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Two major credit card companies have taken steps to prevent their punters from using their cards to gamble online. American Express and Citigroup took the decision to block the use of their cards because of concerns over fraud and fears that people might run up debts.

The Financial Times reports that similar measures have been in place in the US for the last couple of years. The paper quotes Citigroup as saying: "We implemented this rule in the US two years ago but did not have the right systems to do it in the UK until last month."

A spokesman for the UK's online gambling industry said that the move "smacked of a nanny state", insisting that people should be free to spend their money how they wanted. The Government is currently looking to deregulate the UK's gambling sector while introducing new measures to ensure that legislation can keep up with new technology.

Last month the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Tessa Jowell said: "We urgently need a Gambling Bill because new gambling technology is making a mockery of our outdated laws. Without reform, new forms of gambling like internet casinos and roulette machines in bookmakers will continue to go unregulated."

A survey carried out for the Government earlier this year found that people generally believe that gambling regulation is about right but wanted stricter controls for gambling over the internet and on fruit machines. ®

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