This week, Ulster Bank has brought in a new facility that aims to help people stay in control of their gambling expenditure.
On 26th November 2020, the bank introduced a new debit card gambling block that features a mandatory 48-hour delay, and the move has been warmly received by the Northern Ireland Assembly All Party Group on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling.
If a customer tries to complete a gambling-related card transaction while the block is enabled, the bank will automatically decline the payment.
Due to restrictions on sporting events and the temporary closures of many high street bookmakers and casinos in the early stages of lockdown, players spent less on gambling than normal. However, as restrictions have eased over time and the football season has recommenced, gambling is on the rise.
4 years ago, a governmental survey in Northern Ireland showed that there are four times as many problem gamblers in the country than any other country in the UK.
The chairman of the NI APG describes Ulster Bank’s new gambling block tool as “hugely encouraging” while expressing his concerns that the country’s laws surrounding problem gambling regulation “are way out of date”.
He is now calling on the government, banks, the health service and the gambling industry to help “play their part in keeping our communities safe”.
Barclays Bank was the first UK bank to introduce a full gambling block back in September. Although the bank previously allowed customers to control their spending at certain merchants, including gambling sites, the tool could be turned on and off at will. Barclays has since improved the tool so that customers must wait a full 72 hours before the gambling block can be disabled again, which is the longest cool-off period that any UK bank has introduced so far.
Earlier this year the UK Gambling Commission also banned gambling businesses from allowing players to use credit cards to gamble and we are sure to see more moves to ensure that a sudden whim or urge to play does not put people in harm’s way as far as their finances are concerned.