Kate Langston, Senior External Affairs Officer, Money and Mental Health

Get involved in our new project to tackle problem gambling

If you work in financial services, you could play a big part in addressing gambling related harm

17 January 2020

This week we welcomed the  Gambing Commission’s announcement that gambling on credit cards will be banned as of April. With research showing that one in five people who gamble online using credit cards are struggling with problem gambling, this could make a big difference to many people at risk of financial harm.

But the Commission’s decision also highlighted another crucial issue: the critical role that financial services firms can play in tackling problem gambling. This is something we have long recognised here at Money and Mental Health, including in our campaign to encourage banks to introduce spending controls. We’re therefore very excited to be launching a new programme of work this year, working with financial firms and professionals to tackle gambling related harms. Read on to find out how you could get involved.

The opportunity to make a difference

The last few years have brought some promising developments in the fight to reduce gambling-related harms. 2019 alone saw the introduction of a £2 limit on fixed-odds betting terminals, a voluntary “whistle-to-whistle” ban on gambling advertising during live sports, and the launch of the Gambling Commission’s new National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms

But according to the Commission’s own research, there are around 340,000 people in the UK struggling with problem gambling. That’s 340,000 people who are at risk of relationship breakdown, mental health problems and financial difficulty as a result of gambling, which in turn affect many more family members and friends. 

“I ate nothing for two days earlier in the week. If I had cashed out my winnings, instead of playing on, then I could have had food.”

The real life impact of this can be devastating – from people skipping meals because they lost the money they set aside for food that week on a bet, to people finding themselves in hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of debt, and even experiencing thoughts of suicide.

There is therefore a clear and urgent need for much more to be done to help people avoid the suffering and harm that can arise from problem gambling. And this is where financial firms have an opportunity to make a big difference.

How financial firms can help

Few would argue with the idea that gambling firms can and should be doing more to reduce the harms their products can cause. But there are many ways in which banks and other financial services firms are uniquely placed to play a key role in wider prevention efforts. For example, as our recent Data protecting report shows, the kinds of data that banks have access to mean they often have a unique insight into a person’s financial situation. This data could potentially be used to spot when someone is struggling to manage their gambling behaviours, and to offer help. 

Some banks are already starting to take action. We’ve already seen eight firms launch tools to help people block gambling payments on their bank cards. But we want to see them doing more.

That’s why we’re launching a two-year project to work with financial services firms and professionals to address gambling related harm. Through this, we’ll be bringing together financial services professionals to hear firsthand about the difficulties that people can face when it comes to problem gambling, and to explore the latest research and examples of best practice in the industry. We’ll also be running events, workshops and a new best practice hub to equip financial services professionals with the tools and knowledge they need to help tackle gambling related harm, and to drive forward progress across the industry.

Over to you

If you work in financial services, we want you to get involved. Simply sign up to our Professional Network here and we’ll send you regular updates about the project, as well as invitations to events.