PayPal Criticized in UK for Fueling Gambling Debt
As the UK readies to begin studying a ban on credit card use with bookmakers, attention has turned to PayPal, an online payment system which many say problem gamblers use to bypass banking limits on bets.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport recently said the UK Gambling Commission could consider payment providers as part of its review of gambling on credit cards.
The UK newspaper The Guardian recently outlined in a report one problem gambler who lost £150,000 in one night using PayPal.
“The first time I ever heard about a gambler using PayPal to pay for online gambling occurred about two weeks ago in clinic, when a young man came accompanied by one of his parents. The patient was 20 years old, with no savings,” Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a psychiatrist who founded the NHS’s only specialist gambling clinic told the paper.
“He had been online gambling, had reached his limit on his bank card but somehow managed to withdraw by direct debit £2,000 every few minutes to continue gambling whilst his parents were asleep next door,” she said. “When they woke up the next day, he had lost £150,000. I was horrified when I heard that this had been a legitimate use of PayPal.”
PayPal told the newspaper it was “extremely concerned” to hear the service was being misused to fund “excessive online gambling.” The company said it had reviewed its online controls and was tightening rules around payments.
Tom Watson, the deputy Labor leader, also said companies such as PayPal needed to be “more responsible in identifying problem behavior and stopping gamblers racking up huge debts through their service.”
PayPal’s service is tied to bank accounts, but officials said a lag of about 48 hours between withdrawing money and the service contacting a bank can allow huge debts to racked up quickly. The company also has not had limits on gambling activity.
The criticism comes as the UK gambling Commission is about to launch a review on whether to ban the use of credit cards in gambling. Several UK banks have also begun allowing problem gamblers to voluntarily block themselves in payments to bookmakers and other types of retailers.
A spokesman for the commission told The Guardian it will seek a wide range of submissions for thee review.
As part of its review, the commission will hear evidence on the use of credit in gambling and consult with the gambling companies. The UK’s leading problem gambling charity, GambleAware, has also backed the measure.