People are to be banned from using credit cards to place bets, in an attempt to curb problem gambling, the Gambling Commission has said.
The ban, which starts on 14 April, comes after reviews of the industry by the commission and the government.
A total of 24 million adults in Britain gamble, with 10.5 million of those doing so online.
Separate commission research shows that 22% of online gamblers using credit cards are classed as problem gamblers.
Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive, said: “Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm. The ban that we have announced today should minimise the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have.
“We also know that there are examples of consumers who have accumulated tens of thousands of pounds of debt through gambling because of credit card availability.
“There is also evidence that the fees charged by credit cards can exacerbate the situation because the consumer can try to chase losses to a greater extent.
“We realise that this change will inconvenience those consumers who use credit cards responsibly, but we are satisfied that reducing the risk of harm to other consumers means that action must be taken.”
Culture Minister Helen Whately said: “Whilst millions gamble responsibly, I have also met people whose lives have been turned upside down by gambling addiction.
“There is clear evidence of harm from consumers betting with money they do not have, so it is absolutely right that we act decisively to protect them.
“We will not hesitate to take any further action necessary to protect people from gambling harm.”
The ban will apply to all online and offline gambling products except lotteries that are run for good causes. These lotteries will have to provide a significant layer of additional protection to vulnerable people.
The commission said that tickets for these lotteries, as well as for the National Lottery, can be bought using credit cards in supermarkets and newsagents as long as they are purchased with other products.
It said it would be a “disproportionate burden on retailers” to stop credit card payments if the tickets were part of a wider shop, but said lotteries had the lowest problem gambling rate.
Share prices for betting companies fell in early trading on Tuesday, but then recovered quickly.
Under the new regulations, all online gambling operators will have to participate in the Gamstop self-exclusion scheme and offer it to all customers from 31 March.
Brigid Simmonds, chairwoman of industry body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), said: “The BGC is committed to raising standards, safer gambling and change. We therefore strongly welcome the requirement for all companies to join GamStop as part of our continued determination to raise standards in the industry.
“We will implement a ban on credit cards which adds to measures such as age verification, markers of harm and affordability checks, additional funding for research, education and treatment and new codes of conduct to protect the consumer.”
Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “This decision marks a clear and welcome step in the right direction toward tackling gambling-related harm.”
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