The outcomes of a government review into UK gambling law are set to be revealed – with a potential limit on how much can be wagered at online casinos thought to be amongst the proposals.
The Times newspaper has reported that their sources have seen a draft copy of the white paper, and that caps of between £2 and £5 for online slots could be introduced.
“The government is expected to announce maximum stakes of £2 to £5 for online gamblers using slot machines,” they write, before continuing that players could up those limits if they pass necessary ‘affordability checks’ which confirm they are wagering what they can afford to lose.
The move would bring online slots into parity with games offered on fixed odds betting terminals, for which the maximum stake was reduced from £100 to £2 back in 2019 – directly causing a raft of betting shop closures.
It has not been reported anywhere else at the time of writing, although such an authoritative national newspaper would not publish such a piece unless there was evidence to support it – the whole ‘no smoke without fire’ thing.
If the stake cut is implemented as part of the government’s reform, it is likely to prove devastating for the online casino sector – those firms will be hit further by reported plans to ban them from sponsoring the shirts of Premier League football teams.
The Gambling Act review is the first time in nearly two decades that the laws on betting in the UK have been looked at – a period in which online wagering has exploded in popularity. The online slots stake cut could be just one of many rule-changes that are set to be announced this summer.
Less Than Vintage
If this news wasn’t alarming enough for gambling operators, it has been compounded by the slow start the sector as a whole has had in 2022.
For the first quarter from January to March, gross gaming yield was down 1% on the last quarter of 2021, and a 2% drop was experienced on the same period of last year.
The number of spins of online slots fell by 2% at UK-facing operators as well, leading to a decrease of 5% compared to the last three months at the end of 2021. The average casino gaming session has fallen to 18 minutes in duration – a minute less than the average last year.
Curiously, according to data published by the UK Gambling Commission, the number of online casino players has actually increased – there were 5.85 million ‘active’ players in March 2022, as opposed to 5.4 million in October 2021.
Sports betting numbers have remained consistent throughout the past six months – bar a spike in March, which could be attributed to the Cheltenham Festival.
Meanwhile, the number of people playing online poker has fallen by 4% between October 2021 and March 2022 – a real-terms loss of around 23,000 players.
It will be noteworthy to track further changes as the UK enters a largely unprecedented period of cost of living increases – ‘leisure’ spending is one of the areas where individuals tend to tighten their belts the most.