Lower Maximum Stake Limits for UK Online Slots Games to be Introduced

September is going to be an important month for UK gamblers and the gambling industry as a whole. That’s when new maximum stake limits for online slot games come into force.

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Those aged 18-24 won’t be able to stake more than £2 per spin and older players will see a new limit of £5. How will this affect the UK gambling industry and what has been the reaction to the proposals?

Whereas there are maximum stake limits in place for slots at land-based venues, no such situation currently exists online. That’s a big problem with UK gambling legislation as the last major Act in this area came into force 19 years ago. There was no 24/7 gambling online at that time so it’s acknowledged that a massive update for the digital age is required.

It’s taken a long time to get to the point where action is beginning to be taken by the current UK Conservative Government. Last year saw a UK White Paper on gambling reform finally published. It had the aim of introducing new legislation aimed at online gambling which is so popular now.

Another aim was to increase the protection of gamblers, particularly those in the 18-24 age group. Research has shown that the percentage of people suffering gambling harm in this age group is 1%. That’s higher than the overall figure of 0.3%.

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The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Culture Media and Sport is Stuart Andrew. When making a speech in the House of Commons on the subject of the new online slot maximum stake limits and explained why action needed to be taken.

MPs were told that online slot games can be “associated with large losses, long sessions, and binge play, posing a higher risk of gambling harm.” A worrying situation that is being made worse by the lack of any statutory stake limits.

He added that the 2023 White Paper had addressed this situation and the need of a “levelling” of the “regulatory playing field between offline and online gambling.” Above all, the UK’s gambling laws need to be brought into “the smartphone era.”

What has been the reaction of those who have been campaigning for stricter regulation of the UK gambling industry? Let’s look first at the views of the Labour MP Carolyn Harris as they are important for two reasons.

Firstly, the MP is the chair of a cross-party group of politicians that examines gambling-related harm. Secondly, a General Election is on the way in the UK and it is one that is currently expected to see Labour take power. If that is the case, they would be in charge of the gambling reforms.

The MP has welcomed the introduction of the new maximum stake limits and said she was pleased “the government has seen sense.” That referred to the £2 limit for those aged under 25. Harris wasn’t so pleased about the £5 stake limit for older players commenting: “There is, however, clear evidence that a £2 limit should be in place for everyone to prevent harm. The government has sided with the industry and should rethink.”

Would this therefore mean an incoming Labour Government might introduce even stricter regulations on the UK gambling industry? Only time and enough votes to replace the Tories in Downing Street will tell us the answer.

The charity Gambling With Lives was co-founded by Liz Ritchie. Sadly, her son Jack became addicted to gambling and later committed suicide. Her views on the new measures therefore reflect those who have seen how gambling (and particularly online slots) can change people’s lives. Not just the gamblers themselves but their family and friends.

Mrs Ritchie believes the Government has “lost another opportunity to stop the harm caused by high stake sizes.” The co-founder added: “The truth is that many more people will die.”

The UK gambling industry acknowledges that the current laws need to be updated. The reduction in maximum stakes for online slots will hit their revenues. Some online casinos such as bet365, started awarding players with additional bonus spins without any wagering requirements with an aim to attract and retain customers. Recently released statistics show that online casinos aren’t just visited by those wanting to play table games.

Online slots contributed around 35% of revenues in the year to March 2023. Of a figure of £4bn, 80% came from the playing of online slots.

The fear of the gambling industry isn’t just a reduction in revenue from online slots but losing customers altogether. Stricter regulation could drive gamblers away from licensed and regulated UK casinos. Instead, they may decide to gamble on the black market. That’s more revenue lost and for the gamblers, a significant reduction in the level of customer protection.

With more measures such as stricter affordability checks, it’s a worrying time for the UK gambling industry.