What do the new UK gambling regs mean for poker?

Jon Pill
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Posted on: February 8, 2021 1:15 pm EST

The UK is something of a haven for gamblers. Queen Elizabeth I held the first British lottery in 1567. The proceeds raised the money to float a new fleet of ships. They were the same ships that held the Sceptred Isle against the Spanish Armada twenty years later.

Since then, the nation has had widespread official channels for gamblers. There is no shortage of card rooms, casinos, private gambling clubs, lottos, football pools, pokies, bookies, taxi driver’s three-card brag circles, and opportunities for a little flutter on the horses.

The small town of Leamington Spa for example has more than its share of bookmakers — four William Hills, two Ladbrokes, a Betfred, and a smattering of non-franchise betting establishments. The neighboring towns of Warwick and Sydenham have their own set of bookies all within about five miles of each other. And that’s not even to mention the pub slot machines or the direct bus route to the G Casino in nearby Coventry.

Some people have felt that this has got a little out of hand.

So, back in late-2020 the UK government put together a review of the UK’s Gambling Act (2005).

The review was primarily focused on bringing the industry up to code for an increasingly digital age, but had concerns about tackling problem gambling and the like. The man in charge was Oliver Dowden, the Conservative government’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. The results of that review are in, and the new regulations for gamblers and gambling operators have been put down on paper.

The government was already somewhat unpopular in the gambling industry for lowering the betting limits on fixed-odds betting machines like slots last year 2020. Those had represented a significant revenue stream for brick-and-mortar bookies.

The new rules hit the same areas again, but harder this time.

What’s in the new UK betting rules?

There are six main points for operators to take away in the updated gambling rules in the UK.

(1) Slots must have a pause of at least 2.5 seconds between spins, slowing turnover down. The pause also gives players a moment to assess whether they want to keep feeding their funds into a game with a 10% vig.

Several features are no longer allowed. For example, (2) Autoplay features — a standard part of any digital slot — are on the nix list. As are (3) any features that allow players to control the speed of play or that trick players into thinking they have any control of the reels.

Slots must now display (4) total losses and time spent playing. But (5) can no longer display prizes below the player’s stake or play sounds for wins below that size.

Only the sixth and final point applies to poker players though. Even then, the impact is minimal.

(6) Operators must no longer reverse withdrawals. Once a player makes a withdrawal request, if they change their mind, they must wait for the cash-out to be complete and then make a new deposit in the same amount.

All in all, the system doesn’t put too much hurt on poker players. And the mild inconvenience it causes is limited purely to online players. This seems to reflect a general leniency on the areas of gambling that are genuine matches of skill, while the regulators crack down on the purely random elements.

Featured image source: Flickr