There have been a number of interesting moves in the banking world in recent times around the idea of helping consumers restrict the use of their bank accounts with gambling companies. They’ve generally been seen as a good thing, with Barclays Bank allowing customers to opt out of being able to use their bank account with betting sites which is a great move towards helping for problem gamblers.
On the other end of the spectrum, however, some users have started reporting that digital bank Revolut has been blocking transactions from certain online bookmakers without being asked. This came as a shock to many punters who use a dedicated Revolut account for their betting activities. After all, what good is a bank account if you can’t use it to spend your money how you want.
Spoiler: Thankfully after a bit of digging it appears as though it is down to a simple administrative issue. I’ll get to the nitty gritty of it later in the post.
What Is Revolut?
For those of you that don’t know, Revolut is part of a new breed of banks that only operate online and have no physical presence. You will not be able to go into a branch of the bank on the high street and meet with the manager to discuss your account, for example. Instead, the entire operation is an online enterprise, with banking mainly being done within an app. You can open a current account in minutes, set everything up to operate how you want it to rather than how the bank thinks you should and get a notification every time you make a transaction, reducing the chance of your card being used fraudulently.
I first discovered Revolut personally when I was going abroad and discovered that it offered excellent rates for transactions made on card, meaning that I didn’t need to worry about how much cash I took with me. I’ll confess that I’m yet to take the plunge and move all of my transactions over to the card, instead sticking with my high street bank and just using it for occasional banking needs like holidays. Still, it has emerged as one of the market leaders, along with other similarly positioned online banks like Monzo. Is it the future of banking? I’m not so sure, given that most people still prefer the idea of being able to walk into a branch and deal with real people rather than do everything online.
The Reddit Thread That Has People Worried
Now that we have a better understanding of what Revolut is as a concept it’s worth having a look at where the rumours of the online bank refusing gambling transactions came from. The story emerged, as so many of these stories tend to do, on Reddit thanks to user Bearly_funny. He opened a thread in which he explained that the bank had seemingly ‘discontinued support’ for bookmakers with which he held accounts. He said that the first time he’d found anything out about it was when he received a message from the various bookies saying that they couldn’t make the withdrawals that he’d requested, noting that there was no in-app message from the company itself.
Other uses soon began commenting on the post, with ziggyz2020 making the point that there was information about gambling in the companies terms and conditions. zizp soon replied that that was specifically with reference to illegal gambling, however, and that users were entitled to feel aggrieved about the company changing rules without any notice and without a feeling of transparency for consumers. It’s likely that vlad_shirin got much closer to the likely reasoning behind Revolut’s change in stance, however, when he said that both gambling and cryptocurrency were known to be used by less reputable folk for the purpose of money laundering and that that was what the online bank were likely to be trying to avoid any accusations of enabling.
What Revolut Say On The Matter
Having read the comments on the Reddit thread I thought I’d jump onto my Revolut app and use their help function to speak to one of the advisers and see if the company could shed any light on the issue. I explained the situation to the advisor that came onto my chat, Julia, asking her if Revolut cards could be used for gambling transactions with licensed bookmakers, given the reports that some users had experienced issues.
Julia’s said that, at the time of writing, the only gambling company that Revolut wouldn’t allow payments to was Bet365. She said that incoming payments from the bookmaker were possible, as were withdrawals, but outgoing payments were not. When I asked why she said that merchants tend to be categorised by what is called a Merchant Category Code and are sometimes put under the wrong code, which is what may have happened in the case of Bet365. There was no timescale on when or if that would change.
She also informed me that the following categories are not supported by Revolut:
- Financial security brokers and dealers
- Cryptocurrency exchanges with the exception of Bitstamp, Etoro, Coinbase and Gemini
- Foreign exchange bureaus, including the ATMs of Travelex
- Unmanned petrol stations
- Motorway tolls
As far as Julia was aware, all bookmakers other than Bet365 should be fine when it comes to using Revolut’s card and online banking system.
The General Consensus
This Is Money also looked in the situation, confirming that the company, which launched in 2013, has gone on something of an anti-money laundering drive in recent times that has left a number of users without access to their accounts, regardless of the transaction that they were attempting to make. A user in Spain was unable to pay for their dinner and spent two weeks locked out of his account, for example, with other uses complaining on the company’s Facebook page about being stuck abroad without access to their accounts.
Part of the reason for the blockout is believed to be the fact that the company has expanded so quickly, with more than two and a half million users at the start of 2019 and a suspected total of three million by the end of the year. The concern from some within the industry is that the company has been unable to keep up with the compliance demands set out, requesting some users to supply them with driving licence information, photographs and even bank statements in order to allow the use of the card.
Users Often Use These Cards Just For Gambling
Certainly the one thing that doesn’t seem to be the case is the company specifically blocking the use of the Revolut card for online gambling. Both Julia’s statement to me on the matter and the report by This Is Money seem to suggest that it is a generic compliance issue rather than one specifically linked to online gambling. This will be a relief to many users, with plenty opting for pre-paid cards as their main account for gambling.
There are numerous reasons why this might be the case, with the most obvious being the fact that it allows punters to keep track of their spending. If you can only use the amount of money that is on the card in the first place to make payments then that stops people from going into an unsafe amount of debt. Instead they can simply shift money from their own bank account on to the card, stopping gambling when that money runs out. It’s a safer way to bet, which is why many will be pleased to learn that Revolut aren’t stopping them from doing it and Bearly_funny’s issue was probably more to do with the company’s decision to clamp down on money laundering compliance issues.