The UK has just released new problem gambling figures that confirm a continuing drop in problem gambling rates. Come with us as we discuss whether no wagering casinos and the operator-led movement towards responsible gambling awareness have impacted falling problem gambling rates in the UK or if it’s due to the role of rising regulation.
Problem gambling rates dropping in the UK
Problem gambling rates in the UK are compiled using interview phone data from 4,018 adults aged 16 and over. The survey is conducted quarterly to assess gambling habits and participation.
The latest round of industry statistics has revealed that the “overall headline problem gambling rate as measured by the short form PGSI is statistically stable at 0.3%. The moderate and low-risk rates are also statistically stable at 1.1% and 1.8%, respectively.”
Compared with 2020, this shows a remarkable improvement. The overall problem gambling rate was 0.6% in the year to September 2020, and the moderate risk rate was 1.2%.
No wagering casinos: the fairer play
No wagering casinos offer bonuses with no wagering requirements. You’ll find some of the best free spins offers at these sites.
It works like this: instead of tying the player up in wagering requirements, the player gets a bonus, plays through the amount, and can withdraw any winnings. It’s fair for the casino and the player, as the original bonus credits are non-withdrawable until the player has gambled them once.
No wagering casinos became popular as a result of disgruntled players who felt casinos didn’t fairly advertise their bonus terms. Some operators have been known to list excessively high wagering requirements that the UKGC has now called out, saying:
“The LCCP requires rewards and bonuses to be constructed in a way that is socially responsible. Although it is common practice to attach terms and conditions to bonus offers, the Commission does not expect conditions, such as wagering requirements, to encourage excessive play.”
What’s the problem with high wagering requirements? They bind a player to gamble at a casino, usually around 15-30x their initial deposit within a short period – 30 days is standard.
Say a player deposits £100 and gets a 100% cash match bonus with 15x wagering requirements. They use the bonus and win £600. To cash out, they must spend £100 x 15 = £1,500 in under 30 days. For a casual new gambler, this is excessive and irresponsible. Moreover, a 15x requirement would be considered low compared to some sites’ terms.
Operator-led responsible gambling awareness
Alongside lowering wagering requirements industry-wide by educating more players, no wagering casinos, UK operators and affiliates have been increasing player awareness of responsible gambling.
Every UK gambling site offers a range of responsible gambling tools, like reality checks, budget tools, and time-outs. They also provide information and education via blogs, targeted messaging and gambling support information on-site. There are also industry-led efforts, like Safer Gambling Week, funding for the independent charity GambleAware and so on.
A continuous push towards greater regulation
Aside from no wagering casinos riding the wave of popularity in the UK, there’s also been an increasing tide of regulation. Here are some of the most significant changes for operators that the UKGC is reported saying are responsible for the falling problem gambling rates in the UK.
There have been multiple changes to game design, especially for slots in the UK. Research has shown that slots are the most popular game and also the one with the highest losses per player.
In 2022, the UK introduced new rules for game design, which include the banning of autoplay (UKGC research shows players who use autoplay were more likely to lose track of their play (43%), with one-third saying it made it hard to stop gambling), feature buy, and introduction of rules for min spin speeds per spins and how wins are celebrated.
Banning credit cards
The UKGC has also banned credit cards in gambling transactions in the UK. This move was based on the back of figures, which showed “22% of online gamblers using credit cards to gamble are classed as problem gamblers – with even more at some risk of harm.” For the UKGC, it was clear that this percentage of problem gamblers relying on credit cards was far too high to continue to allow this facility at UK-licensed gambling platforms.
Ban on reverse withdrawals
In February 2021, the UKGC banned reverse withdrawals, which allowed players to cancel a withdrawal request before it was complete. While recognising players preferred a voluntary option, the Commission went for a complete ban, stating that their research “suggests the functionality [of reverse withdrawals] impacts on the most vulnerable and engaged gamblers, which may be least likely to apply voluntary restrictions or to maintain that voluntary application.”
New bonus rules and terms
Over the last three years, the UKGC became aware that the UK industry relied on VIP players, with 83% of revenue coming from 2% of VIP players at one site. This, along with many complaints regarding sky-high wagering requirements, caused the Commission to issue various warnings to operators, ensuring they clear up their bonus terms and conditions, including following licensing rules to confirm that VIP players’ spending is affordable.
The upcoming UK gambling review was rumoured to be considering a ban on VIP schemes and risk-free bonuses. This is now said to be shelved in response to operators already reforming their terms and putting new checks in place for VIP players.
The bottom line
While it is inevitable that increasingly strict regulations have played a prominent role in reducing problem gambling rates through making games safer, bonuses clearer, terms fairer, and removing credit availability, no wagering casinos and operator-led awareness for responsible gambling have also served the market.
No wagering brands have proved that fair gaming is profitable, setting the standard for operators. PlayOJO, for example, is one of the UK’s most well-known no wagering casinos and is the most popular brand operated by the parent company, which has a further 39 UK-facing online casino skins. PlayOJO is the only one offering zero wagering on bonuses.
Can we quantify if no wagering casinos have helped reduce problem gamblers? Of course not, but as the first contact and point of sale with the product, operator efforts have increased player awareness of responsible gambling and fair bonus terms and conditions, which is positive at the end of the day. As part of an industry-wide effort to reform, regulate, and put players first, operator actions like offering no wagering bonuses are a contributing factor.