Slot Site Regulation: Latest updates affecting players

Slot Site Regulation: Latest updates affecting players
Paul Clare
by Paul Clare Last updated:

Recent slot site regulation and potential changes on the horizon

2023 has seen one of the biggest proposed shakeups to slot site regulations the UK has experienced for some time. It comes in the wake of the UK Gambling White Paper published in April and many of the ideas put forward will help build on those that have come into force over the last couple of years.

Let’s take a look back at important changes from the last couple of years that currently affect slot site regulations and how things are likely to evolve moving forward.

A quick look at the 2005 Gambling Act

The current Gambling Act passed into law in 2005, with three key objectives:

  • To ensure that gambling is safe and fair.
  • To protect children and vulnerable people from gambling harm or exploitation.
  • To prevent gambling from being a source of crime and disorder, or being used to support criminal activities.

So far, so good, but both society and technology have moved on since 2005. Everyone has a smartphone these days, so online gambling can take place just about anywhere. 

With new slot sites launching on an almost weekly basis, often with interesting new features and exciting bonuses, it's clear to see why regulation needs to be carefully considered and relevant.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has been taking a long, hard look at the regulations in recent times to determine how changes could be made to suit the players of today.

2021 saw regulatory changes to slots

The UKGC was particularly concerned about online slots for some time and introduced new regulations in 2021 to quickly give players additional protection. These measures were designed to make slots safer and less intensive while giving players extra control. 

They specifically addressed four features commonly used in online slots in the UK, and rule changes became effective in October of that year.

  • The banning of auto-spin or auto-play, which can cause players to lose track of time
  • Spin speeds capped at 2.5 seconds to prevent turbo spins that can drain a player’s balance quickly
  • No sounds or animations for wins that are less than the player’s stake
  • No reverse withdrawals, which could encourage players to gamble more than intended

More recently, the 2023 Gambling White Paper concluded that despite these measures having a positive effect, laws need to go further to protect players—especially younger ones.

New changes being considered are to add maximum spin wager limits to slots making it impossible to spend more than £2 per spin for 18 to 24-year-olds and up to £15 per spin for other customers.

Other protective measures 

The focus in 2022 was to further improve the gambling landscape in the UK. The emphasis was very much on protecting the most vulnerable players and providing them with a safe and fair experience.

The following measures were introduced at that time:

  • Indicators of harm to be flagged and timely action to be taken
  • Introduce automated processes for strong harmful indicators
  • Prohibit marketing and bonuses to people at risk
  • Evidence customer interaction evaluation with the UKGC
  • Evaluate customer interactions, which should be at the level of problem gambling for the relevant activity
  • As a minimum, monitor a special range of indicators

In addition to the above, there are also voluntary contributions that operators can make towards assisting in reducing problematic gambling. This is often given to organisations like GambleAware with some companies providing millions of pounds in response.

However, some firms barely contribute at all and the government is considering making it a mandatory requirement. 

A 1% levy on all gambling revenues has been suggested in the 2023 review, which will raise enormous amounts of money for the NHS and other associated groups but will likely cause a great deal of friction between the government and gambling operators at the same time. 

We’ll have all the latest news on how this develops right here.

Remote Customer Interaction

The UKGC published further guidance in June 2022 for remote operators. Intended to expand upon the previous regulations, the new guidance aimed to encourage gambling sites to take further action to identify at-risk customers. Subjects covered included:

  • How to identify vulnerable customers.
  • What indicators of harm must be monitored, and what constitutes a ‘strong’ indicator.
  • When to use automated processes and systems.
  • How to evaluate the impact of customer interactions.

Some operators expressed that they didn’t have enough time to comply with the previous regulations, so the guidance document received an update in September 2022 postponing two of the requirements.

  • To take timely action where vulnerability indicators have been identified

  • To prevent marketing and new bonus offers where there are strong indicators of harm

Further to this, the 2023 review highlights that those postponed requirements can no longer be ignored and immediate regulatory changes plus proposed legal changes for the future were mentioned.

Opt-out marketing will be the default setting

While there are clear rules surrounding customers giving permission to receive or not to receive communications from a gambling provider, the lines are sometimes blurred. At present, consent is often a ‘blanket’ approach with players receiving all or no marketing emails and texts etc.

In future, the government wants specific options for players to opt into every type of communication including different bonus offers.

Call for legal obligation to perform affordability checks

Stopping short of requiring all players to undergo financial background checks, the 2023 Gambling White Paper wants ministers to consider these types of checks for those whose gambling expenditure is likely to be unaffordable or harmful.

The proposal is that anyone who loses £125 in a month or £500 in a year should be subject to a low-level check for any financial issues that may give rise to concern over their gambling activity. 

Players who lose £1,000 in a day or £2,000 over 90 days may have a full report completed on their financial health including credit checks and possibly even a requirement to provide payslips and other proof of means.

Guidance on fair terms and practices

An update to the UKGC guidance on fair terms and practices was published in February 2022 when the regulator discovered some operators using potentially unfair terms. Some of the problems identified included confiscating deposits that had yet to be played, reducing potential winnings from open bets and failing to act properly where the operator suspected irregular, illegal or fraudulent play.

Some terms and conditions were considered to be difficult to understand, while introductory bonuses sometimes came accompanied by unrealistic wagering requirements, which could encourage players to gamble to excess.

In response, the UKGC called on operators to:

  • Review terms and conditions to ensure they are fair and transparent, and that they comply with all relevant consumer protection laws together with updated guidance from UKGC.
  • Review offers, particularly welcome bonuses and wagering requirements, to make sure they don’t encourage excessive play, and that they are socially responsible.

The 2023 review gives cause for us to believe that future laws may well take this guidance one step further with promos given a specific focus.

Wagering requirements and bonuses, in general, could be under the cosh with mention of how other countries don’t allow bonuses for new players and where limits are placed on wagering requirements. We’ll wait to see how these details pan out.

Restrictions in advertising

The UKGC joined forces with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in April 2022 to come up with new rules to protect under-18s and other vulnerable groups from gambling harm. These new rules came into effect on 1st October 2022, with operators working hard to action all of the new advertising restrictions.

In addition to banning gambling adverts featuring sports and reality TV stars, new measures have been designed to curb the broad appeal of gambling ads in general. Operators will need to be extremely strict about the content they include, which must not feature anything likely to resonate with under-18s.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has joined forces with the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP), to come up with its own guidance document explaining how the new regulations will work. Operators are advised that they must now avoid:

  • Animations featuring child-oriented cartoon content
  • Cuddly or cute animals, princesses or pirates with exaggerated features that appeal to children
  • Fairy-tale characters, such as Red Riding Hood, or Hansel and Gretel
  • Cultural characters such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy 
  • Video gaming references, such as characters, animations and gameplay-style sequences likely to appeal to under-18s
  • Any eSports content popular with under-18s
  • Features such as loot boxes or skins
  • Youth-related content, including clothing styles aimed at under-18s
  • Music by younger artists, or that’s popular with youths
  • Youth culture themes, such as having a disregard for society

Until these new measures were introduced, adverts were only banned if there was a likelihood that they would be more appealing to under-18s than adults. Under the new, stricter regulations, the focus is entirely on whether it has ‘strong’ appeal for a younger demographic. The onus is now on operators to identify and target their intended audience more accurately going forwards.

Path to Play Framework

In an attempt to understand gambling from the point of view of the player, the UKGC has identified six distinct stages in the Path to Play journey. And as the Gambling White Paper enters a year-long consultation period from summer 2023, this will prove to be a key tool in helping lawmakers and their advisors provide better protection for players.

Path to play framework diagram

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Paul Clare
by Paul Clare Last updated:

Paul spent plenty of time in arcades up and down the UK discovering all of the best fruit machines and watching them grow into the incredible online slots we see today. He still loves the basic format but also has a soft spot for games with big bonus rounds that progress as you play. Immortal Romance is one of his favourite slots of all time.