Proposals to ban betting with credit cards online do not go far enough to prevent gambling addicts racking up huge debts, campaigners have warned.

As betting firms come under increasing pressure to clean up their act amid a “moral crisis” around problem gambling in the UK, the industry’s regulator is set to bring in a new ban on placing bets with credit cards.

But the proposals to be announced by the Gambling Commission on Tuesday should have come in years ago and still leave problem gamblers vulnerable, according to experts.

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Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who has led the campaign to crackdown on gambling companies, said the Gambling Commission was “not fit for purpose”.

The measures it is set to announce are simply “playing catch up” with proposals that MPs have backed for some time, Ms Harris said.

“People are losing their homes, their dignity. They’ve been able to take out eight, nine, 10 cards and max them all out gambling an obscene amount of money.

“I think it’s brilliant that this is happening but it should have happened a long time ago. MPs are in the driving seat now.

“There is a new Gambling Act coming and I think the industry knows it. Legislation is imminent.”

Among the proposals being put forward by Ms Harris is a maximum bet of £2 on online casinos, a measure that the industry has expressed strong objection to. 

Adam Bradford, of the Safer Online Gambling Group, agreed that the Gambling Commission, which is funded by the industry it regulates, had been “too slow” to act and that much more must be done to protect addicts.

“A ban on betting with credit cards has been talked about for a decade, with serious proposals on the table for the past five years,” he said.

“For particularly vulnerable people who are in the addictive spiral using loans and credit cards, this could help them.

“But it’s worth remembering that someone could take their card and withdraw cash from a machine then gamble with that.”

Banks also have to be “100 per cent involved” in the process if it is going to work, and must do what they can to ensure that people do not simply substitute credit cards with payday loans or overdrafts, said Mr Bradford. 

A number of banks have introduced measures to allow customers to block gambling transactions but Mr Bradford wants them to do more.

“When they see huge amounts of money going out on gambling, banks could put a block on a particular spending code [that relates to gambling] and ask a customer, ‘are you sure you want to spend this?’”

On the other side of the transactions, gambling companies must also pick up customers whose spending indicates they have a problem, Mr Bradford said. “They have the technology to do this.”

Another proposal thought to be in the new plans is strengthening of Gamstop, an industry-wide scheme to help people exclude themselves from gambling.

This would mean all operators must sign up to Gamstop, which blocks people who have registered with the service from placing bets with online casinos.

This measure could be more effective than the credit card ban, said Mr Bradford. However, holes in the current Gamstop system, such as allowing people who have registered to move to different casinos and gamble freely, have been pointed out.

Last week, The Independent highlighted instances where gambling addicts who search Google for help to quit were bombarded with adverts for online casinos.

The search company’s algorithm was serving up ads promoting thousands of pounds of bonuses offered by betting websites, with many even boasting of being able to circumvent software designed to protect problem gamblers.

Google searches for Gamstop sent users to lists of casinos that are based offshore and are not part of the self-exclusion service.

For confidential support call the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133

You can also contact the following organisation for support: NHS https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/gambling-addiction/

 

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