November saw both HSBC and British bank Halifax announce that they are helping customers to self-exclude their bank cards from spends on gambling. The function allows customers to block their cards being used at bookmakers and gambling websites, helping to prevent problem gamblers betting money they can’t afford to lose, and to restrict impulsive behaviour. Halifax customers who have opted in to the service, will not have their cards “unfrozen” for 48 hours, to help “protect those who might otherwise make an impulsive return to gambling”.
Halifax and HSBC are just the latest of a number of banks making efforts to help customers fight addiction. Barclays, Lloyds Bank, Monzo and others have also allowed customers to block gambling transactions, while challenger tech bank Starling is widely praised as being the first to introduce the feature. High-street lender NatWest has gone further, to pilot counselling sessions for gambling addicts inside branches.
The trend illustrates how being on the frontline to tackle societal issues does not necessarily mean radical initiatives and big budgets. Opportunities to bring positive change can be found in a variety of ways. In this instance, banks of varying sizes and levels of maturity have recognised their opportunity as gatekeepers between problem gamblers and their addiction. The changes they have introduced have been small, but they have been well measured and have empowered those in need of support.