After Barclays made it possible for individuals to monitor and limit their expenditure on certain types of online purchases, including online gambling, NatWest has decided to step up and offer assistance to individuals who suffering from gambling addiction.
To achieve this, the bank will offer gambling counselling sessions across its 700 branches across the United Kingdom. This is the first financial institutions to seek and address the spreading problem of erratic gambling behaviour in the country.
So far, the UK has enacted a number of measures to prevent players from coming to harm, but none have proven too successful. The National Health System (NHS) has decided to open clinics specifically designed to treat gambling addiction starting with 12 facilities.
NatWest’s example is laudable and the bank will work with GamCare, a charity, to provide initial counselling services. To kickstart the initiative, NatWest will offer counselling at only 13 facilities, and gradually scale up throughout the rest of the branches, should everything go according to plan.
Besides Barclays, Starling and Monzo have both sought ways to limit potential harm resulting from excessive gambling. The news was welcome by Secretary of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nicky Morgan, who praised the initiative and said that other retail banks should follow suit.
This comes at a particularly important moment for the United Kingdom, as the country’s regulator – the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) – is seeking to addressing growing concerns that gambling operators may have been allowed to operate unchecked for too long.
Gambling Addiction in All Age Groups
The United Kingdom has estimated 500,000 gambling addicts. Around 55,000 of them are minors, a new UKGC study has indicated. The suicide rate related gambling has reached 550 individuals per year, an article published in The Guardian in March, 2019 reported.
The high rate of suicide was one of the main reasons why lawmakers pushed heavily for the introduction of a £2-betting-limit on Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals, which prompted William Hill, one of the largest operators in the United Kingdom to close 700 betting shops.
In honesty, addressing problem gambling has been done right in the UK – mostly thanks to the efforts of the regulator. However, with the market reaching maturity, many operators have continued to defy some of the practices and the UKGC has been constantly trying to catch up.
Wrongdoers have been fined – raking penalties between several hundred thousands and over £1 million. Just today, November 4, MPs have called that all online stakes should be limited to £2 in a bid to clamp down on gambling addiction.
The UKGC has hurried to fight back against the group of MPs who suggested that the UKGC was ill-equipped to protect players’ interest. Neil McArthur, specifically targeted a report published by the MPs without consulting the regulator at first.
While the MPs argued that they had done so to be completely independent, Mr. McArthur found it futile to try and analyse an industry that his organisation has been monitoring and regulating since the first casino opened doors in the UK.