Efforts Underway to Set Maximum Stakes Limits for Online Slot Games

Maximum Stakes Limits for Online Slot Games

Slots are great fun at online casinos: simple to play with promises of big wins.

But, they are also addictive and a way to lose too much money too soon.

Recognising the risk, the UK Government has announced new maximum stake limits on these games with effect from September 2024:

  • Up to £2 per spin for players aged between 18 and 24
  • Up to £5 per spin for players aged 25 and up

This decision comes after a 10-week consultation involving industry experts, academics, treatment providers, and individuals.

Most have supported the proposal to introduce the limits to curb gambling harm.

The Reasons

The primary objective is to provide stronger protection for younger players.

Currently, UKGC casinos don't have a statutory bet limit on slot gaming. The change is a response to campaigners long pushing for action on this issue.

In their newly launched white paper, the UK Government Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has termed it a “gambling reform for the digital age.”

Their post on microblogging site X calls it “the biggest shake-up” of rules in two decades.

X post about the gambling rules coming into effect September 2024

Gambling Minister Stuart Andrew has reposted it, adding that the reform will update the UK’s gambling laws to “better match the smartphone era.”

He also believes the announcement will level the playing field between online casinos and their land-based peers.

According to Andrew, problem gambling rates are much higher for online slots.

Now, if we are to go by the Gambling Commission's report on revenue, remote casino gambling has been the top contributor in 2022-23, yielding £4.0 billion!

Revenue report from the UKGC

Nearly 80% (£3.2 billion) of that figure comes from slot games.

Revenue report from-the UKGC showing revenue by game

The growing popularity of online gambling is evident.

But it also poses greater risks of problem gambling, echoing Andrew's statement.

Introducing bet limits on online slots is the UK Government's first step in a series of measures aimed at nipping such risks in the bud.

Increased affordability checks on players and a new fee on betting firms to support research, education, and treatment for problem gamblers are also in the works.

The lower maximum bet limit for 18-24-year-olds is a direct response to evidence showing they have higher problem gambling scores and less money to spend.

A strong connection has also been found between gambling-related harm and suicide among them.

The DCMS opines that ongoing brain development in these young adults affects risk perception, especially with newfound financial independence.

Impact on Operators

People and organizations fighting problem gambling in the UK have welcomed the reform.

However, operators fear the new stake limits will hit the finances of UK online casinos, particularly slot revenues.

A similar situation occurred in 2018 when the betting limits on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in High Street betting shops were slashed from £100 to a measly £2 per spin.

This led to a revenue drop, resulting in thousands of outlet closures and staff layoffs, as operators had predicted.

Fast forward to today, the Government expects the proposed stake limits to decrease revenue from online slots by around 5.2% and from all remote gambling by about 2.6%.

A DCMS white paper from April 2023 estimated that a limit of £8.50 would cost the industry up to £185m. So, a limit of £5 or £2 would push the costs only higher.

Online slots have been crucial for the UK gambling industry's success.

From January to March 2024, their total revenue reached £614 million, with March 2024 alone bringing in £220.4 million.

Lowering the maximum stake limit will decrease revenues and raise the costs associated with updating all slot games to comply with the new norms.

There are concerns in the industry that stricter regulations like these will lead to players deserting the licensed and regulated gambling industry for offshore-licensed casinos where customer protection is considerably lower.

This would see revenue figures falling even further.

But there is indeed a need to do something about online slot games.

Figures shared by GambleAware from 2022-23 37.9% show that those suffering from gambling harm mentioned online slots as one of the top three gambling activities to cause them problems.

Unlike the recent measures taken by the governments of Bulgaria, Canada, and the Netherlands, the UK has not considered banning gambling incentives such as new user bonuses and promo codes advertised by casinos online or on TV.

The UKGC believes the new measures will “build on existing protections and controls” that are already in place for online slots, such as the 2.5-second spin delay and ban on autoplay and bonus buy features.

However, the decision to have a high maximum stake limit of £5 for those aged over 25 has been criticised.

Labour MP Carolyn Harris is the chair of a cross-party group that looks at gambling-related harm. Her view is that there is clear evidence that the £2 maximum stake limit should be imposed on all players.

The Labour MP claimed that the Conservative Government had “sided with the (gambling) industry” and “should rethink” their decision.

With Labour possibly in power after the next General Election, there could be more uncertainty ahead for the UK gambling industry.

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