The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has banned the use of auto spins in online slots to reduce gambling-related harm and to promote responsible gaming. The ban, which came into effect on October 31, 2021, prohibits online slots in the UK from offering players the option to automatically spin the reels.
- The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has banned the use of auto spins in online slots, as research shows that the feature is linked to an increased risk of gambling-related harm.
- The ban, which came into effect on October 31, 2021, is designed to reduce gambling-related harm and promote responsible gaming.
- However, the ban has been met with major criticism from players and operators, who argued that auto-play could be used to control gambling expenditures and that removing it could have the opposite effect of making players more vulnerable.
- The ban has had a significant impact on both online slot players and operators, with less enjoyment, less revenue and less innovation being potential harms.
- Following the ban, the only alternative option for online slot players is manual spins, where players have to manually click a button to spin the reels.
- Manual spins help to slow down gameplay and give players more control over their actions, which would act in line with responsible gambling.
- However, concerns have been raised that too harsh regulations that take away the joy of playing slots could lead to more players choosing unsafe offshore casinos that are not licensed by the UKGC.
Why the Ban Was Implemented: Supporting Evidence of Potential Harm
The UKGC implemented the ban after consulting with the public and carrying out survey research that supported their initial concern about the potential harm that auto spins may cause.
According to their research, a large percentage of players mentioned that auto-spins caused them to lose track of time (42%) and made it difficult to stop gambling (33%). Many players also agreed that the auto-play feature had made them play faster (55%), spend more money (45%) and spend more time than they had initially intended to do.
This data clearly goes against the UKGC’s ambition to protect players and create a safe gambling environment. Furthermore, a large portion of survey respondents that were problem gamblers (45%) mentioned that the auto-play feature was a contributing factor to the gambling-related harms they’ve experienced. Some of them (15%) even said that it was the main cause.
The data collected from the surveys was considered strong enough evidence that the best course of action in order to protect players from gambling-related harm was to ban the auto-play feature.
Before the Ban: Mostly Negative Reactions From Players and Operators
Before the ban was implemented, UKGC’s proposal to ban the auto-play feature in online slots was met with a lot of criticism from players and operators. Only 29% of the public who responded to the proposal was in favor of it.
Both players and operators argued that the auto-play feature could be used to control gambling expenditures, as it allows consumers to set a number of spins to play, as well as a cap on losses, making it easier to stick to a predetermined limit.
Concerns were raised that removing auto-play could have the opposite effect of protecting players, making them more vulnerable. Thus, some respondents suggested that a better course of action would be to fine-tune the options around the auto-play feature. For instance, reduce the number of possible auto-play spins from 100 to 10 or 50, or set a maximum stake limit when using the auto-play feature.
Some respondents also suggested that removing auto-play would be detrimental to the player experience and could lead to players seeking out unlicensed and potentially dangerous casino sites as a result. In the research that the UKGC conducted after the initial responses to the proposal, 36% of survey respondents said that the auto-play feature made their gambling experience more enjoyable.
Furthermore, some consumers with disabilities or physical conditions raised concerns that removing auto-play would make pressing a button each time to spin could be difficult for them.
The many negative reactions, along with respondents criticizing the UKGC’s actual evidence that the auto-play feature may cause harm are what lead the UKGC to conduct the survey research that later resulted in the ban.
After the Ban: Impact on Players and Operators
The ban on auto spins has had a significant impact on both online slot players and operators. For players, it has meant that they can no longer use this feature to set a certain number of spins to play automatically. Something which was not only convenient to many players, but also allowed them to easily keep track of how many spins they had played.
For operators, the full impact of the ban is difficult to determine. However, casinos are now responsible for not having the feature available in their slots as this could lead to a heavy fine from the UKGC. The ban may also have made slots less attractive for casino sites to promote. Especially since the UKGC has also banned bonus buy features in slots and put a mandatory delay of at least 2.5 seconds between each spin.
One could argue that such regulations make slots much less enjoyable for players and not profitable enough for UK-focused casinos to heavily invest in. This, in turn, could hurt the revenue and innovation of slot developers. Especially if similar regulations would extend to other markets.
Alternative to Auto Spins: Manual Spins or Offshore Casinos
Following the UKGC's ban on auto spins, the only alternative option for online slot players is manual spins, where players have to manually click a button to spin the reels. Manual spins help to slow down gameplay and give players more control over their actions, which would act in line with responsible gambling.
The same is true for the 2.5-second delay rule that the UKGC also introduced on online slots in the UK. While these actions certainly protect vulnerable players, it’s a big concern that the gameplay has now become too slow and boring.
This is dangerous because too harsh regulations that take away the joy of playing slots, could lead to more players going over to offshore casinos that aren’t licensed by the UKGC. These wouldn’t have the same stringent slot rules, but may also not have the same level of player protection when it comes to fairness, deposit limits, bonuses and more.
It is crucial for everyone in the online gambling industry to prioritize responsible gambling and work towards creating a safe and enjoyable gaming environment for all players. Based on research carried out by the UKGC, it is argued that banning the auto-play feature in online slots is the right step in such a direction.
However, when making these decisions one must also account for the risk that players choose alternative gambling sites to UKGC-licensed ones to bypass the rules. Especially when the decision is met with a lot of criticism and is combined with other decisions that may also make the slot experience less enjoyable.