Pay-by-phone online casino funding the latest target of UK gambling crackdown


UK online gambling restrictions are proving easier to impose than enforce, as online casinos prove where there’s a will, there’s a wager.  

In April, UK-licensed online gambling operators were prohibited from allowing customers to fund their accounts with credit cards. Now gambling charities are sounding the alarm about online gambling sites offering customers alternative means of accessing credit-based play.

A Google search of ‘gambling pay-by-phone’ produces a wide variety of affiliate marketing sites offering lists of UK-facing – although not necessarily UK-licensed – online casinos that allow customers to fund their play through pay-by-phone services such as Boku and Payforit.

Here’s how it works; customers choose how much they want to deposit with the gambling site and provide their phone number, after which they receive a text message with a confirmation code which they then forward to the gambling site. Their online gambling account is credited with the funds and the sum is added to their next mobile phone bill (which can, incidentally, be paid with a credit card).

There are pretty strict limits on how much money these services will allow customers to ‘borrow’ in this fashion, with a maximum of £40 on any single day and no more than £240 per month. So it’s unlikely to cause anyone to default on their mortgage, but problem gambling outfits nevertheless view it as (a) a potential straw that breaks the camel’s back, and (b) an unacceptable fudging of the rules.

A UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) spokesperson told the BBC that the regulator was on the lookout for operators who might try to circumvent the credit card ban (much as they initially tried to get around the new £2 max stake on fixed-odds betting terminals).

However, most of the sites offering this payment option are well beyond the UKGC’s sphere of influence, so pressure will likely fall on the payment solution providers, most of which do have UK offices and who will likely quickly roll over rather than risk becoming the UK media’s latest gambling whipping boys.