Gambling organisation GambleAware has urged the banking sector to do more in the area of gambling blocking software.
Earlier this week, GambleAware published insights from research it has commissioned on the public uptake and effectiveness of gambling blockers which stop bank cards being used for gambling. The charity had asked researchers from the Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) at the University of Bristol to evaluate how effective blockers were at preventing gambling harm.
According to the PFRC, around 60% of UK current accounts are covered by the availability of blocker services, with eight banking apps offering the service. The research also showed that roughly 28 million personal current accounts provide no services to restrict gambling activity. In its review of the data aggregated by financial firms, the PFRC showed that blockers are being used by around 0.5 million customers in total.
Data provided by one bank revealed that customers who had downloaded the blocking software, used it to block gambling services two to three times per month. This represents an estimated 390,000 to 585,000 blocked gambling transactions per month.
Speaking about the findings, the Chief Executive at GambleAware, Marc Etches, said that the challenge of keeping people safe from gambling harm needed the help of banks in providing customers with the ability to block gambling transactions, and that more could be done:
“While some banks have taken proactive steps to help shield their customers from gambling harms, the findings of this research indicate that improvements can and should be made. We encourage the banking industry to work together alongside the Government and regulators to implement the proposed recommendations.”
In its analysis of the effectiveness of blocking software, the PFRC found a number of flaws in the service. Three of the eight tools analysed could be turned on-and-off, a facility that PFRC described as being more like a light switch than a lock. GambleAware have urged the industry to provide more secure locks, including time-release locks of at least 48 hours.
In a further effort to boost the effectiveness of blockers, GambleAware has also put together a series of recommendations for the UK finance industry. These include the need for firms to work with experts when they design their anti-gambling harm products and services. They also urged finance companies to incorporate their recommendations into banking sector guidance and policy on the support of vulnerable customers, with gambling blocks made standard on all credit and debit cards.
Among the other measures recommended are a cross-sector campaign to boost customer awareness of the availability of card blockers, and lobbying of the government to create the necessary regulatory framework that would encourage financial firms to be innovative in developing spending control tools.
Speaking about the findings of the report, the PFRC Research Director at the University of Bristol, Professor Sharon Collard, said that they had found that blockers were not available on around 40% of current accounts, which means that 28 million people are missing out on access to the tool. She urged the Financial Conduct Authority to recommend blockers as standard on all bank cards.