UK to apply £2/£5 stake limits on slots from September

DCMS Select Committee to investigate UK gambling regulation
Image: Shutterstock

The UK government has confirmed that staking limits will be applied to online slot games from September as a guaranteed player protection measure following the Gambling Review, under its White Paper consultation.

The decision was announced by Stuart Andrew MP, Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), a judgment deemed as a “landmark moment for UK gambling.”

Remote-licensed operators will have a 6-month period to implement a maximum £2 stake limit on online slot games for customers aged 18-to-24.

A further £5 stake limit will be applied to adults aged over 25, as the government introduces protections for online slot games matching customer restrictions applied in land-based gambling venues. 

The measure is implemented in response to evidence submitted to the White Paper consultation on player protections, in which the government endorsed tougher measures to protect young adults aged 18-24 from gambling harms.

SBC News DCMS confirms September application of £2/£5 stake limits on online slots
Stuart Andrew: DCMS

DCMS noted: “This age group has the highest average problem gambling score of any group, as well as a lower disposable income, ongoing neurological development impacting risk perception, and common life stage factors like managing money for the first time.

“The evidence also points to a stronger link between gambling-related harm and suicide among young adults.”

By applying £2 and £5 staking limits, DCMS fulfills a guiding objective of the Gambling Review, in which remote licensed operators were previously informed that forthcoming changes would “introduce statutory limits for online slot games to help reduce the risk of gambling harms.”

“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,” noted Stuart Andrew’s announcement.

“The growing popularity of online gambling is clear to see, so this announcement will level the playing field with the land-based sector and is the next step in a series of measures being introduced this year that will protect people from gambling harms.”

DCMS confirmed that staking limits will be enacted via secondary legislation, which cannot be disrupted by the call of a General Election. Operators will be afforded a six-week transition period to become compliant with the new rules, followed by a further six weeks to ensure all necessary technical compliance for customer protections.

The judgement references evidence provided by the NHS survey figures and the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities , for the need to apply stronger online gambling protections for players/consumers under-25.

SBC News DCMS confirms September application of £2/£5 stake limits on online slots
Zoë Osmond: GambleAware

The decision was welcomed by Zoë Osmond, CEO of GambleAware, who praised DCMS for limiting play on online slots, which are considered UK gambling’s highest risk products: “We welcome the Government’s announcement to introduce lower online stake limits for under 25s as an important mechanism to protect young people.

“Our research shows a concerning trend with this age group experiencing an increase in harm arising from gambling, and online slots are very high-risk products.

Operators were reminded that the upcoming changes form part of a broader set of proposals in the Government’s White Paper aimed at “modernising the gambling sector for the digital age”.

Forthcoming changes include a statutory levy for research, prevention, and treatment, and financial risk checks to prevent significant losses, with the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) and the Government continuing to consult on these measures to balance protections with freedoms.

The approval of staking limits on online slots follows yesterday’s announcement by the Gambling Commission that it would begin its pilot programme with remote gambling operators to test the application of financial risk checks at the threshold recommended by the White Paper.

Michael Dugher, BGC
Michael Dugher: BGC

An update by Industry trade body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) detailed that members had already implemented necessary changes and technical adjustments to accommodate staking limits coming into law this September.

CEO Michael Dugher, explained: “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.

“It is important to recognise 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.”