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UK government confirms £2 maximum stake for under 25s playing online slots

| By Robert Fletcher
The UK government has today (23 February) announced new maximum stake measures for online slots, with those aged 18-24 to be limited to £2 per spin and over-25s £5.
UK online slots stake

Effective from September, the measures mark the first time maximum stakes have been introduced for online slots in the UK. The government has hailed the announcement as a “landmark” moment for the regulation of online gambling.  

Stake limits will come into effect from September this year, following secondary legislation. A six-week transition period will be put in place for operators to comply with the general £5 limit. A second six-week period will allow for any necessary technical solutions to ensure operators are fully compliant with the lower stake limit.

The decision to implement the staking limits follows a 10-week consultation period. During this, the government said most respondents agreed with the proposal to put in place new statutory limits for online slots to help reduce the risk of gambling harm. Consultation responses included views from industry, academics, treatment providers and individuals.

White paper impact

The proposal was first put forward as part of the government’s Gambling Act white paper, which was published last April. This included a series of suggestions from the government to transform how gambling is regulated in the UK.

At the time, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it wanted to put in place stake limits. It committed to carrying out a consultation on this limit being between £2 and £15 per spin. Today’s news confirms the government will push ahead with limits at the lower end of this scale.

“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,” gambling minister Stuart Andrew said.

“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 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 host of measures being introduced this year that will protect people from gambling harms.”

Why a lower a limit for younger adults?

Flutter Tombola redundancies
nhs figures showed a problem gambling rate of 8.7% among those aged 18-24

As for the decision to introduce a lower stake limit for younger adults, the government said this is because this group has the highest average problem gambling score of any group.

Figures from the NHS suggest a problem gambling rate of 8.7% for the 18-24 age group. This covers online gambling on slots, casino or bingo games. This, the government said, is one of the highest rates across gambling activities.

The government also said that players in this age range have lower disposable income. It also notes the impact of ongoing neurological development on risk perception. In addition, it references “common life stage factors” such as managing money for the first time. 

Evidence, the government said, also points to a stronger link between gambling related harm and suicide among young adults.

GambleAware welcomes new limits

Responding to the announcement, GambleAware CEO Zoë Osmond said she was pleased with the new limits. GambleAware has long lobbied for such measures to be put in place to better protect UK players.

GambleAware calls for applications to Lived Experience Council
gambleaware ceo zoe osmond lauded the limits’ impact on younger people

In particular, Osmond praised the decision to set a lower stake limit for younger adults.

“We welcome the government’s announcement to introduce lower online stake limits for under-25s as an important mechanism to protect young people,” Osmond said. “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.

“As we continue our work to tackle this growing public health issue, we will collaborate with the government and others across the gambling harms sector to ensure there are no missed opportunities when it comes to the introduction of robust preventative measures, including new regulations such as these.”

BGC backs stake limits but urges caution over other measures

Michael Dugher BGC
michael dugher warned of the effect stake limits will have on industry members

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) also said it welcomes the move. Like GambleAware, the BGC supported plans to reform stake limits for online gambling.

However, BGC CEO Michael Dugher warned this measure, and those mooted in the white paper, will impact industry members.

“We welcome the government’s decision on new stake limits for online slots games,” Dugher said. “They provide enhanced protections for young people.

“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.

“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.”

What next?

The measure is one of many from the white paper that will likely be put in place in some form. Other proposals include a statutory levy for research, prevention and treatment, as well as financial risk checks.

Many of the proposals relate to protecting players from gambling harm. However, the white paper also moots measures to support the land-based gambling industry. 

On this point, the government recognises the UK gambling industry employs thousands of people. It said it does not want to harm the industry’s success.  

“The Gambling Commission and the government continue to listen to concerns from campaigners, the wider public and both the gambling and horse racing industries as part of the consultation process on these checks,” the government said. “The Commission continues to refine its approach on the design to achieve the right balance between protections and freedoms. 

“Responses to the wider white paper measures will be published soon.”

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