Web gambling companies allow credit card betting through apps despite industry rules

Exposé shows loopholes used by biggest firms

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Adrian Weckler

An Irish Independent investigation shows the country’s biggest online betting companies continue to allow credit card betting through their apps, despite industry rules saying it shouldn’t happen.

One of the companies, BoyleSports, was also found to allow betting and withdrawals without account verification or photo ID, despite industry age rules requiring verification.

Another company, Paddy Power, said a credit card betting “loophole” exists in Ireland because it doesn’t have the same robust gambling laws as the UK. The exposé comes as a prominent gambling addiction expert in Ireland says the number of problem gamblers here could now be three times the official estimates of 40,000.

And the former chairman of Paddy Power, Fintan Drury, told the Irish Independent the pace of Government plans to appoint a gambling regulator to tackle issues such as credit card betting is “abysmal”.

Credit card gambling is described by experts as particularly dangerous and is severely restricted in countries such as the UK, which has tougher gambling laws than Ireland.

The Government here says it intends to restrict credit card betting through the appointment of a Gambling Regulatory Authority, which is expected next year.

“Credit card betting is a massive issue,” said Barry Grant, the CEO and founder of Problem Gambling Ireland and a counsellor specialising in gambling addiction.

“Most of the people we work with have access to numerous credit cards. And there are lots of workarounds, with things like PayPal that are linked to credit cards. A lot of the big betting firms here would have to answer to the UK gambling regulator, but we don’t have one here.”

Asked about how many people suffer from gambling addiction in Ireland, Mr Grant said previously cited figures of between 30,000 to 40,000, or 0.8pc of the population, are “way, way off”.

“It’s possibly up to three times that figure, if you consider that across the Border in the North, it’s 2.3pc,” he said.

“And there’s another 5pc considered to be at risk.”

Most large betting firms in Ireland have signed up to the Irish Bookmakers Association’s voluntary Safer Gambling Code, which prohibits credit card gambling.

However, two of the biggest firms – Paddy Power and BoyleSports – defended the credit card bets because they came through “third party” payment apps such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or Revolut.

They said betting firms cannot see which Apple Pay, Google Pay or Revolut payments come from credit cards or debit cards.

In this way, a spokesperson said firms were not technically breaking the Safer Gambling Code rules.

However, Revolut has over 1.2 million users in Ireland, while industry figures show Apple Pay and Google Pay are now a mainstream contactless payment method for those with credit cards.

Online gambling is now a central part of betting firms’ income, rising from 26pc to 39pc of the multi-billion euro industry here, according to a recent report into the sector.

Almost half of online bets are made from phones, with the firms investing heavily in their apps.

Asked about the credit card “loophole” in Ireland that firms are using to justify accepting more bets, a spokesperson for the junior minister at the Department of Justice, James Browne, declined to comment specifically.

“The (Gambling Regulatory) Authority will have the discretion based on its expertise to quickly react to and address any issues and concerns relating to forms of payment and the risks associated with them,” he said, referring to the regulator’s prerogative in including credit card payments in its remit.

Last week the Irish Independent revealed another betting app, LiveScore Bet, refused to delete a betting account despite six direct requests.

The company, which now exclusively streams hundreds of European football matches within its app for those who sign up, apologised over the incident.