Last year, NatWest introduced a unique partnership with gambling charity GamCare to provide support, advice and treatment for gamblers and their loved ones experiencing harm. This included the option to block credit cards allowing customers to take control of their spending and block all transactions linked to gambling.
The bank has now introduced this measure on debit cards to allow customers to take further control of their spending. During lockdown, NatWest saw a decline in gambling transactions. As restrictions have eased, however, gambling related spend amongst NatWest customers has started to increase rapidly. Overall gambling related spending is around 32% higher in September 2020 than in 2019.
The friction that has been built in to enhance the block means that customers will now have to wait 48 hours before they can make gambling related payments, during which time any attempted transactions will be automatically declined. The block will remain in place indefinitely, unless a customer chooses to remove it, in which case it can be disabled after a 48-hour cooling off period. NatWest customers can access the gambling control in their mobile banking app via Manage My Card, and then Card payment controls.
Year on year, around 70% of callers to the National Gambling Helpline, operated by GamCare, mention some level of gambling debt or financial hardship. As part of NatWest’s partnership with GamCare, bespoke training is provided for NatWest’s specialist support teams on how to identify gambling related harm and support customers and non-customers who want to stop gambling. Prior to COVID restrictions GamCare used a number of NatWest branches to provide face to face private consultations to support those impacted by gambling problems.
David Lindberg, CEO of Retail Banking at NatWest said: “The introduction of a gambling block for debit card customers will help us to equip problem gamblers across the UK with more tools to support their recovery. Problem gambling and financial hardship go hand in hand and through our work with GamCare, we have offered an increasing amount of help to those customers who need it most through our trained specialists and donating branch space for treatment therapy to reduce traditional barriers to access.”
Anna Hemmings, CEO of GamCare, says: “The ability to block gambling transactions through your bank card or app is an important tool for those struggling with their gambling, and is ideally used together with other practical tools such as self-exclusion, blocking software, and specialist support around the issue.
A recent report from the University of Bristol Personal Finance Research Centre has highlighted that ‘positive friction’ such as a cooling off period is important for the success of blocks, as this prevents them being turned off in the event of urges to gamble. GamCare is pleased to see NatWest take this positive step to support their customers and we hope more of the financial sector follows suit.”
Carolyn Harris MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm added: “I very much welcome this announcement. Gambling blocks and the financial services sector as a whole have an important role to play in preventing gambling related harm”
NatWest participates in GamCare’s Gambling Related Financial Harm Advisory Panel, which recently introduced a comprehensive toolkit for financial institutions, gambling businesses and debt advice agencies across the UK to help them recognise, support and refer customers experiencing gambling-related financial harms, and provide consistent communications across all points of the customer journey.