Charity GamCare has urged for more collaboration within the gambling and financial industries to address “gambling block loopholes”.
The problem gambling support charity made the call in its Gambling Related Financial Harm workshop, where it urged financial institutions and businesses to work with the gambling industry to close gambling block loopholes and ensure that vulnerable customers are protected.
GamCare’s workshop featured a joint discussion by 45 representatives from financial services, gambling businesses, and gambling support services on how to provide a safer gambling experience for vulnerable people.
The workshop also featured people with lived experience of gambling-related harm who shared insight on how gambling blocks provided by banks, which prevent users from making gambling-based transactions through their bank accounts, can be bypassed.
As reported by SBCNews, the workshop focused on the increase of “non-card transactions” made to online casinos through e-wallets like PayPal, Skrill, and Neteller, and financial experts noted the misclassifying of merchant codes, which allow gambling operators to disguise transactions and effectively bypass gambling blockers.
Representatives at GamCare’s workshop recommended that gambling blocks are introduced to e-wallets to protect those who are vulnerable, improve safety, and clamp down on gambling addiction.
Raminta Diliso, the Financial Harm Manager at GamCare, said in a statement: “Year on year, around 70 per cent of callers to our National Gambling Helpline mention some level of gambling debt and financial hardship.
“For those trying to stop gambling, banking blocks offer an invaluable layer of protection, but people that use our services have reported that they have managed to circumvent the blocks.”
Diliso continued: “Whilst different payment methods offered by gambling operators give a lot of flexibility for consumers, it can also leave them vulnerable to gambling harm when these payment methods are not subject to gambling blocks.
“We’re pleased that so many organisations have shown interest in this issue, and we would like to see a collaborative cross-sector response to drive through a number of additional changes to further protect people from gambling-related harm.”
Back in February, online bank Monzo called for a mandatory bank gambling block in a letter to the UK Government, as around only eight major UK banks offer gambling block services, including Monzo.
Natalie Ledward, the Head of Vulnerable Customers at Monzo, said: “Monzo was the first bank in the UK to launch a gambling block. Since then, more than 300,000 of our customers have used it, with less than 10 per cent turning it off.
“With more and more gambling companies offering new ways to pay, we’re working to make sure our gambling block covers all of these new payment options. This year, we piloted an extension block with TrueLayer, to help extend our block to cover open banking payments.”
Also this week, British charity Gambling With Lives has announced the launch of a trial of its new treatment and support service for people suffering from and for the families affected by gambling-related harm.
According to Gambling With Lives, the new treatment and support service was developed by health experts and will work in collaboration with the National Health Service (NHS) in Great Britain to complement existing services available across the UK.
To design the new service, Gambling With Lives created focus groups consisting of people who had experienced gambling-related harm. It also ran workshops with gambling operators, clinicians, and experts, the latter of whom then created the new treatment pathway.
As reported by iGamingBusiness, Gambling With Lives has applied for regulatory settlement funding from the Gambling Commission to fund the project and has plans on running a pilot trial with partners in Greater Manchester. Insights obtained from this trial will be used to raise the standard of the new system across the United Kingdom.
The charity has stated that early identification of gambling harm is key to tackling the issue, and it confirmed that the aim of the new service is to help more people access required treatment.
Gambling With Lives has confirmed that it has a number of end goals in relation to the project, including improving mental health, stopping gambling, providing victims with a sense of empowerment, helping people feel supported, and ensuring that victims understand the impact of their gambling habits on themselves and those around them.
Gambling With Lives Co-Founder Liz Ritchie said in a statement: “It is essential that people harmed by gambling are at the forefront of designing care and treatment for gambling disorder. We know how few people access treatment, how few feel helped, and this design for a care and treatment pathway aims to redress this.”
Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones, the Founder and Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, said: “It is essential that evidence-based services are led by the NHS to ensure quality clinical standards.
“I welcome this project and the work of people harmed by gambling in helping us to ensure that services are integrated with existing NHS pathways and really meet the needs of our population.”
Lord Foster of Bath, the Chair of Peers for Gambling Reform, added: “As Parliamentarians work on improving gambling legislation to tackle gambling harm, it’s great to see people who have been harmed by gambling at the forefront of the push to enable more access to evidence-based treatment.
“Our recommendation for the introduction of a smart levy would help fund such treatment, ensure it’s free of industry influence and led by the NHS. We welcome the creative work of Gambling With Lives in this area which is rooted in the needs of families.”