Force banks to let customers block gambling transactions, Monzo tells ministers

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The government should force banks to let customers block all betting transactions, according to proposals led by the online lender Monzo, which wants gambling firms to hand over data to make sure the system is watertight.

In a letter to the sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, who is leading a landmark review of gambling law, Monzo, campaigners and addiction experts called on the government to use the opportunity to remove obstacles for people who want to stop betting.

All banks and other account providers should be made to offer tools that allow customers to bar themselves from making any gambling transactions on a debit card, they said.

Gambling companies would also be made to hand over their own bank account details, which could be stored on a central registry. This would help banks block all forms of payment for customers who want the feature, preventing them from using other means to circumvent card blocks.

At least eight major banks already offer some form of gambling block service but some of the tools available apply only to certain types of account or card.

About 40% of current account customers in the UK, or 28 million people, still do not have the option, according to a report released by the GambleAware charity last year, while 40% are unaware such tools exist.

Monzo said that it had 275,000 users with active gambling blocks – with fewer than 10% of customers deactivating the block once activated.

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“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,” said Monzo’s chief executive, TS Anil.

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The letter was also signed by researchers at the University of Bristol, a leading NHS gambling disorder expert, firms that provide gambling blocking software and gambling addiction campaign groups including GamFam.

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

The letter also calls on the government to work with video game companies to see if it would be possible to identify and block payments made for “loot boxes”, in-game features that have caused concern due to qualities similar to gambling.

“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,” the letter said.

“The rise in online gambling, and new ways to pay, requires a robust response from the government.”

A spokesperson for the Betting & Gaming Council said: “We support all forms of blocking capabilities and are encouraged by the continued uptake by banks of these functions.”

The Guardian has contacted the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport for comment.