Gambling Commission consults on online slots game design and reverse withdrawals

United Kingdom

On 9 July 2020, the Gambling Commission announced that it is consulting on changes to the regulation of online slot games design. This follows the Commission’s industry challenge report, which it published in October 2019, and through which it set various challenges for operators to tackle in order to make gambling safer for consumers (see Law-Now article). One such challenge to the industry included considering responsible innovation in terms of game and product design to discourage gambling addiction and reduce risk of harm to vulnerable individuals. Following this, the Commission published a report on the progress of operators against the challenges set (see Law-Now article) where it confirmed that it would be consulting on game and product design.

The Consultation

The Commission has stated that its interest in online slots stems from the fact that it is the largest online gambling product by Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) – played by relatively few but with a high average spend. Due to the intensity and speed of play and frequency of betting opportunities, the Commission highlights that online slots pose a relatively high risk to vulnerable individuals.

In the consultation, the Commission has proposed the following:

  • redefining online slots under the Remote Gambling and Software Technical Standards to increase controls on slot products. Currently, there is no separate licence type for remote slots as it is a casino product under the Gambling Act 2005;
  • banning split-screen slots and operators being required to ensure that customers can only play one slot game at a time per account across multiple tabs/windows, browsers, applications or devices;
  • removing auto-play options for online slots;
  • requiring operators to inform customers of their “net position” by ensuring they know whether or not they are winning or losing during a gaming session, and by how much;
  • removing sound or visual effects from those which are associated with a small win, in order to make a clear distinction to the player between “true winning spins (an amount greater than the total stake is returned) and other spins (an amount less than or equal to the total stake returned)”; and
  • removing the ability of operators to reverse customer withdrawal requests, a requirement which has already been put in place temporarily following guidance published by the Commission to protect consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic (see Law-Now article).

Through the consultation, the Commission will evaluate “the impact of the controls and friction proposed in this consultation to reduce the intensity of the play experience for consumers and will take further action if necessary”.

The Commission has confirmed that regulatory intervention is needed to make online gambling safer, with this consultation forming just one part of a comprehensive package of work the Commission is undertaking to increase consumer protection.

The consultation opened on 9 July 2020 and will close on 3 September 2020. To take part in the consultation, please click here.

Article co-authored by Fatima Butt