Over the past five years we have increasingly been hearing from people on the National Gambling Helpline, and through the National Gambling Support Network, citing online slots as a difficulty for them.
We know that playing online slots is an activity can be many people find challenging and that, if you’re caught in a cycle of gambling with online slots, it can feel very isolating.
In April the government published it white paper on gambling reform – ‘High Stakes: Gambling reform for the digital age’. Today the first consultation on the white paper has closed.
The consultation considers whether a maximum stake will limit the risks of harmful play for online slots, setting options ranging from a maximum stake of £2 up to £15 per spin. It also looks at whether there needs to be specific measures to give greater protections for 18 to 24 year olds.
When writing our response, we wanted to understand to views and thinking of our lived experience community. We heard consistently that the maximum stake should be as low as possible to have the best chance at reducing gambling harm.
In a workshop with our lived experience community we heard how harmful online slots can be and that the numbers involved in this form of gambling often don’t feel real – money lost can accumulate incredibly quickly. Along with our Youth Advisory Board, there was a strong consensus that there is also a need for greater protections for 18–24-year-olds.
Data published by GamCare today shows a steep increase in the proportion of people citing issues with online slots on the National Gambling Helpline.
Five years ago, of those who said they were struggling with online gambling, one-third (34%) said the main activity involved online slots. That proportion has risen steadily in the last five years with three-fifths (60%) saying the same last year.
For maximum stakes to have the most impact in reducing harm, it’s vital that these go hand in hand with wider safer gambling measures such as reducing the speed and intensity of online products, displaying net time and loss, and improving customer choice on direct marketing.
In our response to the consultation we are calling for:
- The maximum stake for online slots to be set at £2: Our data published today shows a steep increase in calls to National Gambling Helpline from people who said they were struggling with online gambling citing online slots as their main activity.
- Extra operator vigilance for people aged 18-24: We know that brain imaging studies have shown brain development continues until the age of 25 with the brain area related to decision-making and addictive behaviour being among the last to fully develop. Therefore, extra vigilance should be in place to protect this age group from gambling related harm.
- Wider measures to reduce gambling-related harm: Measures to place a maximum stake on online slots must go hand in hand with measures set out in other consultations including reducing the speed and intensity of online products, displaying net time and loss, and improving customer choice on direct marketing.
- All online casino games to have a £2 maximum stake: We are concerned that people who use online slots products may move across to wider online casino games such as roulette. Our helpline data shows that of calls to National Gambling Helpline who said they were struggling with online gambling; online casino games are third highest reason cited.
If we get this right, a minimum maximum stake provides a real opportunity to reduce gambling-related harm for people playing online slots. We will continue making the case to get these protections right and look forward for the seeing the outcome of the consultation.