Great Britain introduces age-dependent betting limits for online casinos

UK Gambling Minister Stuart Andrew is overseeing the introduction of new rules for online casino gambling, which most recently included age limits for slot machines. (Image: Dean Williams / Alamy)

Under new UK government rules, online slots players in the UK will be unable to wager more than £5 per spin. And if you’re under 25, your maximum bet is even lower.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced changes on Friday that will impose a limit of £2 per spin for players aged between 18 and 24 and £5 for players aged 25 and over from September.

“We are committed to introducing a maximum stake limit for online slots to minimize the risk of uncontrolled or rapid losses, which can significantly contribute to gambling-related harm,” the DCMS announcement said.

These are the first in a series of expected changes designed to make gambling in the UK safer for participants.

DCMS claims that adults under 25 are at greater risk of gambling harm due to their younger age, lower disposable income and other factors affecting young adults.

However, two gaming lawyers who spoke to Casinos.com say the impact of these new age restrictions will be difficult to measure and could do more harm than good.

Problem gambling, black market concerns

Richard Williams, a partner at Keystone Law, claims restrictions will not protect problem gamblers but will instead drive them into the black market.

“This only applies if these customers have not already found alternatives to UK-licensed operators due to increased social responsibility measures in recent years,” Williams told Casinos.com.

He suggested that problem gamblers continue to be attracted by better offers, better RTP (return-to-player) and less regulation when they sign up with operators who are not licensed in the UK.

Melanie Ellis, a partner at Northridge Law, shares this concern.

“Customers aged 18 to 24 are most likely to be tech-savvy enough to find unlicensed operators if they want to place bets of more than £2,” Ellis told Casinos.com.

Bad science?

Ellis said she did not believe the introduction of betting limits on online slots was based on compelling evidence that they would protect customers.

However, she believes the impact of these betting limits will be difficult to estimate, as betting limits are just one of many measures the government is introducing that could impact players.

It remains to be seen how customers will adapt their gaming behavior to the new limits.

“Will they play for the same amount of time but lose less money,” Ellis asked, “or will they be more likely to lose the same amount of money but over a longer gaming session or more frequent gaming sessions?”

Richard Williams and Melanie Ellis

Gambling lawyers Richard Williams and Melanie Ellis fear new gambling rules in the UK could make the situation worse. (Images: courtesy of Keystone Law, Northridge Law)

Complicating matters further, she said, the UKGC’s new UK gambling survey will soon replace the NHS health survey data as official statistics.

“Given the large discrepancy in results between the two survey methods at the Commission’s experimental stage,” Ellis said, “it will be difficult to determine whether wagering limits will result in a reduction in problem gambling rates for online slots or customers aged 18 to Leading for 24 years.” .”

The changes also aim to take into account structural differences between land-based slots and online games, with the £5 limit being brought in line with current restrictions on land-based slots.

“The growing popularity of online gambling is clear to see,” said UK Gambling Minister Stuart Andrew, “This announcement levels the playing field with the land-based sector and is the next step in a host of measures being introduced this year.” will protect people from gambling harm.”

Andrew noted that there was a “significantly higher” problem gambling rate on online slots.

“We also know that young adults can be more vulnerable to gambling-related harm, which is why we have committed to tackling both of these issues in our white paper,” Andrew said.

Backed by research

Betting caps based on age are just the first in a series of expected changes from the UK government as part of its white paper review of the gambling industry. Announced in April 2023, these changes have been available for public consultation for the past 10 weeks.

The white paper surveyed 98 respondents to the call for comment, including 46 individual respondents and 52 from organizations.

Of the 98 responses, 24 came from gambling industry representatives, almost all of whom supported a higher limit of £10 to “strike a balance between protection and freedom” for players. The DCMS lifted the cap on consultation responses, confirming that 30% of respondents supported the £2 cap, while only 3% supported a £4 cap.

29 percent of respondents said they supported a blanket limit of £5 for all adults, suggesting increased vigilance from operators would be essential.

Other upcoming changes include so-called “unintrusive” checks on players who lose more than £125 in 24 hours or £500 in a year, with that level of loss triggering an audit of insolvency and CCJ records, for example. Those who lose £1,000 in 24 hours or £2,000 in 3 months – with triggers lower for 18-24 year olds – can expect “smooth” affordability checks, with mandatory data sharing by operators for online customers with high risk.

According to DCMS statistics, 20% of all UK slots players choose to bet £5 per spin at least once a year and would be affected by these changes. Only 0.6% of all spins made by UK players cost more than £5.

But these new online slot betting limits will cost the industry a whopping £166.2 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR) a year, according to DCMS estimates.

Nevertheless, the Betting and Gaming Council, which represents over 97% of licensed operators in the UK, welcomed the new limits.

“It is important to recognize that actions like these come at a cost to our members and impact their customers,” said BGC CEO Michael Dugher. “We must prevent customers from drifting into the unsafe, unregulated online black market unless we proceed carefully and strike the right balance between regulation.”

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