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Gambling Companies Ordered to Slow Down Addictive Online Slot Machines Amid Growing Evidence of Harm

The UK Gambling Commission rolled out new measures to safeguard players from online slot addiction. The crackdown comes after the growing concerns around problem gambling sweeping across the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Slot games generate £2.2 billion annually, earning them the title “money-makers” for casinos and gaming companies. While they make up most of the industry’s revenue, the significant revenue figures are at the expense of gamblers. Pokies have the highest average losses rate per punter and are also among the most addictive.

Under the newly introduced rules, firms will have to make changes to the games and some casino practices to protect players from the addiction snare. Some of the expected changes include;

  • Slowed spins

Slots’ rapid-fire spins and high house edge makes them a deadly combination for players’ bankrolls. A slot runs 600 spins per hour on average. Even with stakes as low as 75 cents, one spends about £450 per hour, making pokies the most expensive casino game for gamblers. The Gambling Commission has told companies to dilute this intensity and ensure there is at least a 2.5-second gap between spins. The turbo feature found in many pokies that hastens gameplay will also be eliminated from the games.

  • Autoplay ban

Autoplay is a common feature in nearly every slot and allows punters to play multiple spins (up to 1000). This feature only halts when the rounds end, a bonus feature activates, or win and lose limits are achieved. The regulator argues that this setting makes it difficult for players to keep track of how much they are losing and should be removed.

  • Positive-stimulants ban

The Gambling Commission also ordered game studios to stop using positive stimulants like sounds and flashing lights when gamblers lose money. Most pokies present losses disguised as wins using these features, which tricks punters into thinking they have the upper hand. For instance, when a £10 bet lands a £5 win, slots still play winning sounds and light sequences despite the player having lost £5.

  • Remove illusions of control

Slot developers have also been directed to remove features that give players the illusion of control in the gameplay outcome. Pokie wins are determined by a random number generator, meaning they cannot be influenced using skills. Casinos will also be required to display the total wins and losses gamblers incur and the time spent playing a session.

  • No reverse withdrawals

This directive applies to all casino games and not just slot games. The crackdown also demands that casinos eliminate the reverse withdrawal option. This feature allows players to change their minds about cashing out, cancel the requests, and use the funds in gameplay instead.

On the downside, the Gambling Commission’s new directives do not come into place until 31st October 2021. By that time, it is predicted that punters will have lost millions of pounds to pokies, and others developed a gambling addiction.

Gambling and Addiction

The UK boasts one of the most prominent gambling industries, and more than half of the adult population has indulged in the activity at some point in their lives. While playing new slots can be a source of pleasure and thrill, as they are marketed, they can quickly turn into something dark that makes playing them a compulsive need. The practise becomes a lot like drug addiction and robs them of the power to induce euphoria. Instead, playing becomes a raging impulse to keep the brain awash in dopamine.

A range of factors, psychological, environmental, and physiological, push players into adopting pathological gambling. Casino and slot game designs are also created to keep players coming back for more. The sets are often marketed as a source of big wins, but the odds are usually in favour of the casino more than any other games. Pokies are said to accommodate even the smallest rollers by accepting penny bets, but they still amount to significant amounts in the long run. Also, they are built with sensory triggers that make it seem like a big win is around the corner when it might never come in reality.

Once problem gambling sets in, players will notice repetitive patterns of destructive habits that manifest like drug addiction. The failure to indulge in slots causes mental, personal, and physical distress. The symptoms, mild or severe, can only be relieved by playing more. Some of the most prominent gambling addiction signs include;

  • Gambling impulses become challenging to control even when one realizes that the games and designed to lose and are intentional about dropping the habit
  • The constant obsession with slot machines even when you are not gambling which seems to occupy every moment of every day
  • Having financial woes due to spending more than one can afford and borrowing or stealing to keep up the habit
  • The inability to function normally every day without gambling interruptions, challenging other life aspects like relationships, work, school, and mental health
  • Lying to others about how bad the habit is and going as far as hiding to engage in it

In most cases, gambling addicts go to great lengths to hide the habit, making it undetectable to the public. Nonetheless, it is possible to drop the routine when correct practices are put in place. Pathological gamblers are advised first to accept the problem’s existence and understand the issues it brings into their lives. One can then apply countermeasures like preparing for change, finding new hobbies, preplanning all days, and procrastinating the habit. If the addiction is too severe to fight alone, some experts specialize in addict recovery and come in handy.

Parting Shot

The surgency of gambling addiction has severe mental health repercussions that have the UKGC up in arms to protect players. The commission applied changes to fixed odds bookmarkers in 2019, cutting stakes from £50 to £2. The institution is also working to safeguard punters from online gambling dangers considering they are exposed to the indulgent 24/7 on their smartphones and tablets.

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