Starling became the first UK bank to introduce a gambling block in 2018. This meant that customers could choose to block card payments made to gambling or betting merchants with one switch, found under the ’Card and Currency Controls’ section of the Starling app. We’ve now strengthened our gambling block by introducing a 48-hour delay for anyone wanting to reactivate gambling payments.

This means that when a customer has enabled the block and then tries to switch it off, they’ll need to wait two days for that to happen. This applies to all our accounts that support the block, personal, business and joint accounts.

How does the 48-hour delay work?

When the gambling block is on, Starling cards will be locked for all payments made to merchants associated with gambling or betting. Transactions at non-gambling merchants, for example buying a lottery ticket at a newsagent, will still go through. But if you try to bet on a football match on a betting website, this would be blocked. Once you switch it on, the block prevents payments immediately. It works by excluding payments to all merchants with a gambling licence, giving us a unique and reliable way to group these payments together and block them.

The 48-hour delay feature kicks in from the moment you try to switch the block off. It’s what’s known as ’positive friction’, a ’nudge’ or a ’cooling-off period’ for the customer who may change their mind when they’re given more time to think. It makes gambling or betting on impulse more difficult.

Why has Starling added a 48-hour delay for switching off the gambling block?

Starling added this feature following conversations with mental health and gambling charities and feedback from customers. The consensus is that a 48-hour delay makes the block more effective. The delay cannot be overridden by speaking to customer services or redownloading the Starling app. Customers will be told about the 48-hour delay when they first deactivate gambling and betting payments.

When customers try to switch off the block, they will be provided with details of the National Gambling Helpline in case they need free advice or support on gambling. The number to call is 0808 8030 133.

How does the gambling block help Starling customers?

When you first open a Starling account, the gambling block will not be enabled. You need to choose to switch it on, something that 17% of our customers have done. That doesn’t mean of course that 17% of Starling customers consider themselves gambling addicts. Whether gambling is an ongoing problem for you or if it’s just something you do occasionally but want to stop completely, the gambling block is a simple tool to help you with that financial goal.

When presenting our work around our gambling block at the House of Lords in March this year, we said we would work on another measure.

In the Spending Insights tab of the Starling app you can find a range of categories, such as Groceries or Lifestyle, that show where you’ve spent money. After speaking to customers and listening to their feedback, we’ve decided to add ’Gambling’ as a new and separate spending category - instead of grouping these transactions under ’Entertainment’. The change will be made in a future release of the app and is a further way for customers to control and understand where they spend their money.

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