Gambling regulation in the UK has been undergoing significant changes in recent years. One of the biggest changes has been the move to outright ban the use of credit cards for any form of gambling. The move was met with a somewhat mixed response, but in general it has been seen as a good thing for a number of reasons. There are several factors we can see as influencing this decision, so let’s consider a few of the most important ones.

1. Harm reduction 

The main reason for the ban on credit cards in gambling is as a harm reduction initiative. Problem gambling is a pretty serious problem in the UK. Estimates suggest around 246,000 people in the country are problem gamblers in some way or another, with as many as 2.2 million with the potential for some form of addiction.

Being able to bet with a credit card means you can effectively bet with money you don’t have. For those with problems with addiction, it can be very difficult to resist if the option is there. Options like Paypal betting or debit cards, mean that punters are no longer using borrowed money, reducing the chances of them spending money that they shouldn’t.

Gambling with money you don’t have can cause a great deal of harm in many ways. The most obvious is debt, which I will expand on shortly, but you will also run into issues with credit, personal issues with family members and loved ones, and many other forms of harm.

Removing the option to use credit cards in gambling is a common-sense harm reduction move.

2. Debt reduction 

Naturally, the single clearest and most tangible harmful effect of problem gambling is debt. Problem gambling debt is a huge problem in the UK and leads to all sorts of abject hardships. Naturally, it’s a lot easier to fall into debt when you are gambling with a credit card—that is, with money you don’t have. Credit cards effectively give you thousands of pounds that you don’t have to bet with.

Recent reports have shown worrying figures around problem gambling. Around 45% of gamblers had amassed debts of £5,000 or more, were bankrupt, or had entered an individual voluntary agreement. This is an agreement with your creditors to pay back what you owe in instalments over a period of time.

Other figures showed that problem gamblers were, on average, around £10,000 in debt before they sought any kind of help.

Banning credit cards makes it a lot easier to prevent people from betting with money they don’t have. Operators are required to ensure that, even if the customer is using an electronic transfer platform like PayPal, that the funds have not been loaded from a credit card.

We would always advise that you should never gamble more than you can afford to lose. If you are gambling with a credit card, then that is already money you don’t really have. This is perhaps the most important reason for banning credit cards in gambling.

3. Responsible gambling operators 

Finally, the move targets more generally the goal of ensuring gambling operators act in a responsible way. Problem gambling as a widespread issue cannot be solved by regulators and consumers alone. The solutions must include certain expectations on operators, too. As with broader gambling regulation  in the UK, operators like bet365 or BetVictor are always expected to act in a socially responsible way. Take advertising, for example—this is roughly the extent of the guidelines on gambling advertising. It must be socially responsible.

Of course, what exactly this means can be up for interpretation. However, when it comes to something as tangible as credit card debt, there’s little room for interpretation. Banning credit cards in gambling means operators need to be sure they aren’t being used. This contributes to the wider sense that gambling operators have a responsibility to their customers, and should not seek profits while putting customers in debt.

The general idea, then, has been to reduce the harm to gamblers and reduce instances of problem gambling. It’s easy to see how credit cards in gambling could cause significant social problems, and so in many ways the ban seems like a common-sense move. More will certainly need to be done in future to fully address the problem, but this is a great first step.