Today’s announcement that the Government is restricting the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2 is brilliant news.
At the same time, the government has announced a range of other measures, some to come in now and some that may be introduced in the future.
And yesterday Monzo talked about what is going to be doing to help its customers self-exclude from gambling.
Restricting FOBT stakes to £2
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, says:
When faced with the choice of halfway measures or doing everything we can to protect vulnerable people, we have chosen to take a stand. These machines are a social blight and prey on some of the most vulnerable in society, and we are determined to put a stop to it and build a fairer society for all.
Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP who chairs a cross-party group on FOBTs, said:
Last year there were more than 230,000 individual sessions in which a user lost more than £1,000. These machines have increased the risk of problem gambling, which carries a very significant social and economic cost. This was morally the right decision to make and it is a victory for all those people whose lives have been blighted by these toxic machines.
Here is what a caller to LBC said:
Every third shop now is a bookmakers. They used to shut at 5.30pm, but there’s one near me that’s open at 10 pm on a Sunday night. There’s no racing at 10 pm on a Sunday night. It’s just got people filling the machines with £100 every 20 seconds.
Making this change will need secondary legislation, but with all-party support I hope this can be done quickly.
The government would get less tax because of this, but it is planning to increase the remote Gaming Duty. This is currently charged at the rate of 15% of gross profits from online gambling with UK customers no matter where in the world the operators are located.
Other measures – less eye-catching, still important
In addition to cutting the FOBT stakes, the government announcement referred to a raft of other measures:
- more effective age verification for online gambling;
- proposals for limits on online spending until the operator has conducted affordability checks;
- a major advertising campaign promoting responsible gambling in 2018;
- responsible gambling messages should appear for the duration of TV adverts;
- the public health harm resulting from gambling will be reviewed by Public Health England;
- the age limit for playing National Lottery games will be reviewed.
Much smaller scale but potentially good news
Yesterday’s announcement by Monzo that it wants to help support its customers to self-exclude is also good news. Obviously what a challenger bank is planning isn’t on the same sort of scale as today’s FOBT announcement, but giving people tools that will support them to make good choices when they are are trying to stop gambling is vital.
we believe that banks should play an important role in supporting these people. Rather than just pointing people towards outside sources of support, we want to let people self-exclude directly from their bank account, through the Monzo app.
So it is planning on allowing its customers to switch on a gambling block through their app. Monzo will then use the merchant/transaction code to identify gambling transactions and prevent a customer with the gambling block on from making these.
Customers will be able to switch the block off by contacting customer services and there will be a 48-hour delay:
These measures add elements of ‘positive friction’ to the process, asking you to make some extra effort to lift the restrictions. We want to prevent people from switching it off impulsively, and give them the chance to understand the implications and make a considered decision.
Monzo is also looking at other ideas to help which may include:
- allowing someone to set a 30-day rolling gambling limit;
- have a ‘trusted friend’ who has to authorise gambling transactions;
- letting people reduce their limits for cash withdrawals and other payments;
- warn people when their balance is low;
- set money aside for bills so this can’t be used for gambling.
I think these could all be very positive moves. Other banks should be looking at what they can do to help their customers who want to stop or reduce their gambling.