New regulations are now forcing online casinos to redesign online slots, slowing them down and deleting features that cause players to lose count of how much they are spending. The new measures will be effective from 1 October 2021 onwards.
The Gambling Commission has ordered online casino operators based in the UK to dilute playing intensity and delete potentially deceptive features. This is part of a range of measures set to decrease the industry’s £ 2.2bn-a-year income from online slot machines.
As part of the Gambling Commission’s online slot redesign, online slots are now required to have at least 2.5 seconds delay in between spins. Online slot operators are also required to eliminate auto-play options, where players can set the slot machine to spin several times on its own. The regulator said auto-play feature can lead to gamblers not paying attention to how much they are losing.
Slot in-game mechanics are not the only things changing. The Commission has also required operators to stop slots from playing positive-sounding noises when a player has lost money. The element is part of a pattern known as losses disguised as wins that fools players into believing that while they have really lost, they have enjoyed a good game, tempting them to gamble more. Operators would also have to abolish elements that seemingly give players the illusion of control when in reality, the outcome of the slot is determined by a random number generator.
Aside from game redesigns, the Commission has ordered a mandatory change where operators will no longer be able to offer reverse withdrawals. Reverse withdrawals are when players opt to cash out their winnings but change their mind and cash-back their winnings back into their account. On top of this, operators are now required to clearly display total losses, wins and time played during any online slot session.
Gambling Commission chief executive, Neil McArthur, commented on these measures saying that the Commission’s evidence shows that the features that they are targeting increase the risk of harm to customers.
With gross online sales rising from £ 2.36 billion in the year to March 2016 to almost £ 3.18 billion in the year to March 2020, the rise of slots has helped fuel a spike in online casino revenue for the gambling industry. Nearly 70% of the revenue is made up of slot machines. According to the Commission’s most current analysis available, online slot machines also bear greater rates of addiction.
In an NHS survey released in 2018, fewer than 4 per cent of online sports bettors were considered to be addicts, rising to 5.7 per cent for people playing in brick-and-mortar casinos. The average rate for online slots, casinos and bingo games combined was 8.5 per cent, the highest among mainstream products.
Gambling stocks have shifted little on Tuesday’s stock exchange amid the latest curbs, suggesting investors do not expect the new regulations of the commission would have a significant effect on sales.
The sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, also commented on this development saying that the steps will help curb the intensity of online gambling, introducing greater protections that will reduce the risk of gambling-related harm. He also added that he welcomes the Gambling Commission’s tough measures as his fellow lawmakers continue their comprehensive review of gambling laws to make sure that they are fit for the digital age.
Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), also chimed in by saying that the UK’s online gambling industry is determined to drive change and promote safer gambling. With this in mind, he added that the industry welcomes the Gambling Commission’s announcement, which builds on the BGC’s new code of conduct from last September for the design of online games in a bid to further improve player safety.
Duger also highlighted that BGC members have already introduced measures including the slowing down of spin speeds and banning several gaming features which have caused concern. Among the major commitments, that they have already introduced are minimum game cycle speeds of 2.5 seconds, the ending of turbo play, which allows players to speed up games, and the scrapping of multi-slot play, where a player can place multiple stakes on different games at the same time.
These recent measures brought about by the Gambling Commission arrives in the wake of a review of the laws governing gambling regulation. The review is expected to bring about tighter restrictions in both gambling and gambling-related advertisements and sponsorships.