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Are wagering requirements due gambling reform review?

If you’ve been keeping a keen eye on the iGaming industry over the last few months you’ll have noticed that the Betting and Gaming Council have been working alongside the Gambling Commission to help make the online casino landscape in the United Kingdom safer for vulnerable players and out of the way of young people who may fall victim to gambling harm.

There has been a myriad of changes that relate to the way casinos communicate with their players, and in the way that players interact with their favourite games. It’s fair to suggest that online slots have been given the lion’s share of attention, which comes as no surprise considering their popularity amongst avid enthusiasts.

There are some long overdue and welcome changes that have been implemented, however, and changes that have led to disappointment, frustration and opposition from players.

What changes have been made to the iGaming industry in the UK?

In September the Betting and Gaming Council announced their inaugural betting code of conduct that sees several core game mechanics removed, such as turbo spins, slam stops and multi-slot play. They have also decreased the speed of all spins so that they cannot be any faster than 2.5 seconds, meaning that players aren’t able to spend as much as quickly.

The way operators advertise their services, bonuses and promotions on social media has also been changed to ensure that those under the age of 25 are not exposed to gambling harm. Operators must also make a conscious effort to be more active in sharing responsible gambling messages across their own social accounts as well.

In addition to these changes, the Betting and Gaming Council have announced that they will also explore ways (via their new game design research lab) to improve the labelling of games in order to increase players’ understanding of key terms.

What has been missed in the most recent safeguarding consultation?

There’s no denying that a lot of good will come from some of the changes that have come into force in recent weeks, but we can’t help but feel some degree of disappointment that wagering requirements have been left out of the conversation.

It still remains to be seen whether wagering requirements come under the remit of helping players gain a better understanding of key terms, however, if this is the case, this isn’t enough.

For too long now players have experienced frustration and heartache because operators failed to make it clear that their ‘generous’ welcome bonuses came lumbered with unobtainable wagering requirements that could never realistically be met without an incredible stroke of luck that can only be described as a miracle.

What are wagering requirements?

Wagering requirements are a condition that almost every online casino attaches to their free spins bonuses that prevent players from taking advantage and abusing these offers.

Most fair and honest casinos set their wagering requirements somewhere between 10x wagering and 30x wagering, meaning that players don’t have to play through their bonus an unobtainable amount of times in order to withdraw any winnings.

For example, if a casino offers players a £100 bonus with x100 wagering requirements then they’re going to need to place £10,000 worth of bets before they can withdraw anything won off the bonus. It looks absolutely absurd when written down like that, but it happens more often than you’d think.

How are players stung by wagering requirements?

Unfortunately, there are plenty of operators out there (both licensed and unlicensed) that know they can take advantage of high wagering requirements by offering players a huge amount of bonus cash upfront in order to dazzle and lure them into signing up before it’s too late.

More often than not players have already made that first deposit, and are spinning the reels long before they realise in order to withdraw any money they need to first place thousands in bets. Odds are they’ll have lost all of their winnings long before they get anywhere close to beating the wagering requirements in order to withdraw funds.

Unfortunately, it’s usually those with limited knowledge of the industry who are stung, they see big bonuses and jump in, unaware that they’re essentially playing with glorified demo credits.

Are wagering requirements always bad?

Truth be told, wagering requirements aren’t at all a bad thing when they’re used fairly and honestly. You have to remember that they’ve been put in place to protect the casino from those that are looking to profit from the bonuses without any intention of genuine play. Greed can often work both ways.

Thankfully there are online casinos out there that set low wagering requirements below 20x wagering that players can reasonably work their way through without too much pain and hassle.

What’s more, there are a number of UK casinos with no wagering requirements that offer players bonuses that aren’t overly restrictive, offering wager-free spins. They’re few and far between, but those that do offer these types of bonuses are lauded for their fair approach.

Should casino wagering requirements be reviewed and reformed?

There’s an argument to be made that the Betting and Gaming Council, alongside the UK Gambling Commission, should be looking at unfair wagering requirements next as they continue their campaign to clean up the industry and make it safer for players as a whole.

We can’t deny that wagering requirements are a necessary evil for casinos in order to maintain some balance between offering a generous, enticing bonus and just throwing money away in the name of new player registrations (who may never return after they’ve made a withdrawal).

But there’s absolutely no reason for wagering requirements to reach the heights they have in recent years (some of which exceed 100x wagering). The likelihood of a player actually working through high wagering requirements are incredibly slim.

The higher the wagering requirement, the longer players are encouraged to sit and play, as working through £100 with 100x wagering requirements will keep them at the reels significantly longer than a £20 bonus with 5x wagering might do. This is far from responsible and plays a part in normalising unhealthy extended play, an issue everyone is keen on addressing.

Another issue has also come to light relating to wagering requirements. Recent research has shown that players don’t read casino terms and conditions so it would barely come as any surprise if it were found that not all players were making the effort to seek out important information regarding bonus wagering requirements before they accept offers.

Whether or not casinos should be forced to be even more transparent about wagering requirements and how they work remains to be seen. Perhaps the Gambling Commission should consider banning wagering requirements over a certain threshold altogether?

Regardless of what action should (or should not) be taken at this stage, we can all agree that unusually high wagering requirements that offer no true benefit to 99% of players have no place in the iGaming world. The sooner extreme practices are stamped out the better.

A reform of wagering requirements may seem insignificant when compared to recent changes that have been implemented across the UK gambling landscape, but ultimately the predatory nature of wagering requirements needs to be addressed once and for all and now is the perfect time to do so with all eyes on making our industry safer and fairer.

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