According to Gambling Commission Chief Executive Neil McArthur, the commission's Tuesday decision should "minimise the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have.”
Dr Mark Griffiths, Distinguished Professor from Nottingham Trent University, shares his views on the possible consequences of the decision, while mulling on additional measures that could be adopted.
Sputnik: Britain’s gambling watchdog has confirmed that the use of credit cards for betting is to be banned beginning in April. How significant are these proposals and have they been a long time coming?
Mark Griffiths: I've been researching in this area for 32 years now and one of the things that's always concerned me is the idea that gamblers can gamble with credit and money they haven't got. I mean the move to ban credit cards being used for gamblers, I think, is a positive move. Obviously, people can still use their debit cards, at least with debit cards, it's usually money they've got in the first place, but obviously, with credit cards, this is something that, traditionally, people don't necessarily have the money to do it, and I think one of the reasons that the gambling commission wanted to introduce this is they've done their own research and they said that 22 percent of online gamblers that use credit cards for online gambling were actually problem gamblers, and that is obviously a lot higher amongst that particular group, and we find across the general population, this does seem to be a move that they've got the interests of the problem gambler at heart. Obviously there are lots of people out there that do use credit cards without any problems at all but of course most people who have credit cards who can afford to gamble will also have debit cards as well.
I don't think this is actually going to have any negative effects on those people that might have used credit cards before.
Sputnik: It’s clear that these moves are positive and needed; 22 percent of problem gamblers in the UK fund their habits through credit card use which creates massive problems, but are proposals just tackling the tip of the iceberg?
Mark Griffiths: I'm somebody that, as I say, I always try to think about maximizing the fun for the many who enjoy gambling, versus that small percentage that unfortunately have problems. I personally would like to have the government and the gambling commission look at gambling in its totality, because lots of the things that have been proposed - for instance - we've just seen a reduction in the stake size on fixed odds betting terminals down to two pounds, these are kind of small things, which in and of themselves, I don't actually think will make much difference to problem gambling.
People who want to spend bigger amounts of money; when you start to put restrictions on how much people can spend, they'll just go elsewhere and now we've got online gambling. Even if they can't do it in the UK they can go to offshore sites and gamble on the kinds of products they want to gamble on. I think the move, in terms of restricting people gambling on credit, that is one of the more global moves that I do welcome because, as I said, I don't really think there's going to be any negative effects for gamblers who have fun and, as I say, I do think it's a mechanism that will help to protect those that have problems.
The move trying to restrict credit card gambling - you're not going to eliminate problem gambling but I do think it's one of those things that is a step in the right direction, and overall I think the move will be positive right across the gambling spectrum, not just for problem gambling.
Sputnik: What other policies should we see adopted alongside these new proposals put forward by the gambling commission?
Mark Griffiths: Well, I certainly think the industry, now they know if they want operating licenses, they've got to show what they're doing in terms of player protection, harm minimization, responsible gambling and social responsibility. By that I mean their duty of care to their customers. Obviously, gambling, just like tobacco and alcohol, it's a consumptive product, which, at the end of the day for a small minority of people can cause problems.
Obviously, we have to learn from shared best practices around the world, in terms of what kind of policies can best help people, and we've always got to remember that, for the vast majority of people, they have no problems with gambling and so, when you do introduce policies, you've got to make sure that you're not actually taking away if you like the fun and excitement that many people have day in day out; people like myself.
I mean, I like to have a sports bet and I like playing roulette. I would hate to see policies introduced that actually impeded me from engaging in the games and the gambling games that I enjoy doing. On the other side, of course, is that we only have a small proportion of problem gamblers. If you look at the last 20 years it has not been on the increase, even though we've now got more gambling advertising, and there are more opportunities and access to gamble. Whether everything can be solved in the next couple of years is debatable. I think it's going to take longer for that, but you will never ever eliminate problem gambling, but what I do think we can do is we can start to reduce and minimize the risk of problem gambling in the first place.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.