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Gambling Commission's Slot Game Restrictions Helped Reduce "Play Intensity"

Gambling Commission's Slot Game Restrictions Helped Reduce "Play Intensity"
Paul Clare
by Paul Clare Last updated:

The Gambling Commission’s efforts to tighten slot site regulation appear to be working, with new findings published by the regulator showing moves in a positive direction. The changes to slots regulation introduced in late 2021 seem to be yielding results, according to the newly published research, which looks into player usage patterns since the most recent revision to the slots rules. 

In a follow-up on its regulatory changes, the authority published findings indicating a reduction in ‘play intensity’ in slot games. The report also found no significant negative impact on the enjoyment gamblers experience while playing slots, as well as no noticeable increase in staking activity—effectively all good news.

In its press release reporting the results, the Gambling Commission said there were also positive developments in session length and the proportion of maximum stake betting on slot machines, reflecting a general move in the right direction since the new rules were introduced. 

The report shows that despite a cap on the maximum spin speed, the proportion of stakes at the highest values decreased in the months following the changes and the proportion of sessions lasting in excess of an hour also decreased.

As a whole, general engagement with slots increased over the same time period.

The findings have been welcomed by the Commission, and well received by the industry more broadly after significant, sweeping changes were introduced into law in October 2021

At the time, some were flagging concerns about the impact the new regulations could have on the industry, particularly betting shops, which are heavily reliant on physical slot machines. Warnings of significant job losses throughout the betting shop sector, as well as concerns around the impact on player enjoyment were being sounded loudly from certain quarters in opposition to the rules.

However, despite the fears from critics of the regulation, engagement in slot games actually increased over the period of the study, with no harmful unintended consequences picked up by the research

Tim Miller, director for policy and research at the Gambling Commission said that while the findings were welcome, the regulator was not falling into complacency around the measures. 

Our assessment of the changes to online slots games has shown indications of reduced play intensity with no significant negative impacts on play or behaviours. That’s positive, but we aren’t complacent and will continue to monitor this specific part of the sector for both any unintended circumstances, or non-compliance.

The study showing the results was produced using data from the Commission’s Online Tracker survey, as well as data from its gambling prevalence survey, a telephone survey run by the Commission every quarter.

What this means for the future of slots regulation

The findings will embolden current thinking within regulators and the UK government, which leans towards introducing even more restrictive regulation around slots play. The recently published government white paper indicated a move towards more robust regulation, with both the government and the Commission seemingly in agreement about the need for tighter rules to protect under 25s and those vulnerable to problem gambling.

With no noticeable impact on player enjoyment, future proposals are likely to centre around further restrictions on slots marketing, and potentially more challenges to the format of slot games as they currently stand. New measures under active consideration include reducing the maximum spin value for 18 to 24-year-olds to just £2, as well as introducing a maximum cap at £15 for all other players. 

This could be combined with a compulsory 1% levy on all gambling revenues, including from slots play, which would be used to fund the NHS and further research and treatment of problem gambling.

Ultimately, both regulators and the government, in tandem with the gambling industry, have responsibilities to ensure slots and other gambling products are being marketed fairly, and are not posing harm to vulnerable players. Triangulating the interests of players, operators and vulnerable gamblers is not always easy, and it will remain a challenge to get the balance right.

However, with studies like these showing that regulation is having less of a negative impact on players than anticipated, while still delivering positive outcomes, it is likely to green-light further moves from policymakers to tighten up how slots are regulated in future.

Online slot sites will be keeping a close eye on further developments, with new changes seeming likely over the coming months and years. For players, the hope is that further regulation of slots doesn’t ruin the gaming experience, and continues to allow enjoyment of slots action, as well as the opportunity for big wins from higher-stake betting. 

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.