Tempus Fugit – Time Flies

Tempus Fugit

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have now released details of future limits on on-line casino spin-type products.

These limits are a cap of £2 per spin for customers aged under 25 or £5 per spin for everyone else.

During our recent White Paper discussions one participant described how the thought of being limited to staking just £2 on a spin was something which he felt would have put him off using that gambling product. He felt that his need to gamble at increasingly higher values to try and win ever bigger amounts would have made online spins less attractive and as such all this would do would be make him move to other online products where those stake limits did not apply.

On the face of it this may seem to be an argument in favour of not limiting online slot stakes, as parts of the gambling industry have been arguing.

But delving slightly deeper tells a different story.

This same individual experienced significant harm due to a disordered need to gamble. When combining this need to risk ever greater sums to maintain their level of “excitement” with the frenetic speed of play involved in slots – both FOBTs and online – this was a recipe for disaster for them.

In his, and many other cases we hear about from our members, anything which might act to put them off gambling can only really be seen as being a good thing.

Undoubtedly the biggest challenge we face is finding ways of preventing ordinary people from drifting away from leisure based gambling into harmful behaviours. So, having stake limits may help in that respect.

But sadly, as we also know from our members, the hard truth is that if someone has already formed an unhealthy relationship with gambling then having changes applied such as limiting online slots to £2 a spin for those aged under 25 and £5 for everyone else simply will not deter them from gambling.

Whether on slots or on any other form of product.

Currently spins can take as little as 2.5 seconds, meaning that an online slots player can make 20 spins per minute.

The Gambling Commission statistics from Operator submissions show that average online slot sessions last 17 minutes.

This means that applying the new maximum £5 stake means that the average slot session could result in a player staking £1700 at £100 per minute.

So, while our members do welcome this move by DCMS they also have the lived experience driven understanding to know that it is unlikely to help anyone who needs help.

We know that money is not the only harmful impact of gambling.

One of the biggest regrets our members have is the TIME they lost through gambling. Time which could have been spent with loved ones, with family and children, or even in properly doing jobs they were present-but-not-present at.

Research commissioned by the Gambling Commission and carried out by National Centre for Social Research suggests that there are over 158,000 customers who play online slots for an hour or more at a time.

Over 3 million such sessions in a single month (3,118,913 1hr sessions in March 2023 – or 356 YEARS).

We know that it is those customers who most need support.

So, yes, we do welcome the new stake limits.

But we do fail to see how they will prevent harm continuing to happen when not paired with action to limit session lengths.

If anything, we see that those who are already losing large portions of their life to gambling will probably simply now lose even more time, accelerating and exacerbating harm caused to their physical and mental wellbeing.

This means that there is a real danger that it will not be the NHS Gambling Clinics which see the impacts of this half-hearted policy but rather that it will be the A&E departments of our hospitals who are asked to pick up the pieces of human beings in crisis.