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First published: 28/01/2020 | Last updated: January 28th, 2020

UK ban on gambling with credit cards: Dr Steve Sharman talks to the SSA

Credit cards and gambling have been in the news, can you tell us what has happened?

The Gambling Commission, who are responsible for regulating gambling in the UK had a consultation last year looking at the use of credit cards for gambling. The outcome of that consultation was that they decided to ban the use of credit cards for gambling.

Why have they done this, and what do they hope to achieve?

“The commission’s figures show high levels of gambling problems among people who use credit cards to gamble online. The commission said that around 22% of people who use credit cards to gamble online reach the threshold for problematic gambling; with even more people experiencing some levels of harm. The aim of the ban on using credit cards was to reduce some of that harm.”

Do you know how they will measure the effectiveness of this policy?

“The Gambling Commission statement says that they will evaluate the impact of this policy, and that they are also going to assess any unintended consequences. This is important because of concerns that people who are desperate to gamble might be pushed towards using illegal lenders or payday loans companies and other less-well regulated forms of borrowing. It will be interesting to see how the Gambling Commission measures the impact of the ban, and the unintended consequences.”

How has research contributed to this policy change?

“The Gambling Commission received 128 written responses in their consultation about credit cards, although it is unclear how many were from academic settings. However, I think one of the strengths of the consultation was that it took in a wide range of perspectives including academics, people who work in gambling settings, local government associations, financial institutions, faith groups and the gambling industry themselves. Most importantly it took into account the views of people with lived experience of problematic gambling who were able to offer first-hand accounts of how credit card gambling can be so dangerous. So the consultation was a mixture of research and experience.”

If people are interested in gambling research, is there some essential reading they should head to?

“We used to have the British Gambling Prevalence Survey, which was last done in 2010 before the funding was withdrawn. That was a comprehensive study of gambling habits of people in the UK. Since then there have been a couple of gambling modules in the Health Survey for England, and the Gambling Commission produces figures on levels of gambling engagement, money people have spent, who is gambling on what and the amount of people experiencing harm. In terms of gambling and credit cards, the full consultation is available online, so people can see the submitted evidence on which the decision was made.”

“Gambling is such an enormous and complex area, so in terms of recommending further reading it really depends on what area of gambling you are interested in. For example, some of my own work looks at the influence of within-game constructs on gambling behaviour, investigating how the gambling industry make losing more fun through outcomes such as ‘near misses’ and ‘losses disguised as wins’. There are also the more neurocognitive influences of things like impulsivity, and approach to decision-making, risk and reward.”

“However, if someone is interested in gambling harms, there is a whole literature on that, as well as more specific subjects such as gambling and suicide or gambling and homelessness. There are also studies drawing on data from treatment seeking gamblers, that can identify risk factors for developing gambling problems, and for predicting treatment outcome.”

Is there anything else you would like to add?

“Overall, I think this is a smart move by the Gambling Commission. Considered in conjunction with some online and high street banks who are now giving individuals the opportunity to block gambling transactions, it seems progress is being made on reducing access to funds, which is important in reducing gambling related harms.”

Dr Sharman is a Research Fellow at the University of East London. His research interests are the influence of within game constructs on gambling behaviour. His research is primarily funded by the SSA, and he has no links to the gambling industry. Follow him at

@stevesharman81