Measures to Be Effective Starting from September 2024

Research indicates that individuals aged 18 to 24 have the highest average scores for problem gambling. In response, the UK government will introduce a cap, effective September 2024, of £2 per spin on all online slot games. Meanwhile, a £5 limit will apply to those aged 25 and over.

As per the government’s projections, this adjustment is anticipated to reduce the gambling industry’s yearly earnings by nearly £170 million from its current £10.9 billion.

A 6-Week Transition Period for Operators

The UK government has outlined a sustainable phased approach to ensure a smooth transition to the new stake limits, which includes two distinct six-week periods:

  • Initially, operators will have six weeks to align their systems and practices with the general £5 stake limit applicable to players aged 25 and over. This phase is a window for testing and guaranteeing that digital platforms can seamlessly integrate and uphold the new cap while preserving the integrity of the user experience, operational continuity, and gameplay fairness.
  • The second six-week phase focuses on implementing the £2 stake limit for players aged 18 to 24, requiring operators to develop, evaluate, and deploy additional system modifications tailored to reliably distinguish between different age groups.

How are the Different Stakeholders Reacting to the News?

1.Gambling Operators

Companies have voiced concerns about the potential impact of these regulations on their revenues and the broader industry’s economic health. They argue that while player protection is crucial, the measures could drive consumers towards unregulated offshore sites, posing even more significant risks. CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), Michael Dugher, explained:

“It is important to recognise that measures like this come with a cost to our members and impact their customers. Nothing in the White Paper should be viewed in isolation, but instead seen as a total package, and I would urge Ministers and the regulator to remain mindful of the overall impact all these changes make for BGC members. We must avoid customers drifting to the unsafe, unregulated black market online if we don’t tread carefully and get the balance of regulation right.”

2. Players

Player reactions on forums and social media platforms, like Reddit, are mixed. Some commend the government for taking steps to protect vulnerable groups, particularly younger adults, who are more prone to gambling harm. Others, however, feel these measures are paternalistic and infringe on personal freedom.

3. Gambling Awareness Organisations

Charitable foundations such as GambleAware have long advocated for stricter laws to mitigate the psychological effects of gambling addiction. They see these measures as a step forward in protecting mental health and reducing the social costs associated with gambling addiction.

Current Legislation on Maximum Stakes

Prior to the introduction of these new regulations, the UK’s online gambling scene lacked specific maximum stake limits for slot games. This case starkly contrasts fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), for which caps were dramatically cut from £100 to £2 in 2019 to mitigate gambling-related harm.

Why the Lower Maximum Stakes for Younger Adults?

The UK government is seeking a targeted approach to reduce gambling-related issues within this demographic by acknowledging their unique vulnerabilities, such as:

  • Higher susceptibility to addictive behaviours.
  • Limited financial resources make them more sensitive to financial losses from gambling.
  • Inexperience with financial management.
  • Neurological development affects their decision-making and risk-assessment capabilities.
  • Mental health issues.

Slot Games Are One of the Most Addictive Forms of Gambling

“Although millions of people gamble safely every single day, the evidence shows that there is a significantly higher problem gambling rate for online slot games,” commented Gambling Minister Stuart Andrew.

Their rapid play rates allow users to engage in quick, successive rounds. This pace reduces the opportunity for reflection between bets and increases the likelihood of compulsive behaviour, adding to their addictive nature. On top of that, the variable ratio reinforcement schedule that offers rewards at unpredictable intervals makes reel games psychologically enticing and motivates users to persist in the hope of the next big win.

And let’s face it: the slots’ captivating visuals and engaging sounds can easily hold one’s attention for longer than intended. Such features, combined with the ease of access, facilitate a scenario where it becomes all too easy for users to overlook both time and money spent and intensify their habit-forming potential.

NHS Survey on Problem Gambling

Recent figures from an NHS survey confirm all of the above through a problem gambling rate of 8.7% for online activities — poker, bingo, scratchcards, slots, etc. — marking one of the highest among gambling activities.

The 2023 White Paper on Gambling Legislation

The Government initiated a Gambling Act review in December 2020, aiming to assess the adequacy of regulation in today’s era and address the issue of gambling harm. Despite ambitions to conclude by the end of 2021, the findings and proposals were ultimately shared in the 2023 White Paper after considering feedback from approximately 16,000 responses.

Proposals for Future Legislation

On the 27th of April 2023, the UK announced a series of robust measures to safeguard vulnerable players, particularly in light of the surge in online gambling facilitated by technological advancements. Key provisions include:

  • The introduction of affordability checks to combat financial risks associated with gambling.
  • Vulnerability checks designed to be minimally invasive at a threshold of £125 a month or £500 annually.
    More intensive risk assessments that activate when losses exceed £1,000 within 24 hours or £2,000 over 90 days.
  • £2 and £5 stake limits for online slots.
  • The implementation of a statutory mandatory levy on gambling operators to finance research and treatment services.
  • The empowerment of the Gambling Commission to combat black market operations more effectively, including the authority to work with internet service providers to shut down and block access to illegal gambling sites.
  • The establishment of a gambling Ombudsman to address disputes and ensure operators fulfil their player protection obligations.
  • The reformation of the Commission’s fee structure to provide the flexibility required to respond to emerging risks and challenges.
  • The restructuring and delivery of bonus offers such as free spins or bets.
  • The review of online game design rules to focus on limiting features like speed of play that increase risk, encouraging the development of safer gambling products.
  • The adoption of cashless payments for gaming machines.

Echoing these advancements, Gambling Commission CEO Andrew Rhodes highlighted: “The gambling industry has changed significantly since 2005, and our advice sets out changes that will ensure Britain is the safest and fairest place to gamble in the world.”

What to Expect Next in the UK Gambling Sector?

The Gambling Commission stands on the cusp of transformative change, underscored by the government’s commitment to refining the regulatory framework governing gambling in the UK. At the same time, the sector is a significant economic engine that supports numerous jobs nationwide, which has led the government to explicitly state its intention to avoid undermining this success. We view this as a balanced perspective that seeks to mitigate harm without stifling industry growth.

Therefore, looking ahead, we’re anticipating a landscape where enriched safety measures coexist with a thriving ecosystem — a healthy balance between player protections and gaming freedoms.

Tolulope Kehinde - Expert Casino Author

Tolulope Kehinde

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Tolulope Kehinde is online bingo and slots expert at CasinoSherlock. With ten years as a writer and researcher in the online gambling, she is a true pioneer in the industry. Tolulope's insights and expertise are invaluable in providing avid casino players with in-depth and up-to-date information on all things related to online slots, bingo games and payment methods.

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