Following the Gambling Commission's call for evidence in February 2019, a full consultation has now been confirmed on whether or not online operators should be prohibited from taking deposits via credit cards. The consultation will open in mid-August and will run for a period of 12 weeks.
In the press statement announcing the consultation, Paul Hope, the Executive Director of the Commission states that gambling with borrowed money "is known to be a risk factor for consumers, so we think there is a need for action". The Commission noted that one approach would be to introduce a complete ban on gambling online with credit cards. Nevertheless, the Commission did state it will consider other options, including restricting (rather than banning) the use of credit cards. In addition, the Commission wants to obtain further evidence about consumers' motivations for using credit cards to gamble, and notes that it must take into account the impact of a ban or restrictions on gamblers who are not experiencing gambling harms.
The expectation in the industry is that a total ban on making deposits with credit cards will be the outcome of the consultation. Whilst it would be relatively straightforward for gambling operators to block direct deposits made via credit cards, it would be much more challenging for operators to thwart all possible methods of circumventing the ban.
Further, the Commission's call for evidence earlier this year raised related issues to imposing a ban, such as consumers using alternative forms of borrowing (such as overdrafts or loans) to fund gambling or whether a ban could require e-wallet providers to take action given operators have no means of knowing which method the deposit originated from when e-wallets are used. It is not clear whether the Commission could compel e-wallet companies to take any action or whether Government intervention would be required.
Whilst the industry may expect a total ban, in light of the above, it will be interesting to see what the outcome of the consultation is, how wide the Commission exerts its power and also to what extent it calls for greater Government involvement to ensure consumers cannot gamble with borrowed money.