Government to Allow Debit Card Use for Slot Machine Gambling

debit cards for slots machinesThe UK government has revealed plans to permit the use of debit cards for gambling on slot machines, in a move aimed at helping pubs, casinos, and slot venues adapt to an increasingly cashless society. Credit card usage will remain banned to prevent excessive gambling.

Debit Cards on Slot Machines

Under the new proposal, gamblers will be able to use debit cards on slot machines, while contactless payments will be largely prohibited. However, systems requiring payment authorization, such as Apple Pay, will be allowed.

Proposed Regulations

The proposed regulations will include:

  • Payment Authentication: Debit card payments will require authentication, such as chip and PIN or biometric verification.
  • Deposit Limits: A £20 limit on deposits per transaction, reduced to £2 for low-stake machines.
  • Session Limits: Mandatory session limits will be introduced following a consultation by the Gambling Commission. A 30-second cooling-off period will be enforced when limits are reached.
  • Staff Alerts: Pub staff will be notified when mandatory limits are hit, although this will not apply to the lowest-stake machines.

Spending Caps and Staff Alerts

To promote responsible gambling, there will be a cap on the amount one can spend in a single gambling session. When these limits are reached, staff will be alerted to ensure oversight and control.

Industry and Advocacy Responses

The Betting and Gaming Council, representing the gambling industry, has welcomed the “much-needed” changes and called for a clear timeline for implementing the relevant legislation.

“These changes are essential for us to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving market,” said a spokesperson for the council. “We urge ministers to provide a clear timeline for the implementation.”

Conversely, Gambling with Lives, a charity supporting families affected by gambling-related suicide, has raised concerns. Co-founder Liz Ritchie warned that making gambling more accessible could lead to increased addiction.

“Anything that increases access to highly addictive machines cannot be seen as a positive,” she told the BBC. “We instead need to look at how we make these machines safer, by reducing deposit limits and slowing spin speeds.”

A Level Playing Field

These changes are part of a broader initiative to align the rules for physical gambling venues with those for online betting, where slot-style games are easily accessible. Currently, cashless gambling on gaming machines is limited to indirect methods such as mobile apps or purchasing special tickets.

Economic Implications

The decline in cash usage has threatened the viability of traditional slot machines, potentially rendering them obsolete. This poses a risk to brick-and-mortar arcades, which support jobs and have suffered during the pandemic. The culture department noted that declining machine income in pubs, exacerbated by increased card payments for food and drink, underscores the need for this reform.

Legislative Process

The changes will be enacted through secondary legislation, which will automatically come into force unless opposed by Parliament within 40 days. The legislation will be drafted following the Gambling Commission’s three-month consultation, set to begin shortly.