With the Gambling Act Review scheduled for 2023, we take a look at the potential new slot site rules
The UK Gambling Act passed into law in 2005, at a time when the digital landscape looked very different. Its primary goals were to make gambling a crime-free activity, to promote fairness and to protect children and vulnerable people from gambling harm.
But over the intervening years, smartphones have become ubiquitous, allowing people to gamble whenever and wherever they like. And concerns were being raised about high-stake FOBT (fixed odds betting terminal) machines in high street betting shops, which were thought to contribute to problem gambling. Another issue was online providers targeting UK consumers without being subject to regulation by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
These concerns were addressed by amendments to the Gambling Act in 2014 that required offshore gambling brands to apply for a licence from the UKGC. Further slot site changes were introduced in 2021, designed to prevent players from being encouraged to spend more than they intended. For example, spin speeds were capped, and auto-play features removed from games.
The Gambling Act Review was supposed to tighten up the Gambling Act even further, but it’s been delayed multiple times. That hasn’t prevented a number of changes from taking place throughout 2022, including new rules to identify and protect at-risk customers. The UKGC has also issued guidance on fair terms and practices, while restrictions on gambling adverts have been introduced.
With the Gambling Act Review white paper now scheduled to be released in 2023, there’s a great deal of speculation about potential new rules for slot sites. So here at Slot Gods, we’ve been taking a look at the topics that are due to be explored.
We know that the UKGC suggested affordability limits to protect vulnerable customers and ensure that gambling doesn’t push them into debt. A loss limit of £100 a month was put forward, but this was considered to be too low, so it now looks set to be increased to £125, with a net monthly loss limit of £500.
The idea is that initial checks would be made without the customer noticing, with operators automatically looking for any signs of financial distress, including county court judgments (CCJs). According to trusted industry sources, more detailed checks would be triggered when a player loses £1,000 in 24 hours, or £2,000 within 90 days.
The review will also ask for checks where a new player incurs £500 in losses within 24 hours during their first month. As before, these checks would be ‘largely frictionless for customers’, with operators conducting them via online banking and credit reference agencies.
There seem to be both positives and negatives for this approach, which will provide an invaluable safety net for many players. But on the other hand, those players with a higher disposable income would find it much harder to wager at the level that they’re accustomed to.
Stake limits on slots
Although nothing has yet been put in place, the UK government has been proposing stake limits on online slots for years. It’s estimated that a game limit of £2 - £5 could be introduced, which would bring the UK into line with Germany’s regulations for slot stakes, as well as with FOBTs, which have a limit of £2.
The exact figures haven’t yet been decided, and so far it looks as though other casino games won’t be affected by these limits. Although stake limits would stop players from spending more than they can afford to on slots, that’s not much solace for the high rollers who like to bet big on Jackpot slots.
There are suggestions that a ‘smart stake limit’ could be one option. Although the default stake limit would be set at £2 - £5, customers would be able to request enhanced checks, so that the limit could increase to perhaps £10- £25 per game. It’s certainly an improvement, but it’s still unlikely to satisfy many players.
Changes to promotions
Free bets have long been a cause for concern among campaigners. Hugely popular with players, free bets provide extra value, giving more playing opportunities. But with free bets being identified as a potential contributor towards gambling harm, they aren’t welcomed by everyone. There have been calls to ban them completely, although the current white paper suggests that free bets may be offered to some customers, based on their spending and overall affordability.
According to trusted industry sources, a ban on online VIP schemes for players is also on the way. Amendments to the Gambling Act 2005 have already called for increased affordability checks and raising the requirements for operators using these schemes.
Once again, these are measures that are designed to protect vulnerable players, particularly from being encouraged to spend more by VIP hosts. On the downside, VIP high roller players won’t be able to benefit from the perks of such schemes, which they’ve come to expect.
Another topic of contention is gambling companies sponsoring sports, and the Premier League in particular. Campaigners have been calling for this to be banned for years, and it’s almost certainly due to be featured in the upcoming Gambling Act Review white paper.
This is bad news for the teams, almost half of which are sponsored by betting companies. In June 2022 the Premier League contacted all of them, requesting a voluntary ban on gambling adverts on players’ shirts, which will be phased in over the next three years. Perimeter advertising isn’t expected to be affected by the ban though, which is likely to upset anti-gambling campaigners.
Once again, this is a move designed to protect those at risk of gambling harm from being encouraged to bet money they can’t afford to lose. But the ban is also likely to have a negative impact on smaller clubs, who rely on the revenue they receive from betting operators.
Until the release of the Gambling Act Review 2005 white paper, nobody can accurately predict exactly what legislative changes will be decided upon. The purpose of the white paper is to protect vulnerable people from gambling harm, ensuring they have a safe and enjoyable experience at both established and new slot sites.
Although some of the proposed measures are unlikely to be popular with many slots fans, one major benefit will be the tightening up of licensing regulations. Unlicensed casinos and slot sites don’t offer the necessary levels of protection to players, and the white paper aims to address this. The overall benefit should be a safer experience for all players, which is in everyone’s interests.