Online gamblers who apply for mortgages may have more at stake than their occasional flutters – banks are now using their hobby to reject loan applications.
Michael Dowling, spokesman for the Independent Mortgages Advisers Federation (IMAF), told The Irish Times that banks now regarded online betting very negatively.
He said that while any such activity appearing on a current account submitted to a bank as part of a mortgage application would not automatically disqualify someone from being granted a loan, it was one of the criteria being applied “in a market where they are looking for any excuses” to reject applications.
“The banks will never admit it,” said Mr Dowling, but “it is … being discussed … I don’t think online gambling is to be encouraged if people are making a mortgage application, in particular if there are regular amounts going out.”
People betting as little as EUR 30 or EUR 40 a week might be putting their mortgage applications at risk. “Banks are paying a lot more attention to bank statements now … and if they see even EUR 150 going into an online gambling account each month they frown on it,” Mr Dowling said.
Online gambling has mushroomed in recent years and Irish gamblers’ losses generate about EUR 100 million in annual profit for the industry.
A spokeswoman for Bank of Ireland refused to comment on whether it viewed online gambling accounts negatively on mortgage applications.
Ronan Sheridan of AIB said that while there was no policy that explicitly said online gambling would prevent a person getting a mortgage, he said the bank examined “anything that could impact on an applicant’s ability to repay”.
Earlier this week bookmaker Paddy Power announced that its online operating profit grew 34 per cent to EUR 42.8 million last year and said its web business had generated over 70 per cent of its operating profit in the second half of last year.
“Talk about double standards,” the bookmaker’s communications manager Ken Robertson said of the banks’ stance. “Irish banks are the biggest gamblers in society.”