The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) has sent out notifications to online casino operators informing them that the ‘buy a bonus’ option, also known as ‘feature buy’ or ‘feature drop’, is to be removed from online slots.
They have taken the step to ban ‘feature buys’ due to fears that it was encouraging players to spend more money than they had originally intended or could afford to spend. But what will this latest restriction put in place by the UKGC mean for players and online casinos?
What is the ‘feature buy’ option?
The ‘feature buy’ mechanic is available in many online slots and allows players to buy their way into a bonus feature without having to wait to trigger that feature randomly in the base game. The bonus buy feature has been around now for quite some time and is offered in some major titles, including White Rabbit, Extra Chilli and Book of Gods, and other high variance slots to name just a few.
It basically offers a shortcut to a game’s bonus round, but it does come at a cost. A player looking to buy into a bonus round could have to pay up to 100 times (or sometimes even more) their stake to access a bonus game within a slot, and this is where the concern lies. Such a large bet size can lead to players spending considerably more than they intended. This, the UKGC believes, is putting players at risk and have introduced the ban as a safeguarding measure. Many players avoid the ‘feature buy’ option because it can put a substantial dent in their bankroll, but for those players who actively seek out bonus features, problems could arise as they find themselves spending more money than they can afford.
What does this mean for game providers and casinos?
The UKGC is therefore asking that all UK licensed games providers remove the feature from all relevant games. This won’t necessarily be a straightforward procedure, however. While some slot providers will simply need to deactivate the ‘buy a bonus’ option, with others the feature has actually been hardcoded into the game, making removing it a potentially costly and time-consuming process. In the case of such providers, the games will have to be retracted until the proper adjustments have been made to the slot.
Several of the big game providers will be affected by this ban, including Big Time Gaming (BTG) and Blueprint Gaming. Blueprint has confirmed that it will not take very long to remove the ‘feature buy’ mechanic from their affected slots, although it’s rumoured that BTG games will have to be completely reworked in order to remove the feature.
For many online slot sites, the ban means making these slot games unavailable to players until they comply with the new rules. Some of the larger UK gambling operators, including Ladbrokes and Sky Gaming, made a decision early on not to offer the bonus buy feature to players, anticipating such a restriction as is now in place.
The ban on ‘buy a bonus’ options in slot games is just the latest measure introduced by the UKGC, but it’s not expected to be the last. It’s thought that the commission is also considering a ban on the single reel respin feature, where the player can spin just one reel at a time and bet sizeable amounts of money.