Gambling Commission bans slot features and reverse withdrawals

The UK Gambling Commission has announced several new measures to help make online slot games safer.

This morning the UK Gambling Commission announced the implementation of a “package of strict measures” which will be enforced as “protections and controls” for online slot games.

The Commission’s announcement comes as the UK government launched its review of the 2005 Gambling Act in December.

The new measures

The UK regulatory body said that the implementation of the new measures comes after receiving feedback on its public consultation from July 2020 on “making online games safer by design.”  During this review, the regulator reviewed the risks and intensive play elements of online slot games.

According to the announcement, the proposed measure will make online casino games “less intensive, safer by design and hand players more control over their gambling.”

The Commission focused on online slot games because of its features that can increase the intensity of play and the risk to players. On top of this, slot games “the highest average losses” per player of online gambling products.

From 31 October, all licensed online gambling operators must remove all features and technical slot elements that relate to:

  • Making slot spins faster than 2.5 seconds
  • Autoplay – as players can lose track of their play
  • Quickspin  functionalities
  • Gameplay sounds or imagery which give the illusion of a win when the return is in fact equal to, or below, a stake

The Commission will also place a permanent ban on reverse withdrawals, which is when a customer can re-gamble money that they had requested to withdraw. Operators must also clearly display to the player their total losses or wins and time played during any online slots session.

According to the regulator, there is evidence to suggest that reverse withdrawals present a risk to players due to the temptation to continue gambling.

Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive, 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 auto-play, 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.”

The Department of Culture Media and Sports, which oversees the UK’s gambling laws, approved the Commission’s new measures for online slots.

Minister for Sports, Tourism and Heritage 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 review of the Gambling Act

In December 2020, the UK government announced the launch of its review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

The DCMS  launched a call for evidence in December, which will look at stake and spending limits and new rules for gambling-related advertising and bonuses, as well as further protection for younger adults.

The call for evidence is set to run until 31 March 2021 and the findings will be used to inform the proposed changes to the Gambling Act.

The review of the Gambling Act will consider online player protection, advertising, sponsorship and branding, the Gambling Commission’s powers, age limits and verification, the land-based gambling sector and consumer redress.

The UK Gambling Commission’s role in the industry and powers will be under scrutiny “in order to ensure it can keep pace with the licensed sector and tackle the black market.”

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