Monzo has partnered with TrueLayer to launch a universal gambling block for the financial services industry.
The digital bank is one of the few UK banks to offer its customers a service to block all gambling transactions, and earlier this week penned a letter to the UK Government urging it to force all banks to offer gambling block services.
Now, Monzo has announced its partnered with open-banking software provider TrueLayer to trial an open-banking API. According to FocusGN, the API will be offered to all financial service providers, including banks, credit cards, loans, and e-wallets, allowing them to block transactions with gambling operators.
In a blog announcing the news, Monzo explains that most gambling blocks available today work by blocking card payments to specific “merchant category codes” assigned by card schemes like MasterCard or VISA. These category codes inform the bank of what type of business the customer is trying to pay for before sending money.
However, the merchant category codes are only available for card payments, no open-banking payments, which more banks are now using. Now, through the new API service, TrueLayer will inform Monzo whenever a customer attempts to make an open-banking payment to a gambling operator, allowing Monzo to block the transaction if the customer has enabled their gambling blocker.
The blog reads: “Everyone should have access to a gambling block, regardless of who they bank with – or how they pay. This is relatively simple for banks and open-banking providers to put in place, but can have a big impact on someone’s well being. Other banks and open-banking providers should follow our lead, to allow gambling blocks to cover non-card payments.
“Providing customers with self-exclusion tools for gambling is only the beginning, and there’s so much more that we can do.”
The blog continues: “Open-banking providers offer a unique opportunity to help gambling operators seamlessly support those experiencing gambling harms – and empower consumers to stay in control of their finances. Initiatives like affordability checks to flat at-risk players earlier, spending limits to help ensure players do not overextend themselves, and friction-free identity checks can all be improved using open-banking.
“By enabling the right types of protections for all players, gambling can remain a purely social activity, rather than one with life-altering negative effects.”
Monzo launched its gambling block back in 2018, becoming one of the first banks to do so, and the blog post states that over 275,000 customers have enabled the blocker, with fewer than 10% switching it off after originally enabling it.
The UK Government this week has reportedly begun developing plans on easing lockdown restrictions across the country, and a new blog post on the Betting and Gaming Council website by Debbie Husband, the National Director of Operations for Grosvenor UK, has urged the Government to scrap casino curfews, which were introduced last September in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 infections.
Reflecting on the last twelve months, Husband said in the blog post: “For those of us proud to work in the land-based casino sector, 2020 was a year that we look back on with little fondness.
“We played our part in supporting the national effort, and my Grosvenor colleagues went over and above the call of duty in supporting vulnerable groups and front-line services with our nationwide provision of daily meals from our casino kitchens – something that we’ve been continuing into 2021.”
She continued: “But when it comes to the story of re-opening, re-closing and countless setbacks, 2020 was a year of enormous frustration. Had that frustration been underpinned by any scientific evidence, we’d have sucked it up. But it wasn’t. All the evidence pointed to casinos being safer than vast swathes of businesses and industries which were able to trade.”
With many looking forward to the easing of lockdown restrictions, Husband has said it’s vital that casinos “remain hitched to the wider hospitality sector” and that if pubs and restaurants can “catch a break”, so should casino venues.
“As the details are being worked through, it’s worth remembering what our customers expect from their casino visit,” Husband continued. “We worked really hard to get MPs and senior Government officials into our venues last year to show them what we are all about.
“The average customer spends less than a fiver on food and drink each time he or she pays us a visit. Having a drink is a part of the casino experience for some, but it’s not the primary purpose. We spent all of last year offering to close our bars if [the] Government believed – as they implied by imposing a curfew – that drinking was an issue in transmitting the virus. We are still offering to close our bars. Whatever it takes to get open and stay open.”
Then, explaining that the casino curfew “crippled” the land-based gambling sector, Husband urged the Government to scrap the rule and allow casinos to rebuild their business. She said in the blog post:
“Over half of our revenues are generated after 10 PM, and the hour before midnight is typically the busiest of any 24-hour trading period. That’s hardly a surprise when you think about the nature of casinos. Individuals come to enjoy what we offer in a safe, well-ventilated, regulated environment. Scrap the curfew and give us a chance of rebuilding our business.”
Husband ended the blog post by stating that she wants nothing more than to see “the back of a virus that has done so much damage to families” but states it’s her duty to “stand up for Covid-secure casinos”.
“I continue to hope that the Government will recognise what we’re requesting, what we are offering to do, the tremendous contribution that we make to employment and tax receipts, and to ensure that casinos can safely and securely play our part in the recovery of our towns and cities sooner rather than later.”