What’s the Core Argument Behind an Online Betting Cap?
Those who champion internet slots betting limits believe that caps will protect vulnerable compulsive gamblers. They argue that allowing high-stakes play increases the potential for problem gamblers to blow money quicker.
“A review of stake limits online has been clearly recommended by the all-party parliamentary group and is long overdue,” said Labour MP Carolyn Harris.
“Online slot content games should be reduced to £2 a spin in line with the rules in betting shops. The Gambling Commission must stop being reactive and take action to protect the vulnerable from harm in line with their licensing objectives.”
The History Behind UK Slot Machine Betting Limits
In 2018, British politicians began calling for a reduction to the maximum stakes allowed on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs)—similar to slot machines.
Anti-gambling lawmakers sometimes call FOBTs a “social blight” or the “crack-cocaine” of gambling. That said, they had little trouble gaining support in their efforts to lower FOBT stakes in land-based casinos.
The previous maximum stakes were set at £100. The lawmakers in question got the UKGC to reduce max bets to £2.
This event was a landmark win for anti-gambling politicians. However, it also led to thousands of lost jobs within the brick-and-mortar gambling industry.
William Hill closed 700 of its 2,300 betting shops following the stakes reduction. These closures accounted for around 4,500 in lost jobs.
Betting shops rely heavily on FOBTs to generate venue at their land-based locations. Smaller stakes cut into their profits and, in some cases, result in closures.
In November 2018, an all-party parliamentary group (APPG) argued that online slots should share the same fate as FOBTs. This movement has picked up steam heading into 2020.
What’s the Argument Against an Online Slots Betting Cap?
The British gambling industry has been particularly critical of capped wagers on FOTBs. Speaking at a London gaming conference, GVC Holdings CEO Kenny Alexander noted that reduced bets will simply drive high rollers elsewhere.
“If they put a £2 limit on online casinos, the day after that, virtually the same amount of people who used to stake more than £2 will go to the black market,” said Alexander.
He added that these gamblers will look for bigger betting opportunities at Costa Rica and Curacao-based sites, which “have no interest in responsible gaming, no interest in protecting the player.”
Alexander’s argument hinges on the fact that the UKGC features plenty of protections for compulsive gamblers. They require operators to responsibly serve players, and they offer problem gambling resources.
As Alexander highlighted, offshore gaming jurisdictions don’t have the same commitment to problem players. Costa Rica and Curacao are two of the most-lenient licensing jurisdictions in the world.
Statistics show that around 200,000 UK residents play at unregulated online casinos each year. The black market earns almost $2 billion from Brits annually.
The other main argument is that, like land-based establishments, internet casinos will need to cut more jobs. Low stakes means less overall betting action and lower revenue for these sites.
Which Side Is Right?
Each side presents a compelling argument for their cause. Politicians and APPGs want do everything possible to reduce compulsive gambling.
The latter can destroy people’s lives both financially and socially. Some families break up when one partner can’t control their gambling habit.
Reduced maximum bets offer one way to lower the amount of problem gambling. Players can’t burn through money as quickly when they can only bet up to £2.
On the other hand, these same gamblers can merely increase the amount of time they play. One can go through a bankroll pretty quickly when betting £2 every spin for hours.
Those who can’t handle the wagering limit may turn to offshore casinos. The huge problem with unregulated gaming sites is that they don’t provide any real protections for gamblers.
Some operators in these jurisdictions even encourage more play. They may delay processing withdrawals in hopes that players cancel impending cash outs and gamble away the funds.
Both sides of this argument have merit. But a £2 cap isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk win for gamblers when considering the dangerous offshore alternative.
Who Wins & Who Loses With the £2 Betting Limit?
Given how a limit has been placed on land-based FOBTs, such a restriction seems likely for internet slot machines too. Assuming this measure goes down as planned, some sides will come out better while others won’t.
Politicians who fought for the cap – Harris and other politicians who’ve pushed for the £2 betting limit will be pleased to get a win.
High stakes gamblers who lack control – Whether they like it or not, certain players will benefit from not being able to place larger wagers.
Offshore online casinos – Unregulated internet casinos will draw even more than 200,000 UK gamblers per year.
UK online gambling industry – Internet casinos will effectively see high-roller play drop off if a £2 wagering cap takes effect.
Internet casino employees – As the land-based gaming industry has already shown, jobs will be lost due to less overall betting action.
Compulsive players who choose offshore sites – The UKGC affords protections for problem gamblers. These same measures aren’t in place within the offshore industry.
Will UK Online Slots Play Be Ruined by the Impending £2 Cap?
Those who already enjoy playing slots online would rather not see any drastic changes take place. Likewise, the gaming sites themselves don’t want to severely restrict the highest wager that players can make.
The £2 betting cap definitely isn’t going to improve the internet gaming experience. It’ll only limit the enjoyment that most players get from placing larger wagers.
A UK online gambler won’t even be able to risk £0.10 per payline on a 25-line slot any longer. After all, this scenario would result in a £2.50 overall bet. They’ll instead need to wager £0.05 or less on such a game.
These betting limits will have a trickle-down effect where they worsen bonuses and promotions. Casinos will be less generous with deposit bonuses and free spins when they’re not earning as much revenue.
Additionally, the terms and conditions on bonuses could get worse. Gaming sites may feature higher wagering requirements and force players to bet more/longer before withdrawing.
British online gaming won’t be completely destroyed by the cap, though. It features plenty of operators and games.
But the market won’t be quite the same if these restrictions are put into place. They may not ultimately have much of an impact either when considering the potential exodus to offshore operators.
The UK has already approved a £2 betting limit on FOBTs in land-based establishments. They’re likely to do the same for UK online slots.
The idea behind this measure is to provide yet another protection for compulsive gamblers. This proposed wagering cap may do exactly that.
However, it by no means figures to be the perfect solution. Betting limits will drive some players to the offshore market, which largely doesn’t care about problem gaming.
That said, players and the industry will wind up the biggest losers. Meanwhile, politicians who further their careers may be the only true winners in the end.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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