Banks and other financial services urged to help reduce gambling-related harm

Responsible Gambling Week

During Responsible Gambling Week [7 to 13 November], financial services organisations are being called upon to take part in a new programme which looks at how best to help people who are struggling with gambling problems.

A strategic partnership between the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) and GambleAware is examining how banks, building societies, lenders, e-money firms and credit reference agencies can mitigate the financial losses and other harms experienced by people with gambling problems.

The three-year programme will address growing concerns around the severe financial and social consequences of gambling.

It comes as several UK banks – including Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest, Monzo and Starling – have introduced ‘gambling blocks’. Once turned on by customers, these essentially prevent spending on a bank card at gambling outlets, both online and in-person.

Around seven in ten people seeking help for gambling problems report that they are in debt, with a third of these owing £10,000 or more.

Between 2007 and 2014 there were an average of 500 bankruptcies per year known to be linked to gambling – although the true figure could be much higher because people may not disclose that their bankruptcy is related to gambling.

Professor Sharon Collard, from the PFRC at the University of Bristol, is leading the programme and said: “We know that people in recovery from problem gambling already use informal workarounds to prevent themselves from spending money on gambling, such as forfeiting their card to a third party or scratching off the card security number.

“The new solutions from banks, however, allow customers to do this more formally – and, possibly, more successfully. But at present there is limited evidence about the effectiveness of such spending controls, nor about the characteristics of those who use them.

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