UK gaming operators have been told that they must participate in the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme Gamstop by the end of March or risk losing their licence.

The Gambling Commission has made the decision as part of its strengthing of problem gambling safeguards which includes the banning of all credit cards for gambling.

Gamstop has been developed for the online sector will allow consumers to self-exclude from online operators with one request rather than from each operator individually. With over 200 online operators the Gambling Commission believes that this will make access to self-exclusion much simpler for those who wish to be prevented from online gambling.

Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said: “By the 31 March all online operators will be required to participate in the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme. Although the vast majority of operators are already participating in Gamstop this will make the coverage comprehensive.

“We welcome the fact that Gamstop have got to this stage in their development and encourage them to continue to improve their offer, particularly in relation to preventing those who have self-excluded being targeted by direct marketing.”

McArthur added that it is important that self-exclusion schemes are as effective as possible but said they will be most effective when used in combination with other blocking tools such as gambling blocking software and payment card blocking.

He concluded: “Operators must do everything they can to minimise the risk of gambling related harm. That is why we expect the industry to create safe products, know their customers, understand what they can afford to gamble with and identify when they are experiencing harm and step in.

“It is also vital that people experiencing gambling harm are able to access the support or treatment they need. This forms part of our ongoing work with our partners to implement the National Strategy for Reducing Gambling Harms.”

Last year Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport ministers also met with banks and gambling operators to discuss their growing concerns, and how companies could use technology and customer data to help those at risk of developing gambling problems, including those using credit cards.

Minister for Gambling Helen Whately said: “We have been clear to all businesses that have connections to gambling, such as operators, social media platforms and banks, that they must be socially responsible and use the power of technology and data to help consumers manage their spending and protect them from harm.

“I have been encouraged by the majority of major high street banks introducing measures to allow customers to switch off spending on gambling through mobile apps.

“By making it a regulatory requirement for all online gambling websites licensed in Great Britain to sign up to Gamstop. I am confident that people who have taken the significant step to opt out of gambling will be well supported, alongside a wide range of other tools.”

In the last two years the Commission has also introduced and strengthened new rules in relation to age verification. This also includes additional online protections and restrictions to play-for-free games, a tightening of rules around gambling advertising, improvements to guidance for the data operators must provide to consumers, and updated guidance in relation to identifying markers of harm.