The UKGC is proposing an update to RTS, which will require operators to ensure consumers are only permitted to play one slot game at a time per account across multiple tabs/windows, browsers, apps or devices.
As Relax Gaming’s CRO explains, the objective is to ensure players are aware of their actions when engaging in gambling activity, encouraging them to maintain their awareness, plus keep track of time and spending. “Such measures aim to avoid passive behaviours where players end up being spectators of the games they are playing,” Smilovic remarks.
Further to that, another aspect attempting to be controlled is to reduce the level of intensity generated by gambling on multiple slot games simultaneously. “The ratio of spending to the duration of time will decrease significantly when one game is played at a time, therefore allowing for more focus and awareness. In this way, the ‘increased spending’ control objective can be met along with the ‘experience intensity’ reduction objective,” she adds.
Even with these measures in place, Smilovic questions whether the average player will instead simply dedicate a longer time period to gambling or activate multiple accounts to be able to play multiple games across devices.
Another aspect of the UKGC’s consultation is looking at the speed of play as research on the key issues in productbased harm minimisation, prepared for The Responsible Gambling Trust in 2016, indicated that faster game cycle speed is associated with increased risks to the consumer.
The UKGC is proposing to introduce a minimum spin speed for online slots, which will mirror category B3 (mostly slots) gaming machines at a minimum of 2.5 seconds. The consultation also looks into the prohibition of in-game features that contribute to a greater intensity of gameplay such as turbo or boost buttons and any feature that gives the illusion of control such as player-led spin or reelstop features. Paul Caruana Turner, legal and compliance manager for Nolimit City, agrees with the fact that there is scope for a revision of certain aspects of slots game design, but clarifies that he doesn’t support all of the proposals.
“The banning of spin-stop or quickspin features is a decision which I can get behind. In my humble opinion, such features are not only potentially harmful to players but can also diminish the entertainment value of slot games. This proposed standard will be supplemented by the introduction of a minimum game cycle of 2.5 seconds, shorter than the likes of Sweden or Denmark and what is being proposed in Germany,” he explains.
Auto-play on the scrap heap?
Auto-play is another feature that is under scrutiny and is cited as a potential factor to gambling-related harms because it removes an element of decision-making and time to reflect on the outcome. The proposal to remove the auto-play facility has caused quite a stir among the slots community, with most questioning its effectiveness in reducing gambling-related harm.
While Caruana Turner at Nolimit City supports the introduction of a minimum game cycle for player protection, he believes the proposed wording for RTS 14 needs to be revised as the current phrasing would result in a ban on auto-play functions. “I disagree with such a proposal especially when one considers this proposal collectively with the other proposals being put forward by the Commission. The auto-play function tends to be a popular feature among players and removing it entirely could diminish the attractiveness of games offered by licensed operators when compared with those of unlicensed operators,” he remarks. In turn, he says it risks driving players towards unregulated markets where player protections are often completely absent or significantly reduced, bringing about unintended consequences. Smilovic at Relax Gaming is not convinced that removing auto-play will achieve the desired level of protection, despite the indications showing its contribution to players’ disassociation from gambling activities. “The UK’s auto-play function was already quite well structured to avoid players’ passive spending. With a maximum amount locked to 100 spins and a mandatory loss limit to be set before being able to activate it, the auto-play function is just a way for players to let the game run its course without attending to every spin,” she comments.