White Paper Series: Gambling Commission’s remote game design proposals – simply following suit?
On 26 July 2023, the Gambling Commission’s opened its first consultation (the “Consultation”) following the White Paper. This included proposals to amend the Remote Gambling and Software Technical Standards (“RTS”) “to reduce the speed and intensity of on online products while making them fairer and increasing consumer understanding about game play”. In the White Paper, Government concluded that products other than slots should be considered to create wider design codes and safer product design standards for other online products. In this blog, we summarise the proposals.
The Gambling Commission last made changes to the RTS in October 2021 when it introduced design requirements for online slots products, including limitations on speed of play, auto-play and the illusion of false wins. In June 2023, the Gambling Commission published a report assessing the impact of those changes, noting that they have “reduced play intensity…and not resulted in harmful unintended consequences”. Tim Miller, Director for Policy and Research, noted that whilst the results are positive, “we aren’t complacent and will continue to monitor this specific part of the sector for both any unintended circumstances, or non-compliance.”
The Gambling Commission made it clear in its response to its consultation regarding slots game design that those changes were “just one step in reducing the risk of harm”. Given the positive outcome from the October 2021 design changes for slots, it is not surprising that requirements for other products are likely to follow suit.
Summary of Gambling Commission proposals:
Proposal 1: Player-led “spin stop” features. Removing features which can speed up play to reduce the harm experienced by consumers who are gambling particularly quickly or intensely
Impact: Amendment of RTS requirement 14E – The gambling system must not permit a customer to reduce the time until the result is presented.
Applies to: all gambling (not just slots).
Proposal 2: 5 second minimum game speed
Impact: New RTS requirement 14G – It must be a minimum of 5 seconds from the time a game is started until the next game cycle can be commenced. It must always be necessary to release and then depress the start button or take equivalent action to commence a game cycle.
Applies to: all casino games (excluding peer to peer poker and slots)
Proposal 3: Prohibition on autoplay extended to all online products
Impact: Replacement of current RTS8. New RTS8 – The gambling system must require a customer to commit to each game cycle individually.
Applies to:all gaming.
Proposal 4: Prohibition of features which may give the illusion of “false wins” extended to all casino products
Impact: Amendment to RTS requirement 14F – The gambling system must not celebrate a return which is less than or equal to the total stake gambled.
Applies to: all casino games (not just slots).
Proposal 5: Prohibition on operators offering the ability to play multiple products simultaneously
Impact: amendment to RTS requirement 14C – The gambling system must not offer functionality which facilitates playing multiple games or products at the same time.
Applies to: gaming (including bingo) and betting on virtual events (not just slots).
Proposal 6: Extending requirement to display elapsed time and net spend
Impact 1: amendment to RTS requirement 13C – The elapsed time should be displayed for the duration of the gaming session.
Impact 2: amendment to RTS requirement 2E – All gaming sessions must clearly display a customer’s net position, in the currency of their account or product since the session started.
Applies to: casino (excluding peer to peer poker) (not just slots).
Proposal 7: Technical update to RTS security requirements to reflect the 2022 update to ISO 27001
Impact 1: the addition of 11 new controls in line with the 2022 update.
Impact 2: the addition of ISO27001 2022 standard section 5.23 regarding information security for use of cloud services as an RTS requirement for security audits.
Applies to: remote operating licensees (excluding betting intermediary) and non-remote gaming machine technical and gambling software operating licensees.
As anticipated, the majority of the proposals aim to align the requirements currently in place for slots with other online gambling products. Given the positive impact of the October 2021 changes, and the important harm minimisation effects, it is unsurprising that the Gambling Commission is taking this approach.
However, we note the Gambling Commission is mindful of the fact that certain online gambling products have different features to slots, and therefore certain RTS requirements cannot have a blanket application across all online products. For example, the Gambling Commission has noted that the majority of games it sampled (including online roulette, blackjack, and live versions of games) have a slower minimum game speed than the 2.5 second restriction applied to slots products. Proposal 2 (to introduce a 5 second minimum game speed) is therefore more reasonable and appropriate than simply extending the current restriction for slots to other products.
Further, in respect of Proposal 6 (display of elapsed time and net spend), the Gambling Commission notes that this should not be a requirement for peer to peer poker as, whilst time spent gambling is a risk factor, poker does not require a customer to be staking every hand to participate, unlike other casino games. The Gambling Commission itself notes that it is “mindful of imposing unnecessary regulatory burden” and we welcome this considered and reasonable approach.
Respond to the consultation
The Gambling Commission is accepting responses until 18 October 2023. We strongly encourage gambling businesses to respond to the Consultation.
Please let us know should you require any assistance preparing a response.