327. The existing Gaming Act prohibits operators
licensed under that Act (i.e. casinos and bingo-halls) from offering
credit for the purposes of gaming or discharging a gambling debt.
Neither may credit cards be used in gaming machines. Such prohibitions
do not however cover betting or lotteries, or gaming on the internet.
The Government has also noted that customers may use credit cards
"to withdraw cash from automatic tellers situated in casinos
and other licensed premises".
328. The current proposals with respect to credit
have been described as follows:
"The draft Bill will make provision to continue
the prohibition on the offering of credit at casinos and bingo
]. The draft Bill will also maintain the prohibition
on the use of credit cards in gaming machines and also in lottery
vending machines. Outside these categories, the draft Bill gives
the Gambling Commission the power to judge whether, and to what
extent, gambling operators should be permitted to provide credit
The proposals are, therefore, to retain limitations
on the availability of credit for gambling. Any restrictions that
the Commission wishes to impose on the offering of credit will
be applied through conditions attached to operating licences.
On 12 March 2004 DCMS issued draft Clauses relating to the offer
of credit. These expressly provide that licence conditions could
restrict the "giving of credit in connection with licensed
activities" and that mandatory conditions would be imposed
on non-remote casino and bingo operating licences prohibiting
operators from giving or facilitating the giving of credit.
An additional Clause was also published on 12 March prohibiting
gaming machines designed or adapted to permit money to be paid
by means of a credit card.
329. We received a significant amount of evidence
regarding this policy. A number of commentators have noted that
a symptom of problem gambling is spending more than one can afford
to lose and that, if it became easier to get into debt in order
to gamble, this could increase problem gambling.
The Mothers' Union has commented that "[d]ebt incurred through
excessive gambling clearly undermines family stability; leading
as it does to family breakdown, ill health and job losses."
The Salvation Army told us:
"we are all very concerned about the proliferation
of gambling on credit. There just seems to be something innately
worrying about that and again our poll showed that 94 per cent
of the population feel that allowing people to gamble with credit
cards would put people at a greater risk of incurring gambling
debts. It sounds obvious."
330. Professor Orford told the Committee, "I
think credit cards are dangerous. We live in a society now where
credit card debt is a major national problem, so I would have
thought allowing people to bet with credit cards was a bad thing".
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has commented on the anomaly
that, although the use of credit will be controlled elsewhere,
"the use of credit cards will be allowed for remote gambling".
331. During our visit to GamCare we saw at first
hand the very high levels of debt that are common for problem
gamblers and heard about the immense difficulties that this can
cause. We were told at the same time about the irresponsible attitudes
of some credit providers, including repeated offers of credit
to problem gamblers who had requested that they should not be
given credit. We consider this to be incompatible with responsible
332. When asked about the proposals on credit the
casino industry noted that, given the proposal to permit a wide
range of gambling products to be offered within a casino:
"We see that there is a rather strange anomaly
in that the betting component will be allowed to issue credit
but the casino component will not, so that if you were in one
part of the facility you could get credit but in the rest of the
place you could not."
333. We have been told that, while casinos would
like to be able to offer credit, "we are not talking about
the issuance of wholesale credit as you see with high street credit
cards and store cards" and "[i]t is pre-authorised and
it is for high net worth clients only".
334. We do not believe that the use of credit
should be prohibited on the face of the Bill. We do, however,
recommend that the Gambling Commission should be required to issue
codes of practice under Clause 16 and to attach licence conditions
under the Clause published on 12 March, regulating the offer and
acceptance of credit by operators. We note that, in line with
the licensing objective under Clause 1 "to protect the vulnerable",
such codes of practice should restrict the use of credit where
necessary to protect problem gamblers.