he government is considering banning the use of credit cards in gambling – a move that would affect billions of pounds worth of bets a year.
The culture secretary, Jeremy Wright, said he would haul bookmakers and major retail banks into meetings to discuss concerns that up to 20% of deposits with some gambling firms are made using money that consumers do not actually have.
The industry regulator, the Gambling Commission, will launch a call for evidence on the matter in February, adding that regulation could follow.
The move is part of a broader crackdown that will also lead to the government seeking to address slow progress on self-exclusion schemes, which are designed to help addicts opt out of betting. “Gambling operators must step in and act when people are showing signs of risky gambling. Their licences are at risk if they do not,” Wright said.
He welcomed moves by high-street banks, including Barclays, Lloyds, Santander and the Royal Bank of Scotland, to allow customers to switch off spending on gambling through their mobile apps.
However, he said: “We should also ask if it is right that people should be able to gamble on credit and this is an area that the Gambling Commission are going to look into.”
Labour has previously said it would ban gambling with credit cards.
A spokesman for the Gambling Commission said: “In our online review last year we said we will consider prohibiting or restricting the use of credit cards and will explore the consequences of doing so.”
Wright’s start at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was overshadowed by the row over reducing stakes for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). The policy was initially delayed, only to be brought forward after a successful cross-party rebellion.
With the FOBT stake reduction from £100 to £2 having passed into law, to be implemented from April, the culture secretary vowed to continue cracking down on firms that do not do enough to address people at risk of gambling-related harm.
This will include a demand for improvement in self-exclusion schemes.
The industry’s own scheme, GamStop, was due to launch at the end of 2017 but has been beset by delays, amid concern from the Gambling Commission that people who use it may still be sent promotional material encouraging them to bet.
“Self-exclusion schemes are essential but must be properly policed and effective to support the individual that has taken the decision to opt-out,” Wright said. “Self-exclusion measures are licence conditions for all gambling operators and those who cut corners in this area must face action.”
Earlier this month the government said it would open specialist NHS gambling clinics around the country. Only one such facility is currently open.