Starling Bank becomes first bank to block gambling

Written by Rebecca O'Connor on 14th Jun 2018

Gambling addicts who are customers of Starling Bank, the digital app-based bank, can block betting and gambling payments from their account.

The new gambling blocker technology enables those struggling with a gambling problem to disable these payments.

Nearly 1 per cent of the UK population report having a gambling problem, which is strongly linked to mental health issues and self harm.

It’s the first time a UK bank has offered people a chance to set a control from their current account, making it much easier and more effective for them to control the habit. Normally, people experiencing an addiction have to contact betting and gambling providers individually to block their accounts.

The move was welcomed by GambleAware, the charity, and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.

“I set up Starling Bank with the mission of improving financial health and making banking about the customer again. This is exactly the kind of product that will help us achieve this.”

Anne Boden, chief executive, Starling Bank

Starling customers can activate the blocker as an opt-in feature from within their Starling App. With this feature on, all attempted transactions to registered gambling merchants will be declined.

If they turn the feature off because they want to start gambling again, they will get a message saying: “You are cancelling the block you put in place to prevent you from gambling. If you are worried you spend more than you should on gambling, call the National Gambling Helpline now on 0808 8030 133 for free advice on how to stay in control.”

The feature has been launched in response to the significant problems related to gambling addiction in the UK. According to national figures, 5 per cent of gamblers display at least one sign of difficulty managing behaviours while the Gambling Commission recently found that 0.8 per cent of the British public identify as having a gambling problem.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has been calling for banks and other card providers to allow customers to block gambling transactions on their cards.

Anne Boden, Chief Executive Officer, Starling Bank, said: “Starling’s gambling blocker underlines how digital banking can quickly react to issues facing customers and use technology to develop solutions that help them to live a better financial life.

“This isn’t about telling customers not to gamble – it’s about providing problem gamblers with a simple and effective tool that can help them to regain control over their finances.”

“I set up Starling Bank with the mission of improving financial health and making banking about the customer again. This is exactly the kind of product that will help us achieve this.”

Marc Etches, Chief Executive of GambleAware said: “By giving its customers the ability to block gambling transactions, Starling Bank gives them the chance to think twice, and better still, provides contact details for the National Gambling Helpline which offers advice and free treatment.  GambleAware warmly welcomes this innovation and hopes all other banks will follow this example as soon as possible.”

Mike Penning MP, who has been calling for ATM’s to be withdrawn from gambling sites, to prevent credit cards being used for gambling and to stop the promotion of the “free £10 bet”, said: “As a constituency MP, only too often I hear of the heartbreak that can be caused by gambling debt. The ability to create a moment of friction could have such a lasting impact on people’s lives. I support Starling’s forward thinking on this issue and hope to see others doing the same.”

Helen Undy, Head of External Affairs at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “Problem gambling can lead to spiralling debts and cause real harm to our mental health. The current gambling self-exclusion process is very complicated; different types of gambling have different systems, and blocking gambling can require contacting multiple operators over the phone or in person. It’s a system that just doesn’t work. That’s why we’ve been calling for banks to step in, allowing customers to block all types of gambling transaction in one go. It’s a simple change which could make an enormous difference, and we hope to see more banks following suit and offering it to their customers soon.”

Tony Franklin, Starling Bank customer AND Campaigner to raise awareness of gambling addiction and for harm reduction measures, said: “I have long called on the financial services sector to do more to assist vulnerable customers with the tools to control gambling spend. As an existing Starling Bank customer I am delighted to see that from today they will support merchant blocking within their App. I believe that this functionality in addition to others they already offer – Saving Goals – will help many people to better restrict compulsive spending.”

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