UKGC Proposes Online Slot Design Changes for Consumer Safety

  • Suggested changes include removing autoplay and quick spin features
  • Speed of gaming is considered a factor that increases gambling harm and addiction
  • Proposed changes also include removing animations that celebrate losses disguised as wins
  • The consultation will continue through early September

 

Zoomed-in text reading "consumer protection"
The UKGC has launched a consultation for online slot design changes in order to improve consumer safety protections. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Consultation for game controls

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has announced a new consultation process involving online slot design changes. The goal of the public consultation is to gain insight into greater protections for vulnerable gamblers. The UKGC outlines several proposals that include new controls to reduce the potential for harm from online slots.

When 2020 began, an industry working group – led by Playtech and Scientific Games – was formed to come up with significant online slot design changes to provide further protection for players. The group suggested initiatives such as creating a minimum game cycle and removing slam-stops or turbo features.

reduce slot intensity, improve information provided to players, and prohibit reverse withdrawals

In an April progress report, the commission urged the group to go further and faster with its efforts. By June, it ruled that the group had fallen short, so the regulator decided to take the lead.

The group’s recommendations have now been combined with proposals from license holders. The UKGC will merge this information with what it gathers from the consultation. The ultimate goal is to reduce slot intensity, improve information provided to players, and prohibit reverse withdrawals.

The consultation started on July 9 and will continue through September 3.

Data driven online slot design changes

Slots data obtained by the UKGC shows that the games are the largest online gambling product based on gross yield. Only 1.2% of adults in Great Britain play them, but the amount of money spent by this group is high. The spend is driven by game features that increase play intensity. The regulator observed:

This means it poses a relatively high risk, reflected in its associated problem and moderate-risk gambling rates.”

It understands that for technology companies, gaming machine developers, and digital content creators to be successful, slots must be able to establish and maintain consumer engagement. They also know, however, that the speed of gaming, betting opportunity frequency, and other factors can contribute to an increase in addiction and harm risk.

Proposed changes

The commission has proposed several changes to the design of slot games as well as to general gameplay. One change includes restricting players to one game at a time. The UKGC cited the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling, which pointed out that split-screen slot gaming increases problem gambling risk.

It also wants to add minimum game cycle speeds to bring online slots to the same level as B3 gambling machines. Requiring a minimum speed of 2.5 seconds between games would put an end to turbo or quick spin gaming.

Related to the above, the commission wants to ban autoplay functions, so players have to make a decision with every spin.

The consultation may also see animations celebrating losses disguised as wins removed. These are in-game events where an animation celebration occurs when a player wins below the amount of their original stake. This makes it appear as though they have won, even though they have lost money.

The UKGC says that online slot design changes are only the first step to keeping players safe. It expects operators to continue to put forth effort in terms of consumer protection.

High-value customer practices

The consultation into game design comes at a time when the UKGC is considering other areas of the gambling industry. In June, the regulator announced a consultation involving high-value customers (HVC). Players who are considered HVC – often called VIPs – receive perks from gambling operators like bonuses, gifts, preferred service, etc.

The UKGC wants to review the HVC incentives and their associated gambling problem risks. It is also reviewing regulatory compliance associated with such deals.