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Banning Credit Cards From Betting Websites Necessary to Protect Gamblers, Families - Academic

Britain’s gambling watchdog has confirmed that the use of credit cards for betting is to be banned from April. Aimed at tackling problem gambling and protecting vulnerable customers the move was announced by the Gambling Commission on Tuesday.

Looking at these proposals, Sputnik spoke to Dr Carolyn Downs, a senior lecturer at Lancaster University.

Sputnik: Britain’s gambling commission has today announced efforts to ban all credit card transactions for gamblers on betting websites. How significant are these proposals?

Dr Carolyn Downs: It's been a long time coming. They've been recommended for a number of years certainly since 2009 and it's very important in terms of both protecting gamblers from building up increasing amounts of unmanageable debt but also in terms of protecting their families because very often gamblers don't just use their own multiple credit cards, they will borrow credit cards from family members without their knowledge and run debts up on those as well. The use of credit cards facilitates under-aged gambling because underage gamblers will again get hold of a parent or older sibling's credit card and use that.

Sputnik: On the surface, these plans sound very positive but is there a chance that they could create new problems as well?

Dr Carolyn Downs: The thing with problem gamblers is unless they are getting treatment then the money is of course what they need to enable their habit and if they aren't getting money from credit cards we may see an increase in acquisitive crime related to problem gambling.

We have a problem there that this isn't really measured so a study that was done of prisoners actually found that the significant number of prisoners were problem gamblers and that they had stolen in order to fund their habit but this doesn't usually come out in the court case unless perhaps it's a case of fraud against the company that somebody works for.

If people are just stealing high-value goods it tends not to come out in the court case that they are stealing to fund the gambling habit. So we have difficulty tracking this. There is no effort made at tracking whether a problem shifts from using credit cards to acquisitive crime.

Sputnik: Moving forwards what other actions from authorities should be incorporated to reduce problem gambling?

Dr Carolyn Downs: Well if we're looking at young people I think a significant issue is that we have no effective system for educating young people about the risk of gambling at all. The government put the onus at education on the gamble aware charity and they do produce education materials but the government does not give schools a duty to educate children and problem gambling - so materials are produced but they're not delivered in schools.

Schools have very little time for that sort of personal social health and financial education. Another problem that needs addressing if we're going to try to reduce gambling more widely is treatment for problem gambling is difficult to access and is not generally available through the NHS. So we do you have an NHS problem gambling clinic in London and we've just go an NHS problem gambling clinic for young people also opening in London but they're in London.

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If you live in the north of England or Scotland or Wales, you can't access those NHS services and so you are reliant on a sort of patchwork of services that are quite difficult to access that doctors maybe don't know about and this is another key issue that treatment services are very limited, very restricted and difficult to access. I think we need to stop having a piecemeal approach and have a proper reevaluation of the Gambling Act of 2005. We need a much more cohesive program of change and they can only do that with a proper overhaul of the regulations surrounding gambling.

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