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UK Gambling Commission Unleashes New Slot Game Regulations

Updated by Dale Shelabarger

On Tuesday, the UK Gambling Commission announced the introduction of new regulations for online slots that will effectively ban a slew of in-game features. The measures are part of a public consultation launched in the summer of 2020 to evaluate the potential dangers of online slot game design. They come into force on 31 October 2021.

So what are these new rules and how will they affect players? Here’s a run-down of the main features to be banned and the thinking behind their prohibition.

Features Which Quicken Play

This is an area that’s been a cause of concern for quite some time now. There’s been plenty of research on the subject, with numerous academics suggesting that faster-paced slots encourage participants to spend more money. A lot of this has to do with psychological rewards-based characteristic present in all slots, known as variable ratio scheduling.

In terms of reel-spinning VRS basically describes how pay-outs are rewarded to players inconsistently over a set time frame-frame, thus encouraging them to stake more money in an often forlorn pursuit of the prize. It goes without saying that developers exploit this psychological trick to the full, by including ‘quick-spin’ and ‘turbo-mode’ options. Speeding up the reels makes the problem even worse because players have less time to make informed decisions about the chances of winning.

What This Means for Players – as of October 31, quick-spin and turbo-mode buttons will no longer be available in UK-based slot games. All reel speeds will be under 2.5 seconds as well.

The Control Illusion

Developers also like to throw in elements that convince (some) players that they have a certain amount of control over the outcome of their chosen slot game. This crafty tactic plays on the malformed notion that we’re able to influence the outcome of random events. When it comes to gambling, this can prove a rather expensive irrationality.

To cash-in, game creators often include things like adjustable pay-lines. But of more concern to the Gambling Commission is the ‘slam stop’ function which allows gamers to stop the reels mid-spin. This of course has no bearing on the probability of forming a winning combination.

What This Means For Players – you can say bye-bye to ‘slam-stop’ although it’s unclear whether or not the adjustable pay-lines function will be outlawed.

AutoPlay Function

There are numerous issues surrounding the auto-play button. For one thing, it can be difficult to keep track of your spend, It can also be hard to keep tabs on game-play. 42% of players surveyed by the Gambling Commission said as much as part of the Government’s public consultation. However, it’s fair to say that these issues are made much worse by the fact that a lot of seasoned gamers use auto-play to play slots in multiple windows. We’d respectively suggest that those of you who employ such a tactic might need some sort of professional support.

What this Means for Players – by the time Halloween comes round, auto-play will no longer be available – probably for the best, we’d say.

Split-Screen Functionality

As well as prohibiting auto-play, the Gambling Commission is to take further steps to prevent slot play in multiple windows. Operators will be required to eliminate split or multi-screen functionality on their websites.

What this Means for Players – while it won’t be possible to play multiple slots at the same time, you’ll still be able to engage in games across multiple browsers or devices. Don’t expect this amnesty to last very long though – the UKGC are already looking at ways to restrict the practice.

Celebratory Sounds or Imagery That Gives the Illusion of a Win

Any sounds and/or visual embellishments that indicate a win despite the actual return being less than or equal to the original stake are to be banned. The Gambling Commission has suggested these elements have the potential to induce ‘hot states’ which in turn could lead to gamble-related harm.

What this Means for Players – as well as the end of celebratory ‘hot states’, (whatever they might be) many of the bells and whistles that accompany typical reel spinning will be muted from October 31 onwards.

Operators must also display players’ financial position during each game session and their time spent playing. Reverse withdrawals have been banned too.

And that’s pretty much a wrap for the Gambling Commission’s latest raft of restrictions. Suffice to say, there are plenty more on the way. We’ll keep you posted via our news section when they’re announced, fear not.

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