Banks Can Play 'Crucial Role' In Tackling Gambling Harms, Says Report

February 21, 2024
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Banks can play a “crucial” role in tackling gambling-related harms and the UK's Financial Conduct Authority should consider issuing guidance on the issue, according to a new research report from Queen Mary University of London.
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Banks can play a “crucial” role in tackling gambling-related harms and the UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) should consider issuing guidance on the issue, according to a new research report from Queen Mary University of London.

Researchers provided recommendations addressed to banks and credit card providers, policy-makers and regulators in the financial field, and people with lived experience of gambling harm, in a report published last week.

The advice for banks included that gambling-blocking tools should be accompanied by other measures such as better staff training to spot problem gambling and more supportive communication.

It also recommends considering making gambling blocking tools opt-out as opposed to opt-in.

Banks and financial institutions should also leverage their “unique position of opportunity” to spot problems and judge customers' vulnerability.

In this sense, the “hidden nature” of gambling can be countered by financial institutions' access to data about gambling spend, as well as income and “transactional meta-data for gambling (for example during night-time and speed of expenditure)”, the report said.

Additionally, banks should continue to develop best practices for supporting individuals with gambling-related harm by making interactions increasingly personal and implementing automated remote support triggered by analysing transactional data.

“Examples of this are: advertising the availability of the bank gambling block to customers with very heavy gambling spend through in-app messaging, or sending an SMS to the customer’s mobile while they are engaging in a binge gambling session (e.g. in the middle of the night),” according to the report.

Recommendations for regulators include the need for “clearer guidance” for protecting individuals experiencing serious gambling harms and for the “FCA to consider issuing guidance in this respect and we hope this report is useful for this purpose”.

Dan Waugh of Regulus Partners said he thinks “many of the recommendations seem sensible” and the gambling industry “can do more to promote blocking tools and spending limits”.

However, “the idea people should be blocked from betting unless they opt-in appears to impose a moral judgement and is not supported by any evidence I've seen”, Waugh told Vixio GamblingCompliance.

“One could make a similar argument that banks should employ similar techniques to block customers from spending money in bars or sweet shops,” he said.

“It is unclear why banks would select gambling alone as an activity requiring account holder opt-in. There is a risk that this would create a stigma around spending money on betting which is a legal and legitimate pastime,” Waugh said.

Research for the project was undertaken from June to November 2023 and consisted of three parts. Interviews with people who have lived experience of gambling harms, legal research into bank and payment service obligations, and interviews with several banks.

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