GambleAware urges improvements to bank card gambling blockers

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Researchers have compiled a blueprint for change that contains five key recommendations, after a new report found that an estimated 28 million personal current accounts in the UK do not have the option to block gambling expenditure.

GambleAware has published the findings of the new research, undertaken by researchers at the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre to review the availability, uptake, and effectiveness of bank card gambling blockers.

Recommendations pinpointed include a call on the Financial Conduct Authority to recommend that gambling blocks are standard on debit and credit cards, as well as a recommendation that there is a cross-sector consumer awareness campaign that places bank card blockers alongside other forms of self-exclusion and player controls.

It also says that firms and regulators need to work with ‘experts by experience’ so they can design products, services and interventions for people who are negatively affected by gambling.

Finally, the study suggests that UK Finance should build the report’s recommendations into their member guidance and policy on supporting vulnerable consumers, with government also urged to create the legal and regulatory conditions to encourage the financial services sector to innovate and develop a range of consumer spending controls.

Marc Etches, GambleAware chief executive, commented on the findings: “Keeping people safe from gambling harms requires banks to play their full part in providing consumers with effective means to block gambling transactions. 

“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.”

Research carried out found that eight financial service firms, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Santander, Cashplus, Monzo and Starling, offer blockers on certain products and ranges, estimated to cover 60 per cent of personal current accounts. 

Outside of those, the study asserts that no other organisations are currently offering such an option, meaning that 28 million personal current accounts are missing out on the tool to block gambling expenditure.

Of the eight banks that offer blockers, three could be immediately turned on and off. The report states that “it is essential for more friction to be built into bank blockers, specifically time-release locks that are at least 48 hours”

The research estimated that 500,000 customers across all banks use blockers, with data disclosed by one group showing that those utilising the tool stopped an average of two to three transactions per month.

Other key findings in the report include a low level of awareness of blockers amongst a range of customers and that gamblers were finding workarounds to their gambling block such as cash withdrawals and using e-wallets. 

Professor Sharon Collard, research director of the PFRC at the University of Bristol, explained: “Our research has found bank card gambling blockers are not available on roughly 40 per cent 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. 

“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.”