British high street banking chain NatWest will work with gambling support charity GamCare to launch a pilot programme to offer advice sessions to those in its branches who are affected by problem gambling.
The pilot programme will be introduced around London, the Midlands and England’s South East and Eastern regions in 13 branches of NatWest. Whether or not they have an account with NatWest, it will be accessible to all members of the public.
NatWest’s chief executive of personal banking, Les Matheson, said:“The Gambling Commission estimate that there are around 340,000 adult problem gamblers in Great Britain, with a further 550,000 people considered to be suffering moderate harm as a result of gambling.
“It is therefore more important than ever that support is easily available for those who need it. That is why I am immensely proud to be partnering with GamCare to bring this specialised support to the high street.
“I also want to ensure we are best able to support customers worried about how much they’re spending on gambling, so I am introducing further specialised training for our teams and giving customers the tools to take greater control of their spending through our gambling block on credit cards.”
Anna Hemmings, chief executive of GamCare, described the collaboration as “a fantastic step’ towards achieving the goal of the charity to increase access to problem gambling care.
“To be able to offer our support on the high street in NatWest branches will make our help more available to the people that need it most, reducing traditional barriers to access,” she said. “GamCare’s training to NatWest specialist teams will also help to ensure that they can identify anyone affected by gambling problems – their own or someone else’s – compassionately and effectively, swiftly referring them to the most appropriate support.
“These significant steps, alongside NatWest’s transaction blocking feature, are equipping problem gamblers across the UK with more tools and greater access to services to support their recovery.”
The launch of the advisory service will be accompanied by the introduction of new customer controls, such as the option to block credit card gambling transactions.
The feature will be rolled out on NatWest’s mobile banking app and comes after a similar solution has been rolled out by several other banks. The first to do so were the bank start-ups Monzo and Starling Bank, with Barclays becoming the first high street bank to block transactions in December of last year. Lloyds Bank, Santander and Royal Bank of Scotland, owned by NatWest, revealed in January this year that they were considering the launch of similar features.
Nicky Morgan, the outgoing Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary of State, said she was encouraged by NatWest’s efforts to limit the impacts of gambling-related harm.
“While millions of people gamble responsibly, protecting people from the risks of problem gambling is vital,” Morgan said. “The government has been clear to all businesses that have connections to gambling, including bookmakers, major high street banks and social media platforms that they must be socially responsible and use the power of technology and data to help people manage their spending and protect them from gambling related harm.
“So, I welcome these measures from Natwest and Gamcare to help more people. I will closely monitor NatWest’s progress and I urge others in the banking sector to follow suit for the good of their customers.”
Earlier this month, GamCare announced that the National Gambling Helpline is to extend its hours and become a 24-hour service, where trained advisors providing gambling-related issues to callers and connecting them with local treatment services.