Monday, July 15, 2024

UK to lift ban on debit card use on gaming machines

Must read

Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free

The UK is to lift a ban on the use of debit cards on gaming machines in casinos, pubs and other venues, in a move to boost a physical gambling industry under pressure from online betting.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it would propose to allow transactions of up to £100 a time and require account verification, such as the use of chip and pin, to protect players. It would retain a ban on the use of credit cards.

The measures were set out on Thursday as part of a drive to modernise decades-old gambling regulations.

The removal of the debit card ban would “strike an appropriate balance between regulation applicable to modern payment methods, consumer benefits and protection of the licensing objectives”, the department said.

The Gambling Commission will also consult on protection measures, such as imposing a minimum time between transactions and the triggering of staff alerts when limits are reached.

The commission had said after a 2021 survey that cash was viewed as “the best way to maintain control over gambling spend”.

The liberalisation of the gaming machine rules comes as the government moves to level the playing field between physical gambling locations and online betting.

The ban on digital payments was viewed by the gaming industry as disadvantaging casinos against online rivals, where cashless payments flow freely.

Stuart Andrew, the minister for sport, gambling and civil society, said in a statement that while the current prohibition, set in 2007, was intended to protect players, “some sectors, particularly machines in pubs, are seeing business disappear because customers do not carry cash”.

“We will help future-proof the industry by removing this prohibition subject to appropriate player protections being put in place,” he added.

Other measures to bolster land-based venues include enabling casinos to offer more machines and allowing arcades and bingo halls to have a higher number of bigger-stake gaming machines.

Casino operator Rank Group welcomed the lifting of the cashless ban and the increase in the number of slot machines. Its shares rose 6 per cent after the announcement. “We are looking forward to improving the customer proposition in our venues,” said John O’Reilly, chief executive.

Adam Rivers, managing director of Alvarez & Marsal, a consultancy, said cashless payments at casinos were a “real positive step” that followed good practice in other jurisdictions and would cater to changing consumer demand.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, director of Clean Up Gambling, a campaign group, said permitting debit cards directly on gaming machines would present “significant risks”.

He added the government should have only allowed cashless payments through a digital smartphone wallet, which could have enabled limits on the size of bets.

Latest article