Firms must introduce new online slot measures to protect players

Gambling firms must introduce new online slot machine measures to protect players says Government as locked-down gamblers turn to games in record numbers

  • Gambling Commission is targeting online slot games with restrictive measures
  • Online slots soared in popularity in pandemic due to lockdown and lack of sports
  • Commission says slots are worth £2.2bn and are growing at about £100m a year
  • New measures include a ban on auto-play and slot spins faster than 2.5 seconds 

The online slot machine industry must introduce a series of strict new measures to protect players, the Gambling Commission has announced.

Online slot machines have soared in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic as lockdowns and the cancellation of sporting events have seen gamblers turning to the games in record numbers.

But, by the end of October, online slot machine operators must limit the speed of the games, stop using sounds and images suggesting a ‘win’ when the user has lost, and end the use of auto-play settings.

The Gambling Commission has announced strict new measures that must be brought in to the online slot games industry in a bid to protect players as locked down gambling has soared

The commission has focused on slots because it says they have by far the highest average losses per player of online gambling products.

The new rules include the outright ban of four key features of online slots games:

  • Features that speed up play or give the illusion of control over outcome
  • Slot spin speeds faster than 2.5s
  • Autoplay – which can lead to players losing track of their play
  • Sounds or imagery which give the illusion of a win when player has lost 

Operators must also clearly display to the player their total losses or wins and time played during a slots session.

The Commission has also introduced a permanent ban on reverse withdrawals for all online gambling.

This function previously allowed consumers to re-gamble money they had previously requested to withdraw.

Slots are worth £2.2 billion and the industry is growing at around £100 million a year, according to the regulator.

Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said: ‘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.’

Since the publication of the Commission’s consultation in July 2020, further research has shown that using an autoplay feature has been linked to some players losing track of play, making it difficult for some to stop playing and in some cases gambling on other activities simultaneously.

In addition, the slot features being removed or more closely controlled have been associated with increased intensity of play, loss of player control, or binge play.

Data from the Gambling Commission revealed that between March and November the average spend per slots player was £67 per month, compared with £36 for casino products and £45 for real event betting.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: ‘Today’s steps will help curb the intensity of online gambling, introducing greater protections that will reduce the risk of gambling-related harm.

‘I welcome the Gambling Commission’s tough measures as we continue our comprehensive review of gambling laws to make sure they’re fit for the digital age.’

The commission found players had turned to online slot games during the pandemic due to various lockdowns and cancelled sports events with the average player spending £67 a month

The Commission said it has focused on online slots because of its features which increase the intensity of play and the corresponding risks to players.

Slot games have by far the highest average losses per player of online gambling products, it added.

Other changes also include a permanent ban on reverse withdrawals – a function which allows consumers to re-gamble money they had previously requested to withdraw.

Operators must also clearly display to the player their total losses or wins and time played during any online slots session.

Across the 2019-20 financial year, the gambling industry raked in a total of £14.3billion, according to UK regulator the Gambling Commission.

Online gambling – and with it online problem gambling – is a growing talking point within the industry.

More than 300,000 Britons are described as ‘problem gamblers’ by the Gambling Commission – with one-million more considered to be a ‘low risk’ of future addiction.

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