How Banks Are Helping Fight Gambling Addictions

  • Updated
  • By Rachael Phillips
banks fight gambling addictions
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Technology has made gambling easier. It’s now possible to gamble 24/7, 365 days a year and from anywhere you like whether that’s your bedroom or even the office.  

Technology has also made it easier for gambling companies to get in contact with players and encourage them to place bets by sharing their latest deals or letting them know that they have a balance left in their account.

However, it can also help to curb gambling before it becomes a problem and even help in beating gambling addictions completely.

Previously addressing a gambling problem was left up to the person with the issue or undertaken by the gaming websites themselves. After all, gambling websites have a duty of care to make sure that customers who want to take a break from gambling are given the support they need.

Gambling operators currently must offer the ability for players to self-exclude for a minimum of six months. Once a player has self-excluded from a gambling operator then that company is obliged to close their account and return any money that may be left in the wallet.

They also must remove the players' details from any marketing databases.

But now the banks are getting involved. Monzo and Starling are the first two banks that are allowing customers to place a block on any payments made to gambling sites in order to help them overcome any issues they may be facing.

How does it work?

Every time you purchase something using your debit card, the transaction is tagged with a code.

This code allows the banks to identify the merchant that is processing the payment and to help the banks to categorise your spending habits.

In order to block the specific transactions, and to make sure your card doesn’t decline when you’re just doing your average weekly shop, the bank collects a list of codes that recognise the gambling and betting outlets.

This allows them then to effectively block any transactions that are related to gambling.

Activating the block differs between banks but you can usually do it via the app, online chat or by picking up the phone and calling the customer services team.

What is to stop users from cancelling the block?

Short answer? Nothing. These blocks are in place to help the customer have full control over their own spending habits. So, they are free to cancel the block at any time.

But to remove the block, the user must contact customer services so that they can talk through the decision to make sure it’s right for the customer.

Users also have the option to turn off the block via the app but they must wait for 24 to 48 hours to be able to do this.

When deactivating the block the user will be sent a message pointing them towards the National Gambling Helpline, should they be worried that they are going to spend more than they should.

Why are the banks interested in doing this?

Financial institutions are fully aware of the problems caused by debt. There’s a firm link between gambling addiction and debt. 80% of people seeking help for a gambling addiction also reported being in debt, according to GambleAware.

Where possible financial institutions want to work with their customers to avoid or at least minimise the chances of getting into debt.

Enabling a blocking system also helps to give people control over their own money and their own choices and of course make the act of self-exclusion easier.

While it isn’t a perfect solution and may not work for everyone, giving customers the option to opt out of potentially harmful behaviour is a good start.

The banks we’ve mentioned in this post are also working on other features to help those who feel they may have an issue such as allowing users to set a 30-day rolling gambling limit and allowing you to have a ‘trusted’ friend who can authorise your gambling transactions on your behalf.

Features & Opinion