UK Online Gambling Shakeup Hits Slots Players, Poker Left Unscathed

3 min read

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) published new rules on Tuesday that will make slot gaming slower, but leave online poker largely unaffected.

Slot machine
The UK Gambling Commission has introduced new rules designed to help online consumers control their spending. (Image: Fifplay)

The new rules are the latest update to the 2005 Gambling Act. As part of its ongoing effort to make online betting and gaming safer, the UKGC, in tandem with the British government, launched a consultation in late 2020.

The aim was to procure feedback from consumers and operators before implementing new gambling regulations fit for the digital era.

This latest round of changes were published Tuesday, and poker, for the most part, remains untouched.

UK Gambling Commission Takes Aim at Slots

The new regulations mainly focus on slots. UKGC data shows that slots account for 70% of all online gaming activity in the UK.

During the pandemic, players spent, on average, £67 per month on slots compared to £36 on other casino games, and £45 on sports betting.

The updated rules are designed to slow down games and remove certain psychological triggers:

  • Slots can no longer include features that speed up play or give the illusion of control over the outcome
  • There must be at least 2.5 seconds between spins
  • Autoplay features are no longer allowed
  • Sounds or images that present a prize below the value of a player’s stake as a win are no longer allowed
  • Operators must display a player’s total losses/wins and time played during a session
  • Operators can no longer offer reverse withdrawals (i.e., a player can’t request a withdrawal, cancel it, and have the funds returned to their account)

Licensees have until Oct. 31 to implement the new rules.

Of those listed, only point #6 is relevant to poker players. The other rules are in line with a general push to make responsible gambling the first priority in the casino sector.

Rules Won’t Affect Online Poker

Senior consultant at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming Alun Bowden pointed out that some of the new rules are already in place.

Paddy Power and PokerStars have phased in slower spin speeds over the last few months, with timers counting down before another bet can be made.

Other rules, such as a ban on autoplay, could have a noticeable impact on spending. But, on the whole, the latest rules won’t dramatically alter the UK online gambling industry.

It’s worth noting, however, that this isn’t the end.

Sports Restrictions on the Horizon?

The UKGC is also reviewing the relationship between sport and gambling. Sponsorship deals between betting companies, teams, individuals, and organizations have come under scrutiny in recent years.

Almost 50% of Premier League soccer clubs have a betting sponsor. That figure rises to 70% in the lower leagues.

Certain government ministers, including Labour MP Carolyn Harris, have been critical of this. If new rules impose a ban on sponsorships, it could deal a financial blow to both industries.

For all the changes and potential changes, online poker remains largely the same. Although UK players won’t be able to reverse withdrawal requests, they can continue playing as they were before.

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