Bonus Buy Slots Regulations In Uk

How Do UK Regulations Affect Bonus Buy Slot Games

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Updated on: 2 May 2024
Dean McHugh

With an explosion in the number of online slots and casino games, there’s never been more competition in the market. As players take their pick of the many titles available, one of the features that can help a game succeed is a thrilling bonus round.

However, as many players know, triggering a bonus round is not always easy. The bonus buy is an alternative to waiting for the bonus to be naturally triggered, but players in the UK no longer have this option.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the UK gambling regulations and what this means for bonus buy slot games.

What Are Bonus Buy Slots?

Before diving into the regulations any further, let’s first briefly cover what is meant by “bonus buy”.

As the name suggests, the bonus buy option allows players to shortcut their way to the bonus round by buying access. Rather than waiting for the right combination of symbols to land, players can gain instant access to the bonus round by paying the specified price. The price of the bonus buy option varies significantly from game to game but typically starts from x100 up.

The bonus buy does not provide additional benefits; there is no guarantee of a bigger win than if you’d triggered the bonus via traditional means. More specifically, there is no guarantee that players will win more in the bonus round than the bonus buy costs.

The bonus buy feature was first introduced by innovative developer Big Time Gaming in its White Rabbit slot, and it wasn’t long before other providers followed suit. For a while, the bonus buy option was available on many different casino games in the UK.

However, you probably won’t have seen bonus buy slots in the UK for some time, and next, we’re going to look at the reason for that.

bonus buy slots regulations in UK

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) regulates the gambling industry in the UK. In 2019, the UKGC introduced a raft of measures designed to protect vulnerable players and prevent spending from escalating out of control.

Under sections 89 and 97 of the Gambling Act 2005, there are clauses which directly address remote gambling and, more specifically, technical standards for software. These clauses are known collectively as RTS: Remote Gambling and Software Technical Standards. RTS was first launched in 2016 and represented the first proper review of gambling standards in this area since 2007. From 2016 onwards, the UKGC has repeatedly tightened the controls relating to remote gambling in a series of moves designed to provide better protection for players.

Bonus buys are not mentioned explicitly within the Gambling Act nor the RTC but are covered by the wording of clause 14a, which states:

Gambling products must not actively encourage customers to chase their losses, increase their stake or increase the amount they have decided to gamble, or continue to gamble after they have indicated that they wish to stop.

Although not explicitly referenced, the above clause effectively bans bonus buy slots in the UK. The bonus buy option increases the stake significantly and, therefore, breaches the guidelines set out in the RTS.

The UKGC regularly checks for compliance with this standard and will take action against any casino that allows bonus buy features. The RTS makes it illegal for any UK-licensed casino to include a bonus buy option for online slots.

The Effect of the Ban on Bonus Buy Games

Bonus buy games still exist, but they can’t be offered legally by casinos licensed in the UK. The UK market is protected by very stringent regulation, which is why a UKGC licence is considered as one of the best indicators that an operator has high standards.

However this doesn’t mean that bonus buy games can’t be found elsewhere. Not all regulators have banned bonus buy slots, online casinos licensed by Malta Gaming Authority being the prime example.

The same slots with and without the bonus buy options can be found in different casinos. The versions found in UK-licensed casinos will have the bonus buy option deactivated, but other casinos overseas may feature the same slots with the bonus buy included.

This means that it’s possible to find bonus buy games to play online, but you won’t have the protection of the UKGC. You also won’t be able to play bonus buy slots when physically located in the UK.

In the UK, casinos simply cannot offer bonus buy games while staying on the right side of the law. However, the gambling industry excels at innovation and new types of games have since sprung up.

Examples include slots where there’s no base game, simply a bonus round. When you spin the reels, you’ll trigger the bonus round, or it will be a losing spin. Money Cart 2 from Relax Gaming falls into this category, aiming to please players who just want to play the bonus round. While this isn’t strictly the same as the bonus buy feature, it is an alternative where the sole focus is the bonus round and the potential large payout.

The UKGC didn’t take long to ban bonus buy options from casino games; it only took around two years from when the feature was initially launched. Unlike other features where there was a consultation first, such as when autoplay was banned, the position on bonus buy was very clear. As a breach of the UKGC rules stipulating that stakes cannot be increased, there was no way this feature would be permitted.

Changes in the UK legislation do not appear to have had an impact on casino games; online play is more popular than ever. Software developers will continue to innovate but will need to be mindful to remain within the framework that the UKGC permits.

Bonus Buy Ban and Responsible Gambling

bonus buy and responsible gambling

A lot of work has been done on responsible gambling, with online casinos and sportsbooks working closely with regulators to promote healthy playing habits. It’s compulsory for UK-licensed casinos to adopt a responsible approach and have a range of measures to protect vulnerable players.

Many of the tools support clear and obvious ways to protect vulnerable players, such as the option to self-exclude or by offering a cap on daily deposits.

However, as more research has been carried out, casinos have adopted increasingly sophisticated tools to prevent problems in the early stages. This includes measures that help players to identify when they might be playing or spending too much. These tools are designed to promote self-awareness and to help individuals recognise where their own healthy boundaries lie.

Some of these support mechanisms are as simple as prompts on screen which flag long playing sessions. This can help to increase awareness for players who might be caught up in the excitement of the gameplay.

Banning bonus buys is another protective measure that prevents impulsive overspending. It’s advisable to play casino games with a clear budget and game plan, but a bonus buy option can easily blitz all of this. Bonus buy options typically come at a hefty price, and as discussed above, there’s no guarantee that you’ll win at all, let alone win more than you’ve just spent. There can also be the temptation to keep using the bonus buy option until you “win big”, which, of course, is never guaranteed. All of this is contrary to responsible gaming, which is why the UKGC took steps to remove bonus buys from the UK market.

The removal of the bonus buy option was controversial and wasn’t universally welcomed. Some parts of the industry called for a limit on the price of a bonus buy instead of an outright ban. Although bonus buys can be found from around x100, some slots charge much more, and one argument suggests that only these higher-priced features should have been banned.

However, a ban on the more expensive bonus buys wouldn’t have solved the issue of impulsive overspending. The UKGC’s position is that any incentive to spend more after a stake has already been wagered is potentially harmful. For this reason, it’s clear that bonus buy features could never be part of the UKGC’s responsible gaming policy.

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