Banking Firm Calls for Gambling Block

An online lending firm has called for the UK government to force all banks in the country to offer their customers the capacity to block gambling transactions.

The proposals, from Monzo, would include a requirement for banking firms to hand over data to ensure that the system worked effectively.

In a letter to Nigel Huddleston, the UK sports minister, who is heading up review of the UK gambling laws, Monzo, along with campaigners and gambling addiction experts called on the government to take the opportunity to take away obstacles for people who want to stop betting. Their plans would involve all banks and other account providers being forced to offer tools that make it possible for customers to bar themselves from gambling transactions using debit cards.

The proposals also envisage gambling companies handing over their own bank account details, which would be stored on a central registry. This would enable banks to block all forms of payment for customers who opted into the feature, preventing them from circumventing the card blocks.

At least eight of the major UK banks already offer a form of gambling block service, yet many of the tools available are only applicable to certain kinds of account or card. According to a report from charity GambleAware, released last year, around 40% of current account customers in the UK, a group that includes around 28 million people, still do not have the option. The report also found that as many as 40% of UK customers are unaware that the service exists.

Monzo say that they have 275,000 users with active gambling blocks, and that fewer than 10% of customers deactivate the block once it has been activated, and their Chief Executive, TS Anil, called on the UK authorities to extend access:

“We believe the government should take the opportunity afforded by the Gambling Act review to make sure every consumer in the UK can access these blocks, regardless of who they bank with.”

Monzo’s letter was co-signed by researchers from the University of Bristol, as well as a leading NHS gambling disorder expert, companies that offer gambling blocking software and a variety of gambling addiction campaign organisations.

Anil went on to say that the tools involved were easy to create, proven to be effective and would offer protection to millions of people.

As well as the proposed banking measures, the letter also calls on the UK government to work with video game developers to investigate the feasibility of identifying and blocking payments made for loot boxes, in-game features that have been compared to gambling.

The letter goes on to state that the review of the 2005 Gambling Act, which is currently underway, provides an opportunity to set up a world-leading self exclusion framework in the UK, enabling consumers to have control of their finances. The letter was also supported by the Betting and Gaming Council, who say they are encouraged by the uptake of gambling blocking tools by UK banks.

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