A central part of the large-scale reform of UK gambling laws is just kicking off. Recently, attention has turned to stake limits for online slots, and the latest development suggests that a number of proposed changes are now one step closer to being approved.
Slot players and the gambling industry are waiting to find out how they will be affected by the changes to gambling legislation and the most recent update states that the consultations on which these decisions will be based are to be held by the government and Gambling Commission over the next 8 weeks.
Whilst all areas of the gambling industry are likely to be reviewed, the present consultations are targeting online slots because they are perceived to be a form of “higher-risk gambling” and a favourite amongst problem gamblers. Online slots have also been found to be associated with long binge-gambling sessions and large losses, particularly amongst younger people.
It is hoped that the forthcoming adjustments to slot site regulation will do more to protect vulnerable consumers and to account for the ease of access to slot sites in the age of the smartphone.
Earlier in the year, the government published the Gambling Reform White Paper, a hefty document which lays out the full consultation process, as well as some of the areas which will be targeted, and some of the potential restrictions and limitations which may eventually be put in place.
The government’s most recent update tells us that discussions regarding two of the main legislative areas are currently being held.
These ongoing consultations will seek to determine appropriate stake limits to set for people playing online slot games and discuss the possibility of implementing more thorough affordability checks in order to minimise problem gambling.
Regarding the latest round of discussions, the Gambling Commission commented that
“their launch represents a key moment in turning the commitments in the white paper into reality.”
What this means
Over the next 8 weeks, conversations concerned with stake limits will be taking place, so we can expect to have more insight into the specific changes very soon.
A series of discussions will take place between representatives of the gambling industry, clinicians who have treated problem gamblers, individuals with a history of gambling addiction, academics and members of the general public.
The Gambling Minister recently highlighted the fact that physical slot machines have strict stake limits, but that online versions of these games do not. We can infer from this that an online slot stake limit is almost certain to be implemented as part of the gambling reform, and that this will likely be put into place in the next couple of years.
One possible approach which has been discussed is a £2 per spin stake limit on slots for players below the age of 25 and a higher limit for players above this age. The highest figure which has been discussed is £15, but this is likely to apply only to the lowest-risk gamblers.
This approach of introducing one rule for younger age groups and another rule for older ones is not surprising, considering that much of the original white paper is concerned with protecting the former from developing harmful habits.
There are also likely to be rules put in place which ensure slot providers are considering age-related factors when doing their bit to reduce problem gambling, and that financial risk checks are being done to protect those who are at risk of addictive gambling.
Where we go from here
Examining the recent update given by the government, it seems that a number of restrictions are now inevitable and that these will likely involve a strict slot stake limit to protect at-risk players.
By initiating these discussions, the Gambling Commission and government have demonstrated their commitment to putting the proposed changes laid out in the Gambling Reform White Paper into effect.
Still, emphasis has been placed on the fact that members of the public and representatives of the healthcare sector will get a chance to have their say, and it’s likely that these perspectives will inform the final decisions.
The overall reform consultations run until the summer of 2024 and, in addition to stake limits, are likely to be concerned with other areas of the industry. These include affordability checks to determine whether individuals are high or low risk, further limitations to the speed and intensity of online games, tighter restrictions on the advertising of bonuses, caps on wagering requirements, and higher-rate mandatory levies which force operators to fund gambling education, research, and addiction treatment.
The actual ramifications of these restrictions for the online gambling industry are likely to be substantial, but their true extent remains to be seen. Operators and players alike can only cross their fingers and wait for news of what the following 8 weeks of consultations will bring.