The introduction of bonus buy slots in the UK marked a significant shift in the industry. These innovative features allowed players to bypass the traditional gameplay and instantly access lucrative bonus rounds, often at a hefty price. However, this convenience soon came under scrutiny from the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), the governing body responsible for regulating the gambling landscape in the country.

After careful deliberation, the UKGC made the decisive move to ban bonus buy slots, citing concerns over responsible gambling and the potential for excessive spending. This decision sent shockwaves through the industry, leaving both players and developers grappling with the implications.

What Are Bonus Buy Slots?

Bonus Buy Slot Buttons

Bonus buy slots, also known as “feature buy” or “feature drop” slots, are a game mechanic that allows players to bypass the standard gameplay and directly access a game’s bonus feature. This is typically achieved by paying a predetermined amount of money, often significantly higher than the base game wager.

The primary appeal of bonus buy slots lies in their ability to provide players with immediate access to the game’s most lucrative and exciting bonus rounds, such as free spins, pick-and-click mini-games, or wheel of fortune-style features. This feature was designed to cater to players who were eager to experience the thrill of the bonus round without the potentially lengthy wait required to trigger it through regular gameplay.

However, the bonus buy option did not come without its drawbacks. While it offered a shortcut to the bonus round, there was no guarantee that the investment would pay off. In fact, in many cases, the cost of the bonus buy could exceed the potential winnings, leaving players with a net loss.

Bonus Buy Slots Didn’t Last Long in the UK

Bonus buy slots first gained popularity in the UK market in 2017, quickly becoming a hit among players who were drawn to the allure of instant access to bonus features. Several prominent slot game developers, including Big Time Gaming, Blueprint Gaming, and Pragmatic Play, incorporated this mechanic into their offerings, further fueling its widespread adoption.

As the popularity of bonus buy slots grew, so too did the concerns of the UKGC. The regulatory body recognized the potential for these features to encourage impulsive and excessive spending, particularly among vulnerable players. This concern was amplified by the fact that bonus buy options often came with hefty price tags, sometimes costing players hundreds of pounds to activate.

In 2019, the UKGC took decisive action and issued a directive to online casino operators and game developers, mandating the removal of bonus buy features from all slots available in the UK market. This move was part of the commission’s broader efforts to promote responsible gambling and protect players from the risks associated with uncontrolled spending.

So Why Were They Banned?

The primary concern of the UKGC was the potential for bonus buy slots to undermine responsible gambling practices. By allowing players to bypass the standard gameplay and instantly access bonus features, the regulator believed that these features could lead to impulsive and excessive spending, ultimately increasing the risk of problem gambling.

As a direct result of the ban, all online casinos licensed by the UKGC were required to remove any slots that offered a bonus buy feature. This meant that popular titles like White Rabbit, Extra Chilli, and Fishin’ Frenzy Megaways, among others, were no longer available to UK players.

The buy ban forced game developers to rethink their approach to slot design. Many providers had to go back to the drawing board, modifying their existing games or creating new ones that complied with the UKGC’s regulations.

In the aftermath of the ban, some game developers sought to create alternatives that still catered to players’ desire for bonus-centric gameplay. One such example is Relax Gaming’s Money Cart 2, a slot that forgoes the base game entirely and focuses solely on the bonus round, offering a high RTP to compensate for the lack of a traditional gameplay structure.

It’s important to not that while bonus buy slots are no longer accessible to UK players, they remain available in other jurisdictions where the UKGC’s regulations do not apply. Players based outside of the UK may still be able to access these features, but they do so without the protections afforded by the UKGC’s licensing and oversight.