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Monzo Calls for Government to Enforce ‘Blocks’ on Gambling Transactions

Monzo PadlockThe online banking firm Monzo has called upon the UK government to force all banks to let their customers block gambling-based transactions.

The lender believes that the government should look at ways in which to protect individuals experiencing problem gambling behaviours, including the ability to more easily block themselves from making a new deposit with an operator.

Ministers are currently undertaking a wide-ranging review of the UK Gambling Act, and looking at new tools that can protect vulnerable casino gamers – particularly in this digital age – are thought to be somewhere near the top of the agenda.

The banking firm has written an open letter to the chief of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nigel Huddleston, who is leading the government’s reforms. Undersigned by addiction experts and anti-gambling campaigners, the letter calls on ministers to ‘remove the obstacles’ put in place of those who want to stop betting.

At the time of writing, different banks and online banking providers offer their own ‘blocking’ tools for sites that their customers want to temporarily or permanently avoid, but this is done on a voluntary basis and the range of tools provided varies wildly from firm to firm or even from one account type to the next.

An investigation by the GambleAware charity found that only 60% of people who bank in the UK have access to self-exclusion tools, meaning that as many as 28 million individuals do not have access to such features in their account. As troubling is that 40% of those surveyed didn’t even know such tools existed.

Monzo, to their end, offer a wide range of blocking features to their customers, and that as many as 275,000 had already implemented their own self-exclusion – of those, fewer than 10% later deactivate the opt out function.

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Monzo want tools designed to restrict usage brought into law, meaning that all banking providers would be legally-obliged to offer blocking features to their customers. And further pressure would be applied to gambling operators to provide their own payment details to banks so that they can be added to a central database – a move that may be resisted at all costs.

However, any plans to introduce ‘blocks’ would need the input of gambling operators as well, and Monzo has also called on them to hand over the data to ensure that such a policy could be introduced without any possible loopholes for bettors looking to circumnavigate the system.

The chief executive of Monzo, TS Anil, has said that the government needs to flesh out a ‘robust response’ to the increase in online gambling activity.

“Ultimately, the Gambling Act review offers a unique opportunity to create a world-leading self exclusion framework in the UK to reduce gambling harms, and help consumers gain control of their finances,” he said.

“We believe the government should take the opportunity afforded by the Gambling Act review to make sure every consumer in the UK can access these blocks, regardless of who they bank with.

“These tools are simple to build, proven to work, and will help protect hundreds of thousands of people.”

That open letter, penned by Monzo, was also signed by researchers into problem gambling at the University of Bristol, as well as addiction experts from the NHS and campaign groups such as GamFam.