In many ways, the Starling Bank personal account is all about being as frictionless as possible – our Marketplace allows you to connect to Insurance or an ISA in a few taps and you can pay friends or family through secure passcodes and fingerprint technology rather than physical card readers.
However, sometimes friction is positive. It can provide that extra moment to stop and think. A moment to reflect.
This can be particularly helpful when it comes to activities such as gambling. According to the Gambling Commission Annual Report published in February 2018, 45% of respondents had participated in some form of gambling in the previous four weeks, including playing the National Lottery. * Of those who gamble online, 51% have gambled using a mobile phone or tablet, a figure which has increased this year. Most people don’t have a gambling problem: less than 1% of respondents were identified as high risk, and 3.9% were identified as low or moderate risk gamblers. While these are small percentages, this adds up to hundreds of thousands of people. And the impact on their financial, physical and mental health and that of their friends and family is huge.
Technology has made access to gambling easier. People can gamble online 24/7, plus the levels of advertising have increased through text messages and online ads that follow you around the internet, detailing special offers. But technology can also help.
At Starling, the transaction codes that allow us to categorise your spending are the same ones that allow us to identify gambling establishments. This means that we can give our customers the ability to go into the app and block access to certain types of spending, including on gambling and betting. And that’s what we’ve done.
Right now, the process for people who want to address a gambling problem by blocking transactions on their debit card, involves contacting several different companies by phone or even in person. To make it easier, Money and Mental Health, an independent charity committed to breaking the link between financial difficulty and mental health problems, is encouraging all banks to take practical steps to help customers when it comes to gambling.
The charity found that placing an obstacle between people and sites they find problematic can be a useful first step in helping users regain control over their financial lives. This research, combined with conversations with customers, has led us to release this feature that gives all customers the choice to block spending by card on gambling and betting. This includes betting shops and horse racing tracks, as well as gambling websites such as online casinos and betting exchanges. We are proud to be the first UK bank to offer this feature to all our customers.