Matthew Parish, Product Manager, TrueLayer and
Albert Cabre Juan, Open Banking Lead, Monzo
Monzo was the first bank to introduce a Gambling Block in 2018, following demand from customers who wanted help controlling their gambling addictions. Over 275,000 Monzo customers have chosen to activate the Monzo Gambling Block and less than 10% have ever switched it off permanently.
The Gambling Block is a completely optional tool that blocks card payments to gambling firms. Customers can apply to their Monzo account themselves in the app or by speaking to a member of Monzo’s customer services team.
But with more and more gambling providers switching to convenient, open banking powered payments, Monzo and TrueLayer have teamed up to offer the same protections for customers using these new payment methods to gamble. This pilot means that Monzo customers will be able to benefit from an extended gambling block that prevents card transactions and open banking powered payments to operators supported by TrueLayer.
We believe that banks like Monzo and open banking providers like TrueLayer have an important role to play in offering customers greater control over how they spend their money.
How it works
Right now, Monzo customers can request to block transactions made to gambling providers, from their account. To remove the block, a customer who has opted out will need to speak to Monzo’s customer support team and wait 48 hours to switch off the feature.
Most of the gambling blocks currently on the market today work by blocking card payments to specific ‘merchant category codes’, assigned by card schemes (like Mastercard or Visa). These codes let the bank know what type of business their customer is trying to pay, before they send their money. However, these merchant category codes are only available for card payments — not open banking powered payments. As more and more consumers switch to these new, convenient methods, we need to act to make sure they could access the same protections.
Now, TrueLayer will automatically let Monzo know, via an enhanced API call, any time their customer attempts an open banking payment to a gambling firm specifically. This additional data access enables Monzo to prevent the payment on the customers’ behalf if they have their gambling block activated.
This is a relatively straightforward change that Monzo and TrueLayer engineers were able to build in a few days. However it could make a huge difference for those struggling with gambling addiction.
What it means for the future of the industry
Every consumer should have access to a gambling block, regardless of who they bank with — or how they pay.
This is relatively simple for banks and open banking providers to put in place, but can have a big impact on someone’s well being. Other banks and open banking providers should follow our lead, to allow gambling blocks to cover non-card payments.
Providing customers with self exclusion tools for gambling is only the beginning, and there’s so much more that can be done.
Open banking providers offer a unique opportunity to help gambling operators seamlessly support those experiencing gambling harms — and empower consumers to stay in control of their finances. Initiatives like affordability checks to flag at-risk players earlier, spending limits to help ensure players do not overextend themselves, and friction-free identity checks can all be improved using open banking.
By enabling the right types of protections for all players, gambling can remain a purely social activity, rather than one with life-altering negative effects.