On April 14, 2020, betting with a credit card as your payment method became illegal. The ban is meant to discourage people from incurring massive debts due to easy access to funds gamblers couldn’t afford to lose.
Theoretically, the ban appears like prudent, pro-consumer legislation designed to protect bettors from exasperating out-of-control gambling addictions. After all, everyone has heard the horror stories of gamblers losing their rent and grocery money due to a compulsive gambling disorder.
Some go so far as betting their children’s college education money and losing it all. To make matters worse, they add unsustainable credit card debt to the mess of their financial lives until they face total ruin and bankruptcy, losing their home, job, and family.
But is the credit card ban really a good thing, or have unintended consequences left online bettors at even greater risk?
Without the ability to say “charge it,” online bettors have turned to using debit cards to maintain the convenience of fast and easy betting but not suffer the harmful effects of racking up huge piles of debt. But there are significant downsides to the mass migration to debit cards over credit cards.
For instance, if your credit card details are stolen and fraudulent charges are made, your bank can quickly reverse the charges after you make a simple phone call, and your life returns to normal in no time.
Conversely, if someone steals your debit card information and goes on a spending spree, the money used to pay for the largess of the thief is deducted from your bank account, creating a (hopefully short-term) liquidity problem as the bank sort things out. Meanwhile, rent, mortgage payments, utilities, and other necessities don’t get paid, and services may be terminated.
How do sports bettors protect themselves from the increased risk of using debit cards as a form of payment when betting online, now that using credit cards is a defunct practice?
One of the easiest ways to protect your bank account from fraud is never using the debit card associated with your primary checking account. A better idea is to open a secondary checking account where you transfer money for immediate purchases, leaving the bulk of your funds safely away from direct access by any individual or business.
A second option is to use a “virtual” single-transaction debit card that is essentially a one-hit-wonder. You use it once, the card number expires, and there’s nothing left for would-be thieves to steal.
Another form of virtual card functions almost exactly like a secondary checking account. Add funds to the account when you want to make a purchase, and that’s the account you use for online transactions. Your primary account remains safely anonymous from prying eyes. It’s impossible to lose more money than you bet because there’s nothing left to steal.
One ironic twist to substituting a virtual card for a debit or credit card for sports betting is you can use a credit card to add funds to your virtual debit card, similar to betting via PayPal, effectively circumventing the betting with a credit card in the first place! Don’t you just love goofy politicians and their hair-brain attempts to control the actions and behaviours of others?
Although the lofty goal of saving people from themselves may make people feel as if they’re making a positive contribution to society, they’re only adding to the bureaucracy of living everyday life. But no one ever said the government made sense or knew how to do anything but complicate the lives of the governed. Still, their hearts are in the right place, and that certainly counts for something.