UK Anti-Gambling Forces Push Credit-Card Blocking Fiction

From the newsy side of the sports-betting world comes a renewed push by anti-gambling forces to restrict gambling opportunities by any means possible, even if it means telling a lie or three along the way. The latest example: claims that the United Kingdom Gambling Commission is all set to abolish credit cards as a way of funding customers’ wagering accounts.

As often happens, this latest episode has its roots in that bastion of nanny-state protectionism, The Guardian. A week ago, that paper ran a story titled, “Ban credit cards for online gambling, says government review,” as authored by frequent Guardian gambling foe Rob Davies.

Except that headline was a lie on not one front, but two. Not only was the discussion of credit cards’ connection to certain problem-gambling behaviour authored by a private, third-party charity, Citizens Advice, that report itself also never called for an abolishment of credit-card deposit channels.

Let’s sew some truth into this Guardian-groomed field of fallow lies. Last Tuesday, the UKGC posted a formal thank-you letter to Citizen’s Advice for publishing the results of a problem-gambling study called “Out of Luck,” which duly explores some problem areas, along with the ways some of the worst addictive issues can be addressed.

It’s a good bit of research, regardless of how one feels about the right to gamble, and the folks at the Gambling Commission duly thanked Citizens Advice for its effort. Quoting right from the UKGC presser:

Tim Miller, executive director at the Gambling Commission said: “Citizens Advice provides a vital gateway to vulnerable consumers, particularly those that are already seeking support for their issues, including problematic gambling. We welcome this report which puts a focussed lens on those that are at the extreme end of gambling-related harm, and provides a strong start in us being able to understand the impact problem gambling can have beyond the individual gambler themselves; on friends, family, work colleagues and communities.

“This report will also help us understand the costs associated with its impact on public health services, on families and communities, on employment and debt, and on justice and court services. Understanding the full impact of problem gambling will help the industry, the Commission and other key stakeholders to properly manage and minimise those impacts. Together we can work towards the prevention of gambling-related harm, as well as ensuring that effective support and treatment is readily available for those who need it.”

Does the Citizens Advice report call for a ban on credit-card funding of gambling accounts? Oh, hell, no; that’s instead a made-up lie by those with an axe to grind. We’ve checked into the Citzens Advice report, where some of the problems with gambling on credit are duly explored, and here’s the typical and repeated recommendation the study makes:

Recommendation 4 [of 4]: Banks and creditors​ should provide training to their staff so that they feel more comfortable talking to customers about gambling addiction. 

Banks and credit card companies should investigate how they can use their data to identify the signs of problem gambling and signpost their customers to support. Where appropriate, creditors should allow their customers more flexibility to restrict gambling transactions and reduce lines of credit.

This goes hand-in-hand with Recommendation 3, aimed at gambling operators:

Recommendation 3: The gambling industry​ should be be more proactive in using their existing data and technology to identify and help problem gamblers.

Frankly put, those are reasonable recommendations, whether they’re actually implemented or not. Another reasonable recommendation the study makes is that a small levy targeted for the treatment of problem and addictive gambling be made mandatory instead of optional, since a lot of operators haven’t been bothering to send that “optional” funding over to GambleAware, which administers the problem-gambling programs. This is a reasonable recommendation as well.

But getting from these truths to recently published claims by others that the UK government itself is recommending that credit card payments be turned off is utter and complete bullshit. That’s not going to happen. There will be a trimback in the cap on FOBT machines; that’s a separate but related topic and most reasonable industry watchers acknowledge that FOBT excesses need to be reigned in. But that’s all different than the discussion regarding credit cards.

When that topic is left largely as is — and it’s a mandatory processing conduit for the UK’s gambling industry — what will happen instead is that the anti-gambling types will claim that the government has double-crossed and lied to them. That in turn will allow for the next hot-air cycle to begin anew… and perhaps open the way for more fund-raising exhortations as well. It’s a safe bet those anti-gambling types will be raising money via credit card as well.

The moral: Don’t believe everything you read. Especially if it is in The Guardian.