On 31st October 2021, the UKGC decided to slam the door on multiplay in slots – both online and offline. Consequently, UK players at fast withdrawal casinos can now play only one slot game at a time.
Is it a good thing? Is it bad? This article decodes the reasons this step was taken, how it affects players, casino operators, and game providers, and what the loopholes are in it.
- Multiplay in slot gaming refers to playing multiple slot games simultaneously.
- Multi-play of online slots can happen on a single screen or multiple screens, on a single browser or multiple browsers, and on a single IP or multiple IPs.
- Multi-play can also happen when you open multiple slots in different tabs of the same browser or on different browsers or even on different devices.
- The functionality for multi-play can be designed by casino operators or game providers or both.
- The UKGC has banned multiplay in slots, both online and offline to promote responsible gambling and protect players from gambling-related harm, which means UK players can only spin one slot at a time.
- Currently, the ban is on operator-led multiplay functionality and even covers slot games that combine multiple titles into one, thus facilitating multiplay.
- Playing multiple slots at once can provide greater entertainment value, time efficiency, faster completion of bonus wagering requirements, and flexibility in personalising the gaming experience.
- On the other hand, playing multiple slots at once can decrease focus and enjoyment, increase financial risk, aggravate the risk of gambling addiction and interfere with responsible gambling practices.
- The ban received support from 69% of survey respondents, including casino operators, who agreed with restricting the number of slot games per account to one.
- The UKGC is considering further regulation on multi-reel slots, which are currently exempt from the ban but may be reviewed in the future.
To understand the reason behind the ban, it is crucial to understand how multiplay works in slot gaming. First and foremost…
What is Multiplay in Online Slot Gaming?
Multiplay in online slot gaming is akin to walking and chewing gum at the same time. It is a way of playing multiple slot games simultaneously.
It is also known as multi-slot play or multi-reel play. Instead of playing one slot game at a time, you can engage in more than one game concurrently with all the games activated all at once.
By definition, the slots in a multiplay session can be as follows:
- Discrete games from the same provider
- Discrete games from different providers
- A single game with multiple sets of reels that are all different
- A single game with multiple sets of reels that are all the same
Whatever be the type, each game typically operates independently, with its own reels, paylines, and features. Multi-reel slots might seem like an exception in this case. But the individual sets of reels, too, operate independently, although the symbols and features could remain the same.
During multiplay, you can place bets on all the slots simultaneously or on one while the others are still active. Here are the usual variations:
The gaming screen is divided into two or more sections, each displaying a separate slot game. Each game functions in a solitary state and usually has its own betting controls that let you adjust your bets, spin the reels, and track the results separately.
The split screen feature, when available, is typically functional on desktop screens as well as mobile. It is enabled by the casino operator as an opt-in feature when you open a specific slot game to play.
It is usually located right on the slot game screen at the top or side as a plus sign or similar icon. Clicking it opens a new frame within the same screen in which you can load another slot. You can then drag and move about each slot game according to your preference.
The total number of slots you can launch on a single screen will vary from one casino to the next. Also, the discretion of which slot games to allow for multiplay usually lies with the online casino. Some operators enable all of their slots while others allow most of them.
Please note that oftentimes split-screen gaming enabled by online casinos combines slots with other games. But for the sake of relevance, we will stick to talking only about split-screen features in casinos that allow playing multiple slots.
In certain cases, even game developers come up with titles that infuse two or more slot games into one. These slots look like the screen has been split and you’re playing two different games. However, inherently, they are just one game with multiple reels that function differently but share the same betting controls.
An apt example of this is the now-obsolete Planet of the Apes slot by NetEnt where half the screen was for ‘Rise’ and the other half for ‘Dawn.’
The above can be considered a multi-reel slot with the two sets of reels being clearly distinct with distinct symbols. There’s another variation of multi-reel slots where the reels are the same and contain the same symbols, but are clubbed into several sections.
Slot games like Novomatic’s 4 Reel Kings and Skywind’s Disco Mania MegaWays Merge perfectly fit into this category. Check out the image below and you’ll understand why.
Another of similar kind is The Epic Journey slot by Quickspin. This game comes with three screens containing five reels each. The first screen has 40 lines while the other two have 30 lines.
These multi-reel slots and those with distinct reel sets might look like solo games, but they are technically provider-designed multiplay slots in nature.
Slot multiplay sessions in grid view aren’t any different from that in split screen. The only difference is that instead of splitting the screen, the games are displayed in a grid layout.
The sections in the latter are usually the same size, while in split screens, they may be different. Also, just like in split screens, you can view multiple games at once in the grid view and play them, too.
Moreover, multiplayer sessions in grid view can have slots from the same provider or different providers. They can even have multi-reel slots with the same types of reels or different ones.
When you are logged into one or more casino accounts using multiple tabs on the same browser and spinning slots in all of them, it amounts to multiplay.
However, this isn’t a casino-enabled or provider-designer multiplay feature per se. Instead, it is just a player-devised way of accessing multiple slots, especially when there’s no multiplay feature available in the casino.
Playing multiple slot games in multiple browsers on the same device – whether through one casino account or more – is yet another way. Because the IP address remains the same, it still amounts to multiplay. Again, this isn’t a multiplay feature enabled by the casino or game provider as such.
Last but not least is the option to play multiple slot games on multiple screens, which basically means using desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets all at once to access a single casino account or multiple ones.
To keep things simple, we will avoid discussing slot games with bonus features that trigger more reels than what’s available in the base game. In a way, they constitute multiplay, but not in the exact sense of the term.
Which Multiplay Options Has the UKGC Banned?
Here’s what the UKGC has stated:
So, the current ban on multiplay of slots is on, but not limited to the following options in a licensed casino:
- Discrete slot games from the same provider played on split screens, grid view, multiple tabs on the same browser, multiple browsers and multiple screens
- Discrete slots games from different providers played in split screen, grid view, multiple tabs on the same browser, multiple browsers and multiple screens.
- Multiple slot titles combined in a way it facilitates multiplay (slots like Planet of the Apes slot, for instance)
It appears that the ban doesn’t cover multi-reel slots with the same reel sets at the moment. However, the UKGC has said that they are well aware of the existence of such games and their potential to cause gambling addiction, which is why this area is still under their review.
At present, multi-reel slots are few and far between, which is perhaps why the Gambling Commission isn’t too keen on banning them right away. But if they boom in the future, we’re pretty sure they’ll be gone from every licensed casino, including the fastest withdrawal casinos in the UK.
Why Is Playing Multiple Slots a Good Thing?
Playing multiple slots at once can be seen as a good thing for several reasons:
Greater Entertainment Value
Playing multiple slots simultaneously allows you to experience a wider range of games and themes in a lesser span of time.
It adds variety to your gameplay and keeps things interesting by preventing monotony. It also creates a more fast-paced and action-packed experience, intensifying the overall entertainment value.
By playing multiple slots concurrently, you can make the most of your time at an online casino and increase your chances of winning. Instead of waiting for one game to finish before starting another, you can have multiple games running simultaneously, increasing the number of spins and potential wins.
Bonuses and Loyalty Rewards
Some online casinos offer bonuses and loyalty rewards based on the volume of play. Playing multiple slots simultaneously can help you meet the requirements for these bonuses faster, potentially increasing your overall rewards and benefits.
While playing through bonus wagering requirements, engaging in multiple slots can reduce the time that would be otherwise spent playing a single slot. Because there is almost always a time limit to meet wagering requirements, multiplay is the better way out.
Flexibility and Personalisation
Playing multiple slots allows you to customise your gaming experience based on your preferences. You can choose slot games with different themes, RTPs, volatility levels, or features, tailoring your gameplay to suit your bankroll and mood.
Why Is Playing Multiple Slots a Bad Thing?
While playing multiple slots at once may seem appealing to some, there are several reasons why it can be considered a bad thing. Here are some arguments against spinning more than one slot at a time:
Decreased Focus and Enjoyment
A wise man once said, “To do two things at the same time is to enjoy neither.” Playing multiple slots requires dividing your attention among several games simultaneously, even if it’s on the same screen. It can be overwhelming, confusing and chaotic.
This can lead to a reduced level of focus on each game, potentially diminishing your overall enjoyment of the experience. After a point in time, your might feel fuzzed and lose track of each game's outcomes, bet sizes, and features.
Lack of Deeper Engagement
By playing multiple slots simultaneously, you may miss out on the immersive experience that comes with focusing on a single game. You might not fully appreciate the intricacies and details of a particular slot game if your attention is divided.
Increased Financial Risk
Playing multiple slots simultaneously means placing bets on multiple games simultaneously. This can result in a higher rate of spending, bad bankroll management and increased financial risk. Your bankroll might burn out and losses might accumulate more quickly across multiple games.
Reduced Chances of Winning
While it may seem logical that playing multiple slots would increase your chances of winning, it is not necessarily true. Each slot game operates independently, and playing multiple games simultaneously does not improve your odds of winning or increase the payout potential in any single game.
Obviously, spins that result in winning outcomes will be more the more slots you play. However, since each individual game is designed to return less than what you put in (in the long run), playing multiple slots is likely to lead to quicker losses.
Increased Risk of Gambling Addiction
Engaging in multiple gambling activities simultaneously can be indicative of risky gambling behaviour. It may lead to excessive gambling, addiction, and financial problems, particularly for vulnerable individuals prone to gambling-related issues.
Interference with Responsible Gambling Practices
Responsible gambling involves setting limits, managing bankroll, and maintaining self-control. Playing multiple slots at once can make it difficult to adhere to these practices, as it is harder to keep track of your overall betting activity and exercise responsible behaviour.
Increased Chances of Chasing Losses
When playing multiple slots concurrently, the desire to recover losses from one game by winning in another can intensify. This behaviour, known as chasing losses, can lead to impulsive decision-making and further financial losses.
Why Did the UKGC Ban Multiplay Gaming for Slots?
The UKGC’s ban on the multiplay of slots perfectly aligns with its effort to promote responsible gambling and safeguard players from gambling-related harm. It has been placed in conjunction with a few other bans on slot features, including auto-spin and turbo mode.
Imagine a player staking money in 10 different slots all at once and putting each one of them on auto-spin with the turbo mode activated. The casino would be raking in the moolah while the player could go broke because we all know, the house always wins in the end.
This might trigger the person to chase losses and recover his money. But that’s the worst thing to do when gambling. Also, we can’t ignore the fact that high-speed gambling has all the chances of becoming addictive, especially when there’s gratification.
With too many slots spinning, there might be more countable wins, which might give a false impression that the player is winning a lot and tempt them to spin more.
The UKGC doesn’t want residents of the country to get addicted to a way of gambling that only increases the intensity of play and consequently, the staking of money. Also, it doesn’t want casino operators or even the providers for that matter to be the perpetrators.
Although the current prohibition is only on operator-led multiplay functionality in slot gaming, we won’t be surprised if, in the future, it formulates rules for game providers as well. Combining multiple slot titles into one has been disallowed anyway.
What Was the Overall Response to the Ban?
Of all the respondents to the UKGC’s initial proposal to ban multiplay in slots, 69% expressed their support for the suggestion to restrict the number of slot games that can be accessed per casino account at any given time to one.
Of them, 32 respondents were operators who either simply agreed or strongly agreed to the proposed ban. However, 7 other operators held a contrary view, either simply disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.
As stated by the UKGC, the operators overwhelmingly agreed with the objective of the proposal, although a few reservations were expressed regarding its phrasing.
On the other hand, the same proposal received mixed reviews from members of the public with 26 individuals expressing agreement and 19 individuals expressing disagreement. Various concerns were raised, which include the following:
- Technical challenges that may arise to disable the multiplay feature.
- Different responsibilities for casino operators and game suppliers.
- Difficulty in preventing simultaneous slot gaming on multiple casino accounts.
- Hindrance to innovation in game development.
- Difficulty in bonus wagering without slot multiplay.
Some casino operators were of the opinion that the onus would fall on them to implement the proposed ban as game suppliers would be able to monitor only their own games. The latter would not be able to detect if a player engages in multiple games from other suppliers.
They have further stressed the significance of clearly defining the responsibility for compliance. It is to be noted that according to the UKGC one of the game suppliers has already implemented measures to stop players from accessing multiple slots, although it is limited to its own supply.
Also, operators who support the proposal’s objective, have expressed concerns about the technical complexities involved in preventing multiple slot play across multiple devices, as the required functionality is currently unavailable.
Some casino operators expressed worries that the wording of the proposal could place compliance breaches beyond their control and that players could seek refunds if they can figure out how to bypass the controls.
Operators have also highlighted the concern of the proposed controls being circumvented, through the use of multiple accounts, thereby negating the intended benefits.
They argued that the proposal may inadvertently encourage customers to switch between or create additional accounts, leading to increased deposits.
Certain operators have even questioned how to differentiate between games with multiple reels and playing multiple games simultaneously. They have cited examples of popular products in other jurisdictions, such as those featuring four individually configurable slots or Belgian skill slots.
Operators feared that prohibiting such content would stifle innovation and creativity. Instead, they proposed focusing the requirement on features deliberately designed to promote simultaneous play on multiple slots.
Players, on the other hand, have indicated that they may play on multiple slots to either reduce variance or save time compared to playing a single game to meet bonus wagering requirements.
Concerns have been raised that time-limited wagering requirements would become more challenging to meet. One of the respondents even suggested limiting multiplay to two slot games.
Despite the mixed responses, the UKGC’s ban on multiplay in slots is now in place.
What Is the Impact of the Ban?
On Fast Paying Online Casino
For fast paying casinos in the UK, the ban means they must disable any multi-play function in their slot lobby. This includes the clickable option to split screens to load more slot games as well as the option to load multiple slots in multiple tabs, browsers, and devices.
Failing to do so will invite consequences, which means they have to be constantly alert. Also, the ban means they could lose business, especially from those players who love playing online slots the traditional way – with all the features intact.
On UK Players
Let’s just say players who love spinning reels with the dexterity of octopuses are now required to take it slow, savour the spins, and keep things responsible.
They can now spin the reels of only one slot at a time so they don’t get caught up in the frenzied pursuit of a win and become addicted in the process.
For high rollers and lovers of fast-paced gaming, this is bad news. It's like being handed a single chocolate chip cookie when the hope is high for a whole jar of tantalizing treats.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see them take their business elsewhere and play at offshore online casinos if they find them reliable and more lenient.
On Slot Developers
For the suppliers, there’s no obligation to prevent players from loading more than one slot game but, any attempt to do so is appreciated by the UKGC. Nevertheless, they cannot be held accountable if players manage to load multiple slot games.
The ban on multiplay wouldn't necessarily hurt their inner creative maestro or serve as developer demotivation as well if they weren’t particularly planning on creating new slots by infusing their old titles.
However, with slot gaming in the UK turning slow and monotonous, it will definitely impact their business bottom line.
Is There Any Loophole in the Current Rule?
The ban on multiplay in slots is currently on the casino operator’s functionality that has been purpose-built to encourage players to load and play multiple slot games simultaneously.
So, you cannot play them on the same tab or on two different tabs in the same casino account. But, there’s no ban on playing slots on multiple casinos simultaneously. The UKGC is yet to find a way to combat this.
Also, slot games with multiple reels, which basically constitute multiplay, are still available for UK online gamblers. As already mentioned, this area is under the UKGC’s review. Until then, this loophole would be exploited by those who love them some good spin!
After all, something is better than nothing.
So What Did We Learn?
The UKGC's ban on the multiplay of slots at fast withdrawal casinos has sparked a debate among players, casino operators, and game providers. While it aims to promote responsible gambling and protect players from potential harm, it also dilutes the thrill of slot gaming.
Playing multiple slots simultaneously offers good entertainment value and particularly helps with meeting wagering requirements quickly. Of course, it also carries risks such as gambling addiction and increased financial risk.
The Gambling Commission’s efforts are commendable, but there’s still room for more work, especially with all the loopholes in the ban that allows players to still play multiple slots using multiple casino accounts.
The biggest challenge, however, is to address the churn rate that would arise as a result of players choosing other fast withdrawal casinos that aren’t subject to the UKGC’s rules. With such bans being absent in most other jurisdictions, it would be interesting to see how the Gambling Commission stands its ground in the near future.