UK Government Confirms £2 Slots Maximum Stake for Under-25s

Slot MachinesIn one of the worst-kept secrets in the UK gambling industry, the government has confirmed that they will putting legislation in place that restricts the amount that under-25s can stake in online slot games.

The £2 limit, which will be rolled out in September 2024, is designed to restrict the amount that gamers aged 18-24 are able to wager on such casino titles.

In addition, a new rule will also limit the amount that players aged 25 and over can wager – the £5 restriction will bring online casinos into line with their land-based counterparts.

Two is the Magic Number

Back in 2018, the government imposed a maximum stake of £2 on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) – the betting shop machines described by some as the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.

For the best part of six years, online casinos have evaded similar measures – despite the mechanics of potential ‘binge gaming’ being much the same.

Campaigners have been arguing for a long time that online slot games in particular should be considered in the same way as FOBTs, and they have finally had their wish as ministers act upon the recommendations detailed in the sector’s White Paper, which was finally released in 2021.

Those aged 18-24, who are often considered to be the most vulnerable group to problem gambling behaviour, will now be subject to a limit of £2 per spin – although some claim this doesn’t go far enough, with youngsters easily able to lose £50 or more in the blink of an eye.

By the same token, ministers have been reluctant to go too far the other way – that is, to restrict people’s independence and choice by lowering the maximum stake even further.

The government’s evidence confirms that the younger age band experiences ‘ongoing neurological development impacting risk perception’, while many – in their first jobs or apprenticeships – find themselves with disposable money in their pocket for the first time.

Stuart Andrew, the gambling minister, confirmed that online slots have a ‘significantly higher problem gambling rate’ than other betting mediums. He continued: “We also know that young adults can be more vulnerable when it comes to gambling related harms, which is why we committed to addressing both of these issues in our white paper.”

And in wording that will put the entire industry on red alert, Andrew confirmed that this was the first of a ‘host of measures’ that the government was planning to roll out to the gambling sector this year.

Transition Time

The £5 maximum stake for gamers aged 25 and over comes in at the lower end of the spectrum, with ministers considering options ranging up to £15.

By sticking with a fiver per spin, the government is signalling its seriousness to shape up the UK gambling industry – with more legislative measures to be introduced over the course of 2024.

Online casinos and betting sites will have until September, when the new rules are introduced, to get their houses in order, with a subsequent six-week ‘transition period’ also allowed for firms to ensure they are compliant with the £5 maximum stake for over 25s.

That will be followed by another six-week period of transition to ensure that the software is in place that restricts under 25s to that maximum of £2 per spin of the reels.

Responsibility for enforcing the new legislation will then be passed to the UK Gambling Commission, whose punitive measures range from fines to the ability to suspend or withdraw an operator’s licence. The latest firm in their crosshairs has been Gamesys, who operate 12 online gambling sites on UK soil. They were hit with a £6 million fine in January for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failings.

Ministers have hinted at the range of other provisions that they are considering. That includes the introduction of a statutory levy, which UK licensed operators would pay into, to fund research, treatment and the prevention of problem gambling.

There’s also the spectre of possible affordability checks, which would require bookmakers and betting sites to examine the financial histories of their players if they reach certain weekly or monthly thresholds. That could be via the medium of credit checks, although it’s possible that bank statements and payslips would be requested from players. A petition against such intrusion has been signed by more than 100,000 people.

The process of these affordability checks, according to the government and the Gambling Commission, is still being worked on as they seek the ‘right balance’ between allowing punters personal autonomy while providing protections against ‘catastrophic’ losses.

Ministers have also been outspoken in their support of the land-based gambling sector, which employs thousands of people across the UK. Any legislative measures introduced will be designed to ‘not harm the success’ of betting shops and casinos.

The next stage will be the publication of the stakeholder responses to the White Paper, which are expected in the next few weeks.