UK Licenced Casinos Ban Credit Cards

Through years of pressure by gambling harm groups like Campaign for Fairer Gambling, the UK government finally made the decision to reduce maximum stakes from £100 per spin down to just £2.

There can be no denying that the UK gambling industry is going through a massive campaign drive to reduce the threats of problem gambling. At the forefront of this was the 2018 stake reduction on Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). Fast forward to April 2020 and another major sea-change has presented itself to the UK gambling industry – an outright ban on credit cards. As such, whether it’s online casinos, high street betting shops or land-based casinos – players can no longer use credit cards to fund their gambling activities. 

Here we explore what the new ban means for you as a player, as well as the wider UK gambling industry. 

The Ban

Although discussions on the use of credit-card related gambling transactions have been ongoing for some time now, it wasn’t until January 2020 that the announcement became official. That is to say, the decision to ban credit cards for gambling purchases was determined by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) at the turn of the year. 

The DCMC gave operators until April 14th to implement the ban and thus – credit card deposits and withdrawals are now officially a thing of the past. The overarching reason for the decision was linked to gambling harm. Crucially, the UK government felt that it is no longer responsible for operators to allow players to gamble on credit. 

It is difficult to argue with the new ruling, as gambling addiction is a major problem in the UK. For too long players have been able to acquire a credit card with the sole purpose of gambling. 

The main concern is that players could deposit funds with a credit card in seconds, lose the money at an online casino, and then deal with the consequences at a later date. If the player is then unable to repay the funds back to the credit card issuer, this leads to further complications. 

All Sectors Impacted Apart From Lotteries

It is important to note that the only exception to the rule is those purchasing lottery tickets. The purchase must be made alongside other items for the vendor to accept the payment. 

For example, let’s say that the punter wishes to buy £20 worth of lottery tickets for this weekend’s draw. If the purchase was for the tickets only, a credit card would not be accepted. On the flip side, if the purchase was made alongside grocery items, it would be permitted. 

Other than lotteries, all other UK gambling sectors are impacted by the ban on credit cards. This includes high street betting shops and land-based casinos. Similarly, the online casino space is also affected. 

Is There a Workaround?

Although credit cards are now banned at all online casinos and sportsbooks that are regulated by the Gambling Commission, there is a slight workaround that might need looking at by campaign groups – e-wallets. For example, let’s say that the player heads over to their preferred online casino, elects to make a deposit, and selects PayPal

For the purpose of simplicity, we’ll say that the player attempts to deposit £100. The player will then be asked to log into their Paypal account via a pop-up box, which will then display details of the deposit. At this stage of the transaction, the player will get to choose which linked payment method they wish to use to fund the deposit. 

As Paypal allows users to link their credit card, in theory, the player could select this option. In doing so, Paypal would then fund the deposit with the said credit card. There is every likelihood that the casino would ‘unwittingly’ approve the deposit, as from their perspective, all they can see is that the payment was funded by Paypal. 

Whether or not Paypal has the capacity to reject gambling-related deposits that are funded by credit cards remains to be seen. Even if they do, an additional workaround is potentially in the making. For example, the player could initially add funds to their Paypal account with a credit card. 

Once the funds arrive, they could then proceed to make a Paypal deposit at their chosen casino. It would be somewhat cumbersome for Paypal to distinguish which part of the player’s balance came from a credit card, and which came from an alternative funding methods. 

Credit cards UK casinos banned

Consequences for UK Operators

It’s been a tough old time for the UK gambling industry in recent years. Not only are UK betting shops still feeling the burn of the FOBT stake reduction, but online operators were hit with a gambling tax hike last year. On top of the recent credit card ban, you then have the very serious impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Crucially, sports betting is a major source of revenue of both online and offline gambling operators. Although the likes of Germany have since reintroduced matches, the availability of betting markets is still minute in comparison to pre-pandemic levels.

We should also note that the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that land-based casinos and high street betting shops have had to keep their doors closed. Once again, this is a major loss of income for the said sectors.  

The Stats

In order to assess the type of damage that the credit card ban will have on UK gambling operators, we need to look at the numbers. As per the Gambling Commission via UK Finance, more than 24 million adults in the UK gamble. This includes the entire spectrum of the space, meaning that a single £1 bet on the Grand National would include you within the statistics. 

Of this number, 10.5 million UK players gamble online. Crucially, more than 800,000 of these players typically use a credit card to fund deposits. Breaking the numbers down further, the Gambling Commission notes that 22% (176,000) of those using credit cards are problem gamblers – which is huge.  

Ultimately, if players do have problems controlling their gambling activities, then under no circumstances should they be able to deposit funds with a credit card. Some would argue that this is no different from giving an alcoholic a line of credit in an off-license, so with estimates this large, the ban is warranted.  

Sanctions in Place for Failure to Comply

The Gambling Commission has been very clear on where it stands on non-compliance. Much like a breach of other regulations and codes of practices, the Commission has a range of sanctions at its disposal for those that continue to support credit card deposits. 

At the forefront of this is a hefty fine – both at a company and personal level. Regarding the latter, this means that those holding individual licenses (such as the head of IT, Anti-Money Laundering, Payments, etc.) will be personally liable in the event of a fine.

If non-compliance continues, then the Gambling Commission will not hesitate to revoke the operators’ license. In doing so, the online casino will no longer be able to serve UK players. With that being said, online gambling sites will need to take the credit card ban extremely seriously.

What are the Alternatives?

So now that credit cards are no longer an option at online casinos, you will need to have a think about what your alternatives are. The obvious option is to instead use a traditional debit card. In doing so, you will avoid the costs associated with its credit-based counterpart. 

For those unaware, although many online gambling platforms used to allow you to deposit funds with a credit card on a fee-free basis, it was all but certain that the card issuer would charge you. 

This is because online gambling transactions are typically classed as a ‘cash advance’. Depending on the issuer, cash advances typically cost in the region of 3-5% in fees. So, a £1,000 deposit at an online casino would attract a fee of around £30-£50. 

On top of this, the entire payment (£1,000 plus fees), would be liable for interest from day one. Ordinarily, interest only comes into play once the monthly statement date has arrived. 

An even better alternative to consider is an e-wallet like Paypal. Not only are deposits instant and free, but you will benefit from an extra layer of security. This is because you are not required to enter sensitive debit/credit card details directly into the operator’s website. 

Furthermore – and perhaps most importantly, e-wallet withdrawals are typically processed by online casinos within a few hours. Once they are, the funds will arrive in your Paypal instantly. In turn, you can then withdraw the funds from your Paypal account to your UK bank account – with the funds arriving in seconds. 

The Verdict?

Unless you are buying lottery tickets alongside other non-gambling related items, the days of using your credit card are over. Whether that’s at your local betting shop, land-based casino or online gambling site – credit card payments are officially banned. 

With that said, the ban on credit cards means that you will only be able to gamble what you can afford to lose. Moreover, you won’t need to worry about the burdens of paying for your gambling deposits weeks or months after you made the payment. 

All in all, we would say that the ban on credit cards was the right thing to do. As such, you should instead consider using a debit card or better – an e-wallet like Paypal.

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