Credit card ban also in the works

UK Gambling Minister Chris Philp hints online gaming a likely target of upcoming White Paper

UK Gambling Minister Chris Philp.
Reading time 2:22 min

As the imminent UK gambling White Paper gets closer to its publication date, gambling minister Chris Philp has given a new indication that online casinos and slots will be in the spotlight, and added that they are among the games that worry him "the most." He singled out the two sectors as he addressed the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

When asked about the assessment made of gambling harms posed by lotteries, including instant games, Philp cited a 2018 health survey for England, which suggested problem gambling rates were about 0.9% for draw-based games such as the National Lottery, and 1.4% for scratchcards. These were described by the minister as "considerably lower than for various other activities surveyed, where the range went from 2.7% to 12.7%," The Independent reports. 

The things that worry me the most as we think about the gambling White Paper are things like online slots and online casinos - the areas where people can get really heavily addicted to gambling," Philp stated. "But, that said, we do want to make sure it’s done safely."

Philp also told the committee the National Lottery is the biggest form of gambling in terms of gross yield, totaling about £4 billion ($4.1 billion) yearly, a quarter to a third of all UK gambling. MPs also heard that about 40% to 45% of the public resorted to some form of gambling on a monthly basis, and about 30% of the population played the lottery in any given month. 

When it comes to the use of credit cards in gambling, a much-debated issue, Kevin Brennan (Labour, Cardiff West) asked Philp whether the Government’s claim that consumers could no longer gamble using this payment method was true.  

“The information I’ve just given is if you are buying a lottery ticket on its own then you should not be able to use a credit card, but if you are buying a basket of goods, like you are doing your weekly shopping, and there is a lottery ticket in there then you would be able to," Philp said in response, according to the cited source.

As Brennan deemed Philp’s answer incomplete, he described the hearing as having “entered the realms of surrealism" before the gambling minister offered to write the committee with the precise answer, and further asked him why people are allowed to use a credit card for that form of gambling and not for others.  

Philp replied it was a practical consideration to not have to ask a consumer to separate their shopping if it included a lottery ticket. He clarified that it is not possible for consumers to go on the National Lottery website and use a credit card. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The United Kingdom is currently in the process of updating its 17-year-old gambling legislation to address concerns about problem gambling. Ministers are reportedly considering many strategies to tackle these issues, such as allowing maximum stakes of between £2 ($2,43) and £5 ($6,08) for online casinos, as well as a ban on free bets. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other cabinet ministers are expected to sign off a final decision this month. 

Gaming companies could also be required to remove features from online games that increase the level of risk for customers, such as quick gamesThey may also have to implement “affordability checks” to show how much users can safely spend, people familiar with the matter told local media. Meanwhile, the UK Gambling Commission would be granted new powers along with extra funding from increased fees paid by the industry.