle the very important issue of people spending all their money gambling in the first place?
It’s dangerous, telling people how to spend their money. We follow the rules; get up early, rush to work, do the job and pay taxes. After all this, with what’s leftover, we want to have fun, and to place a bet on your team’s chances or what the next card might be, is a way we enjoy ourselves. Nobody is trying to take this away.
There’s a difference however, between gambling with your money and gambling with credit. Watching earned money put to risk on a roulette table, lost to a rival in a poker tournament or digitally disappear on a tennis bet has a tangible effect. It can seem more real than a credit card transaction that does not immediately cut into funds. The delayed financial reaction makes it more likely for problem gamblers to place bet after bet, trying to dig their way out of a hole.
There are many though, who will be organised and restrained with their credit gambling and argue this is not fair to them. They will say blocking credit cards is removing an opportunity.
To regulate credit gambling, authorities must look at who is using it and to what extent. Are operators benefitting from a system specifically detrimental to gambling addicts, or are players making smart moves to grow their accounts? If it's mutually beneficial, it should continue, but if not, a deeper look at legislation is essential.