UK: BGC welcomes online slot stake limits, but cautions against potential customer drift to black market

Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) CEO Michael Dugher, soon to transition to the role of Chair, issued a statement welcoming the recent announcement of new stake limits for online slot games.

We welcome the Government’s decision on new stake limits for online slots games, which provide enhanced protections for young people. The BGC supported the Government’s intention to reform stake limits and we fully engaged in the consultation process and the discussions with Ministers that led to these proposals,” Dugher said.

The new regulation sets the maximum stake on online slots to £2 for individuals under the age of 25, mirroring the government’s 2019 restriction on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). Those aged 25 and older have a higher limit of £5 ($6.3) per spin.

“It is important to recognize that measures like this come with a cost to our members and impact their customers. Nothing in the White Paper should be viewed in isolation, but instead seen as a total package, and I would urge Ministers and the regulator to remain mindful of the overall impact all these changes make for BGC members. We must avoid customers drifting to the unsafe, unregulated black market online if we don’t tread carefully and get the balance of regulation right,” Dugher wrote.

Presently, there is effectively no limit on the amount gamblers can stake on these games, which generate over £3 billion ($3.8 billion) annually and are believed to carry a higher addiction rate compared to other forms of gambling.

The decision, effective in September, aims to address concerns about the addictive nature of easily accessible online slots, mitigating the risk of gambling harm. The lower stake limit for young adults recognizes their vulnerability to gambling-related harm based on factors such as disposable income, neurological development, and life stage.

Gambling Minister Stuart Andrew said: “Although millions of people gamble safely every single day, the evidence shows that there is a significantly higher problem gambling rate for online slot games. We also know that young adults can be more vulnerable when it comes to gambling-related harms, which is why we committed to addressing both of these issues in our white paper.”

The enforcement of stake limits will be carried out through secondary legislation, providing operators with a transition period for compliance.

The broader government White Paper package also includes measures to support the land-based gambling industry while modernizing regulations to tackle challenges in digital gambling.

Online casinos constitute the largest and fastest-growing segment of the UK gambling industry, contributing £4 billion to the sector’s £11 billion revenues last year, excluding the national lottery. Within this, slots accounted for £3.2 billion, as per the latest statistics from the Gambling Commission for the year ending March 2023.  The imposition may result in significant revenue losses for the UK gambling sector, potentially amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds.