Betting and Gaming Council releases Game Design Code of Conduct

United Kingdom

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has released its inaugural Game Design Code of Conduct, aimed at improving player safety and reducing problem gambling. The Code sets out a number of principles and commitments for members to implement in areas such as game characteristics and informed player choice.

Phase 1 of the Code required BGC members to make the following changes to online slots products by 30 September 2020:

  • remove turbo play or equivalent features;
  • ensure a game cycle speed of at least 2.5 seconds;
  • remove base game slam stops or equivalent features; and
  • remove multi-slot play within a single gaming client.

As part of Phase 2, BGC members have also committed by 31 January 2021 to adjust certain game characteristics, for example to differentiate wins below the stake to those equal to or greater than the stake. Under the new requirements, dynamic win animation and celebratory sound effects will only be permitted for wins equal to or greater than the stake. Additionally, bonus games separate to the base game will no longer be automatically triggered without an express customer acknowledgement.

Members have also committed in the longer term to improving access to safer gambling information and increasing player awareness on time played. The Code highlights that games in future will contain links in prominent positions to key information and will require a mandatory player acknowledgment every 60 minutes. The Code also outlines a variety of areas of research for the BGC Innovation and Testing Lab to inform future changes. This includes projects to:

  • develop more consistent approaches to providing slots game information to players;
  • understand any correlation between the prevalence of increased staking in slots sessions and problem gambling;
  • assess the impact of auto-play on speed of play, limit setting and player control; and
  • give players quicker access to information on their spend and time played.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, commented that the Code provides “further evidence of our industry’s commitment to improving standards” and another example of BGC members’ “determination to address concerns head on”. However, a spokesperson for the UK Gambling Commission was reported as stating that there are some areas of the Code “where we do not consider the industry have gone far enough to protect players”. The Gambling Commission is currently consulting on changes to the regulation of online slot games design, with the outcomes of that consultation to be published soon. For further details, please see our Law-Now.

The Code comes following sustained focus on the gambling industry, with the UK government understood to soon be commencing its review of the Gambling Act 2005.

Article co-authored by Jack Rigelsford.