Over 220,000 customers have activated Monzo’s gambling payment block service since it was first launched back in 2018.
The digital bank revealed this week that around 5% of its customers have activated the payment blocker, equating to around 223,993 people. The service allows Monzo users to block all gambling transactions to their bank account and features a 48-hour “cooling-off” period in which users must wait before disabling the feature.
Monzo also revealed that of the 223,993 people using the feature, only 8% had later gone on to disable it. As reported by iGamingBusiness, around 2,314 people enable the feature every month and the number of people using the service reach an all-time high back in August 2019 when it was activated by 17,474 customers.
The digital bank launched the service in partnership with GambleAware after rival digital bank Starling introduced its feature. At launch, Monzo explained that it could identify gambling transactions via specific payment codes and that it had launched the blocker as part of its initiative to help its vulnerable customers, 5,000 of which Monzo estimated to have been identified as problem gamblers.
Monzo’s implementation of the feature has led other banks and financial firms to launch similar features. Currently, banks that offer a gambling payment blocker include HSBC, Lloyds Bank, Barclays, Bank Of Scotland, and Halifax.
The news comes several weeks after leading gambling charity GambleAware published a report in which it urged all UK banks and financial groups to improve the way their gambling payment blockers work.
The report referenced research undertaken by the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) which found that around 40% of all customers with current accounts in the United Kingdom have not been given a gambling payment blocker option.
As explained by GambleAware, this means that around 28 million account users in the country do not have access to these essential services. While most major banks in the UK offer the service, the charity found that four major financial groups do not. They are the Bank Of Ireland, Dankse Bank, the First Trust Bank, and Nationwide Building Society.
Of the banks that do offer gambling payment blockers, GambleAware and the PFRC found that most of the blockers failed to work correctly. Most banks offering the feature allow customers to enable and disable the service at will, rather than enforcing a timeout period like Monzo has.
GambleAware also reported that many bank customers were finding workarounds to the blockers by using e0wallets such as PayPal, Skrill, and Neteller.
In response to the findings, GambleAware laid out a series of recommendations to banks in order to improve the features. The recommendations include requiring bank groups to work with experts to design effective blocking services, requiring banks to inform customers of gambling blockers, and the launch of new campaigns to promote these features and other helpful information among the vulnerable.
Speaking about gambling payment blockers, GambleAware Chief Executive Marc Etches said: “Keeping people safe from gambling harms requires banks to play their full part in providing consumers with effective means to block gambling transactions.
“While some banks have taken proactive steps to help shield their customers from gambling harms, the findings of this research indicate that improvements can and should be made. We encourage the banking industry to work together alongside the government and regulators to implement the proposed recommendations.”
More recently, GambleAware announced the launch of a new “lived experience group” to represent all those who have been affected by gambling-related harm. As explained by the charity, the group will offer real-life experienced on the risks, triggers, disorder, and stigma surrounding gambling and addiction.
GambleAware’s group will also help the charity develop the research of various treatment services to help those at risk. The group will reportedly meet online once a month via video calls, and the group will meet in-person once per quarter in Birmingham.
The plan to establish a “lived experience group” was first published in GambleAware’s quarterly briefing titled Keeping People Safe From Gambling Harms. The briefing, which was published this week, offers industry stakeholders an update on the charities future plans to support the National Gambling Treatment Service.
In the briefing, GambleAware explained that it’s planning more time to focus on “gambling disorder” as previous research found that many people suffering from gambling-related harm are not seeking out the necessary treatment. GambleAware wants more work committed to raising awareness of gambling addiction, its dangers and its symptoms – most of which go unnoticed.
The charity will share a new five-year strategy next March but will spend time on supporting the NHS, voluntary gambling organisations, healthcare professionals, and more. It will also continue to promote its various campaigns including the recent Bet Regret in the hopes of raising awareness of gambling addiction.
GambleAware isn’t the only group working to make gambling safer across the country. This year alone, the UK Gambling Commission has implemented a ban on using credit cards for gambling and made changes to the way casino operators can run loyalty schemes or VIP programmes.
The regulatory firm, which recently suspended Genesis Global Limited’s gambling license, is now holding a consultation on the design of video slots. The Commission is looking at slowing down the speed of slot spins, removing autoplay and boost features, and forcing developers to scrap “false win” animations.
If that isn’t enough, the group is looking at scrapping reverse withdrawal options. Although widely accepted, the UK Gambling Commission banned operators from allowing reverse withdrawals during the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown period and seemingly wants to make the change permanent.
Meanwhile, the House of Lords has called for loot boxes, mechanics in video games where players can purchase rewards without knowing what they are, to be classed as gambling. As we reported earlier this month, the report from the House of Lords Gambling Committee stressed that loot boxes should be classed as “games of chance” and regulated under the Gambling Act 2005, and that the UK government must take immediate action against the controversial game mechanic.