Stricter Regulation of UK Online Slot Games from September

Sports Gambling Podcast
Stricter Regulation of UK Online Slot Games from September
Super Slots

Regulation of the UK’s online gambling industry is becoming stricter. From September, there will be new maximum stakes imposed on players of online slot games. Just what have been the reasons for this and the reaction of the industry?

Those who gamble at online casinos regularly head straight to the slots section. There’s the chance of winning large cash prizes and they can be fun to play. However, it’s recognised that such games can be very addictive, particularly for younger players.

With no maximum stake limit at online casinos, it can see players losing large amounts of money and it is not taking them very long to do so. A single spin of a slot game is over within seconds and it’s easy to lose track of time when playing them. 

The popularity of slot games is so important to online operators. The month of March alone produced a gross gambling yield (GGY) of £220.4 million. For the first three months of 2024, GGY for slot games was £614 million so every month is producing great results for UK online casinos. According to this bonus comparison site, the casino revenues in the UK are up due to the increased number of first players accepting bonus incentives, such as free spins, as a welcome package.

Last year saw the UK Government publish a White Paper on reform of the UK gambling industry. It was long overdue and required due to the fact the last Gambling Act became law 19 years ago. Just imagine how much the industry has changed since then without major legislation being passed.

The UK Government says that they are committed to introducing a maximum stake limit for online slots so as to “minimise the risk of runaway or rapid losses.” Incurring those can “contribute significantly to gambling-related harm.” 

Annual statistics released by GambleAware revealed that of those who have had to seek treatment for gambling-related harm in 2022-23, 37.9% listed online slots as one of the top three activities that have led to problems occurring.

From September the new maximum stake limit for players aged 18-24 will be £2 and £5 for those aged 25 and over.

The desire is to increase the amount of protection against gambling harm for younger players. UK Gambling Commision data for the year up to March 2023 revealed the problem gambling  rate for those aged 18-24 is of concern. It was 1% in that period, whereas the headline problem gambling rate is only 0.3%.

Previous research has found that there is an association between gambling harm in that age group and suicides.

The UK Government believes that the new maximum stakes will “build on existing protections and controls” that already exist for those who play online slot games. There will be more new measures in the months to come. These will include stricter financial risk checks and again there will be greater protection for younger players.

Once the new stake limits have been introduced, the Government hopes that online casinos will not drive their customers to making the £2 or £5 maximum stake. The offering of stake levels that are “far below the maximum” should remain available to customers. They believe those new figures are amounts that “customers can choose to stake up to.” 

What has been the reaction of the UK gambling industry to the announcement. Michael Dugher is the CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) and says that they welcome the announcement as it will “provide enhanced protections for young people.”

The BGC have previously given their support to the introduction of lower stake limits. They took part in the consultation process that followed the publication of the White Paper on gambling reform.

Looking at how the measures will affect the gambling industry, he stressed the importance of recognising that they will “come with a cost to our members” as well as “impact their customers.” He urged Government Ministers and the regulator “to remain mindful of the overall impact all these changes make for BGC members.”

Another area of concern is that such measures could lead customers to turn their back on licensed and regulated UK gambling sites. Mr Dugher believes it is important to “get the balance of regulation right.”  Failure to do so he says will see players “drifting to the unsafe, unregulated black market online.”  

That would not just see the licensed UK gambling market losing more revenue.  For those who decide that there is too much regulation, going to the black market will see a massive reduction in customer protection.

A General Election is expected to take place this year. Looking at the opinion polls, Labour could well be forming a new Government replacing the current Conservative administration. Just how a change in power would affect the gambling industry isn’t clear.