K-based online bank Monzo has called on the UK Government to mandate the use of gambling access blocks on all UK bank accounts.
The open letter, supported by top NHS clinicians, gambling harm charities and leading academics, calls for new rules that would mean every bank customer in the UK has access to a gambling block on their account, regardless of who they bank with, Finextra reports.
The letter comes amid a rise in online gambling during the UK's extended lockdown as the Government undertakes a review of the Gambling Act for the first time since 2015.
It has been illegal to use a credit card to gamble in the UK since April 2020. In June 2018, Monzo was the first bank to launch a gambling block, an initiative that has since been aped by a number of the UK's biggest banks. Monzo says its block is used by more than 275,000 people. The bank blocks up to 585,000 gambling transactions a month, which equates to one or two attempted gambling transactions for every person who uses it, Your Money reports.
Other banks that offer the facility to block some gambling transactions include Halifax, Natwest, Lloyds and RBS. However, 40% of UK current accounts don’t let users block gambling. Research last year from Bristol University and Gamble Aware found that as many as 28 million current account holders in the UK may not have access to a gambling block, and that 50% of people who turned on a gambling block had spent less or no money on gambling since.
Many gambling firms are now offering new payment methods, including bank transfers. As it stands, banks can’t consistently access the data needed to prevent these direct payments. Monzo is asking that gambling firms disclose their account details on a central registry, enabling all UK banks to extend their gambling blocks to cover bank transfers. According to Monzo, about 2 million people in the UK experience harm caused by gambling such as getting into debt, losing your job, and falling out with family and friends.
"We’re already working on a pilot project of our own, but scaling this in a meaningful way for our customers requires Government support," said Monzo CEO TS Anil. "While the review of the Gambling Act has brought this important topic to the table again - we should be clear that it’s not just the gambling companies that should be doing more; every UK bank should step up and help their customers too."