Three months after first being published, the government’s white paper on the UK gambling sector is heading for a public consultation period.
Two items that have been some of the most fiercely-debated of the governmental review – affordability checks and online slot stake limits – will be top of the agenda.
The white paper’s recommendations, which are designed to upgrade the Gambling Act for the smartphone generation, can be discussed – and views shared – via the official public consultation page.
The government’s gambling minister, Stuart Andrew, has said: “Three months ago we laid out proposals to update gambling laws and make them fit for the smartphone age. Slot machines in casinos, arcades and betting shops have strict stake limits, but very similar games online have none, which can lead to very large and rapid losses of money.
“Today we are launching a consultation for a range of views on what the stake limit should be. I encourage you to have your say.”
In the Slot
Back when ministers were so keen to clamp down on problem gambling behaviours that were being experienced via fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in betting shops, it was somewhat bizarre that they didn’t impose similar stake limits for online slot games.
A maximum stake of £2 was imposed on FOBTs in 2018 – down from £100 per spin, but online casinos were left untouched….meaning that players could gamble hundreds of pounds per session, with only the possible chance that the site’s social responsibility checks might kick in.
Now, the government – as revealed in the white paper – is contemplating a maximum stake for online slots of between £2 and £15 per spin, with the general public able to have their say on whether that is too much, too little or just about right.
It’s also thought that ministers want to impose a lower limit on slots for 18 to 24-year-olds – a group that the government considers to be most at risk of some problem gambling behaviours.
The consultation on the proposed imposition of online slot limits will last for the next eight weeks or so.
Twice a Year
Under a consultation put to the public by the UK Gambling Commission, punters could face twice-yearly affordability checks if they hit certain levels with their betting.
Those triggers would be anybody that loses £1,000 over a rolling 24-hour period, or £2,000 or more within 90 days. Those numbers drop to £500 and £1,000 respectively for the under-25s. Any winnings generated more than seven days prior to the alarm being signalled will be ignored as part of net loss calculations.
When an individual sets off one of these triggers, their bank details will be examined as part of financial risk checks that could be introduced, by law, by the bookies.
To make your input into this rather thorny matter, you can follow the link published at the bottom of this article.
Power to the People
There’s a host other areas, originally outlined in the white paper, that punters and interested parties can make their feelings known about.
One of these will be the use of direct marketing by bookmakers and online casinos – an area which has got a number of firms in hot water in recent times. There’s a potential motion that would see gambling advertisements become opt in, rather than opt out.
There’s a possibility that online slot games will have to be designed in a way that reduces their ‘speed and intensity’. Some features, such as auto-play, have already been removed to slow down gaming, while developers may be forced to further slow down the reels to ensure players don’t get carried away in their betting.
The financial future of horse racing will be discussed via the gambling levy, which could be strengthened and redesigned to effectively ensure betting firms are paying more into it – and that the monies raised are going to the most appropriate places.
There could be positive news for land-based casinos and bingo halls. Often overlooked in an increasingly digital world, new regulations could allow them to expand and offer a greater number of gaming tables and machines – enabling them to compete on a more level playing field with the online sector.
Other items on the agenda of the consultation include plans to strengthen the age verification processes in high street betting shops and casinos, as well as a rethink of the way in which prospective operators of land-based venues are approved or rejected for licences.
You can have your say on any of these consultations here.