The way in which online slot games are designed and played will change after the UK Gambling Commission announced a series of changes designed to protect players.
Those will include enhanced limits on how often the reels can be spun, a permanent ban on ‘speed up’ gameplay features and a clear distinction between wins and losses – as opposed to disguising losses as a win.
The UKGC has acted after opening up a consultation period in which members of the public and stakeholders within the gambling sector could have their say on the future of slot games – this identified a clear need to implement safer play modes and tougher measures to protect vulnerable players from staking too frequently and losing control of their wagering.
A recurring theme was the ‘intensity’ of play, with gamers able to accelerate their staking using a number of features including autospin. The Commission’s investigation found that some players would have numerous games open at once with autospin activated, and they would naturally lose control of their wagering as a consequence.
To counteract that, the new rules dictate that slot games must not:
- Offer features that speed up play
- Have spin speeds of quicker than 2.5 seconds
- Offer players ‘autoplay’ style tools
- Present an ‘illusion of control’ over the outcome of a spin
- Use congratulatory sounds or imagery that suggest a spin is a winner if the return is less than the stake
Taking Back Control
In addition to the limitations revealed above, further control measures will also include an on-screen display that shows a player’s total losses/wins over a particular session, and the amount of time that they have been playing for.
And at the operator level, the Commission will now ban ‘reverse withdrawals’ – that is, allowing players to stake money that they have previously requested to withdraw from their account before cancelling the payment. This is often a symptom of individuals chasing their day’s losses.
There will be a period of grace for online slot games currently in development, but the new rules will be implemented and must be acted upon by October 31, 2021.
The Minister for Sports, Nigel Huddleston, welcomed the ‘tough measures’ set out by the Commission, and was confident that the new rules would ‘reduce the risk of gambling related harm’.
Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Gambling Commission – Neil McArthur – commented: “To make online games safer we are introducing a ban on features that speed up play, or give the illusion of control over the outcome. We are also introducing a ban on autoplay, losses disguised as wins, and slot spin speeds faster than 2.5 seconds. The evidence shows that these features increase the risk of harm to customers.
“This is another important step in making gambling safer and where the evidence shows that there are other opportunities to do that we are determined to take them.”
This is the latest in a string of measures unveiled by the Commission to enhance player protection, which have included a toughening of the verification process and improved customer interactions to the banning of deposits made with a credit card.
New rules have also been introduced to minimise the ‘VIP customer’ loopholes that would see operators entice players to wager more frequently in order to receive bonuses and other rewards.