UK Gambling Commission Bans Key Online Slots Features and Reverse Withdrawals

  • Operators must enact the changes aimed at enhancing player protection by October 31, 2021
  • Online slots lead the way in terms of average loss per player across all online gambling games
  • Measures include a limit on spin speeds, an autoplay ban, session time and win/loss displays
  • The UKGC recently banned the use of credit cards for gambling, introduced stricter VIP protocols
Red Enter button on computer keyboard reads "Ban"
The UKGC has introduced new measures to ban a number of key online slots features, as well as making reverse withdrawals illegal. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Decreasing potential risks

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has announced a raft of changes for online slots. Some of the measures include a spin speed limit, banning autoplay, and no longer allowing features that might portray a loss as a win. The gaming regulator also introduced a ban on reverse withdrawals.

Online gambling operators must ensure that they implement all of the new UKGC measures by October 31, 2021. The commission issued a series of tweets on Tuesday clearly outlining these changes:

The measures follow consultation with slots players, the gambling sector, the public, and other gambling industry-related stakeholders. Their goal is to make online slots safer and less intense, and to better equip players to be in control of their gambling activity. 

The UKGC decided to mainly introduce changes to online slots because such games often contain features that lead to various problem gambling risks. This category of games is at the top of the online gambling average loss per player rankings, and by a considerable margin.

A variety of slots-related changes

In terms of the specific changes resulting from this announcement, any features that lead to faster gameplay or give a player the impression that they possess some level of control over the game’s outcome will no longer be allowed. 

spin speeds for slots games cannot be lower than 2.5 seconds

The spin speeds for slots games cannot be lower than 2.5 seconds, and autoplay features will cease. Imagery or sounds in a game that might portray that the player is a winner despite their return being less than their original stake will also be illegal.

Gambling operators now have to clearly display the total win/loss during a given online slot playing session, as well as session duration. Finally, players can no longer reverse withdrawals. 

The UKGC cited evidence that autoplay features can lead people to engage in multiple forms of gambling at the same time, making it tougher for people to stop gambling and easier to lose track of their play. The allowance of reverse withdrawals tends to tempt players to cancel their payout requests and keep on gambling.

Last year, the UKGC proposed numerous tweaks to the design of online slots. It launched a public consultation on the proposals in July 2020 to act as a basis for the upcoming changes. 

Continually striving for a safer environment

As online gambling becomes more and more popular, various UK authorities are continually pushing to create a safer environment for gamblers. UKGC chief executive Neil McArthur noted in this morning’s press release that the goal of the newly announced bans and measures is “to make online games safer”. 

help curb the intensity of online gambling”

Minister for Sports, Tourism, and Heritage Nigel Huddleston also commented on the new changes. He said: “Today’s steps will help curb the intensity of online gambling, introducing greater protections that will reduce the risk of gambling related harm.” Huddleston also noted that these measures come at a time when the UK government is conducting a review of current gambling legislation.

UK Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) chief Michael Dugher welcomed the changes, while also noting that “none of these new changes apply to the unsafe, unregulated black market online”. The gambling industry body has already introduced some of its own online slots restrictions.

Other UKGC changes that have come into place over the past year include a ban on the use of credit cards when gambling, improving online ID and age verification checks, and implementing better customer interaction policies. New rules also came into effect in October 2020 in an effort to clamp down on irresponsible VIP gambler programs.