In an effort to make online gambling safer for customers, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has announced a slew of new restrictions on online slots games. The sum of the measures is to slow down the pace of play and give the player more information so that they understand how much and how fast they are winning or losing.
“Today’s steps will help curb the intensity of online gambling, introducing greater protections that will reduce the risk of gambling related harm,” said Minister for Sports, Tourism and Heritage Nigel Huddleston.
The UKGC focused on slots as opposed to other forms of gambling like poker, sports betting, or other casino games primarily because of slots’ popularity and lack of barriers to entry (that is, you don’t have to learn how to play slots). According to the UKGC’s COVID-10 research data, the average slots player spends £67 per month, while average casino games spend is £36 a sports betting spend is £45.
Operators have until October 31, 2021 to implement a delay of at least 2.5 seconds between slot spins, eliminate auto-play, and get rid of “sounds or imagery which give the illusion of a win when the return is in fact equal to, or below, a stake.”
The first two measures are obvious. By banning auto-play and forcing a pause between spins, players will not be able to just continuously spin the reels. They will need to think about each mouse click and will have time to consider their actions.
The third one about “sounds or imagery” is interesting. I don’t play online slots, but I have tried free demos in the course of my work and sure enough, there are times where you bet, say, $10 and the music and flashing lights go off when you hit a winning combo, even if that “win” is just $6 for a loss of $4. It has always felt extremely dishonest for an online slots site to try to make it look like a loss was worth celebrating, so this is a good change by the Commission.
The above are more about the mechanics of the games. The UKGC has also mandated measures to help players better manage their gambling dollars. A player’s total wins or losses must be visible on screen while they are playing slots. With just “credits” or even a currency total displayed, it is easy for a player to lose track of much they are actually up or down. They would have to do the math. But with a running plus/minus total on the screen, the idea is that a player will call it quits sooner if they are losing.
Additionally, reverse withdrawals are now banned. Some online casinos have allowed customers to cancel a cashout once it is in process. No more. That of course does not mean that a player can’t make a new deposit, but like other measures, banning reverse withdrawals requires players to go through another decision point, to take another beat or two or three to think about what they want to do.