Slot machines are going cashless as debit cards allowed

  • 2 min read
Slot machines are going cashless as debit cards allowed

The government plans to permit the use of debit cards for gambling on slot machines.

Ministers argue that this move will enable pubs, casinos, and slot venues to remain competitive in an increasingly cashless society. However, gamblers will still be prohibited from using credit cards in these machines.

Additionally, there will be a cap on how much can be spent in a single gambling session, with staff being alerted when these limits are reached. While systems requiring payment authorization, such as Apple Pay, will be allowed, other contactless payments will remain banned. The Betting and Gaming Council, an industry lobby group, welcomed these “much-needed” changes and urged ministers to provide a “clear timeline” for the implementation of the relevant legislation.

Easily Available Online

The changes are part of a broader initiative aimed at leveling the playing field with online betting, according to the government. Currently, cashless gambling on gaming machines is restricted to indirect payments through mobile apps or by purchasing special tickets. In recent years, stake limits have been reduced, with fixed-odds terminals in betting shops capped at a maximum bet of £2, and £1 for machines in pubs.

Direct payments from debit cards have been prohibited under 2007 legislation intended to create natural interruptions in play. However, the culture department, which oversees gambling laws, warns that the decreasing use of cash could render these machines “obsolete,” while similar games remain “easily available online.”

The department added that this could jeopardize the viability of physical arcades, which “support jobs and have been adversely affected by the pandemic.” Furthermore, it noted that allowing debit card payments could help counteract the decline in machine income in pubs since Covid, as more people are paying for food and drinks by card and carrying less cash.

Deposit Limits

Under the proposed changes, debit card payments for gambling will require authentication through methods such as chip and PIN or biometric verification used for Apple Pay. Similar to cash transactions, there will be a £20 limit on the amount that can be deposited onto a machine in one go, reduced to £2 for low-stake fruit machines, penny falls, and crane grabs. The government states that players should wait at least 30 seconds after a payment is approved before depositing money onto a machine, to “broadly mirror” the time it takes to withdraw cash from an ATM.

Additionally, there will be mandatory session limits, which will be determined following a separate consultation by the Gambling Commission, the regulator. These limits will trigger a 30-second cooling-off period. Despite objections from the sector, staff in pubs will be alerted when mandatory limits are reached, as well as voluntary limits set by players. These alerts will not apply to the lowest-stake machines.

The changes will be enacted through a type of legislation that comes into force automatically unless the House of Commons or Lords objects within a 40-day window. However, the legislation will only be drafted once the Gambling Commission’s consultation, set to begin in the coming weeks and last three months, is complete.