Give All Banks a Slot Block, Says Monzo

Banks are getting in on the gambling safety party with a call for the UK government to force all banks in the UK to offer facilities to block gambling transactions.

The call is backed by research, charities and gambling safety organisations and comes as the UK Gambling industry and its millions of customers await the Gambling Act review.

The Gambling Act Review is being carried out by the UK Gambling Commission and is due to report this year. Since the liberalisation of gambling laws in 2005, the UK has become the world’s biggest gambling market. Looser laws were followed by an explosion of high-speed internet access to let loose the giant of online gambling.

Any such tool would work like this:

Anyone with a UK bank account would be able to set up a “friction driven” block on a payment card.

TS Anil, the CEO of Monzo, has also asked that the Government make sure it builds in future-proofing to any such measures, so that bank account holders can set up long-lasting bans that can’t be circumvented with legal, technical, or tech innovations.

The addition of a central register of bank accounts used by gambling firms would then allow banks to set up truly comprehensive payment blockers.

Monzo has also raised the issue of “loot boxes”, paid-for services within video games. These features fall in a grey area of regulation and would be hard to pick up with blocks on payment or content unless their classification can be clarified.

Gambling companies are constantly changing and increasing the number and type of services they sell to customers. Monzo say that these need to be tracked.

Monzo obviously see “self-exclusion” as one of the main tools to help reduce the harm caused by problem gambling. They would like the Gambling Act Review to produce, “a world-leading self-exclusion framework in the UK to reduce gambling harms, and help consumers gain control of their finances.”

It is already possible to set up exclusions. Almost all gambling sites allow players to set limits on their spending or on the time they spend on sites. They also allow time-outs and exclusions that can be short-, long-term or permanent. Industry-wide services allow exclusions that go outside single sites.

However, gambling addiction is just like any other addiction, and it is difficult to stop using products once you are addicted. Tools are helpful, but gambling addicts need to use them. The industry doesn’t want to hurt its customers but is wary of regulation that will eat into its profits.

The UK Gambling industry has made moves to show that it takes gambling harms seriously. Tracking money from problem gamblers is one innovation. However, the Betting and Gaming Council has also fired a warning shot about the increase in unlicensed gambling that they say will be caused if any new regulations are too restrictive.

In advance of the full review, the UK’s gambling regulator the UK Gambling Commission has taken action on slot features, banning auto-play and features that speed up slot spins as well as certain marketing tools.

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