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UK Gets Tough On Out-Of-Control Online Slot Machines With £5 Maximum Stake Limit

UK Gets Tough On Out Of Control Online Slot Machines With £5 Maximum Stake Limit
Posted on February 27, 2024

The United Kingdom government has announced plans to limit online slot machine stakes to address problem gambling, reports The Guardian. As of September 2023, the maximum stake allowed on online slots will be £5 per spin for those over 25 years old and £2 per spin for younger players.

This move brings online slots more in line with land-based machines. It is part of a broader government strategy laid out in a 2023 white paper to regulate the £11 billion per year UK gambling industry and protect vulnerable people from harm caused by gambling. Based on government estimates, the stake caps could cost the industry around £170 million annually.

While campaigners argue the limits don't go far enough, Minister for Gambling Stuart Andrew defends the balanced approach to shield young adults while allowing recreational gambling. Evidence shows higher rates of problem gambling among online slot players compared to other gambling verticals. Online slots also account for the lion's share - £3.2 billion - of losses to online casinos.

Problem gambling is typically measured using screening tools like the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) or psychiatric criteria such as the DSM-IV. A 2018 NHS survey found that 8.5% of online casino participants, including slot players, met the PGSL or DSM-IV threshold for problem gambling. This compares to just 1.3% across all forms of gambling.

The popularity surge of online slots and casinos has alarmed regulators. While millions gamble responsibly, addiction experts caution that video slots with fast spin speeds and casino-style features are designed to maximize player time and spending. As such, they carry an inherent risk for vulnerable individuals.

Reducing maximum stakes, slowing spin speeds, and introducing affordability checks are some harm minimization measures recommended by public health bodies and gambling reform advocates. The UK government white paper also calls for improved public education around gambling risks.

While a step forward, the £5 online slot stake cap for adults still concerns some groups like Gambling with Lives, which argue for a universal £2 limit, in line with land-based reforms made in 2019. Investors meanwhile appeared unconcerned, as gambling stock prices rose on news of the less restrictive-than-expected policy.

Broader political arguments around safeguarding consumer welfare versus preserving industry growth and liberties will likely continue as more countries look to tighten internet gambling oversight. However, with online slots representing an outsized risk, the UK's move toward closer alignment between online and retail gambling regulation appears to be a pragmatic starting point.


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