Why Is the Slots Buy Bonus Option Banned in Some Jurisdictions?

Finger Pointing to Large Buy Button With a Slots Background

Online gaming jurisdictions must strike a balance between running successful markets and protecting players. They have to ensure that operators can run profitable businesses without taking advantage of gamblers.

Jurisdictions need to act when they think that problem gamblers may be in danger. The slots “buy feature” (a.k.a. buy bonus), for example, recently forced one jurisdiction to ban it.

Assuming you’re unfamiliar with buy bonus, you can read more about it below. I’ll also discuss why it has been banned in certain markets.

What Is Buy Bonus in Slots?

Normally, you must rely on sheer luck to trigger a slots bonus round. You typically need to land at least three scatter symbols anywhere on the reels to unlock the bonus.

The buy feature lets you skip the random chance element. Instead of waiting on scatter symbols, you can just risk a certain multiple of your stake to trigger the bonus.

Here’s an example:

  • A buy feature requires you to risk 100x your stake.
  • You’re betting $0.20 per spin.
  • You pay $20 to unlock free spins.
  • Three scatters land immediately within the next round.
  • All payouts will be based on your $0.20 standard bet.

You can use the buy bonus at any point when it’s available. Therefore, you can enjoy the feature over and over as long as you have the funds.

Assuming you feel like the cost is high, you could always lower your stake to the minimum amount too. Using the example above, you might be able to reduce your bet to $0.10 and pay $10 for the bonus round.

Why Do Players Use Buy Bonus?

Gamblers use this option for one or more reasons. Here are the three main reasons why players buy the bonus.

Unlock the Bonus Immediately

Sometimes, you might be playing a slot just to trigger the bonus. In these cases, you have three main options to quickly play the feature:

  • Spin the reels manually and wait.
  • Use autoplay and either watch the game or take a break.
  • Skip straight to the bonus with the buy feature.

The first option suffices when you’re playing a brand new slot and want to take everything in. However, you might eventually get bored with the base game and simply want the feature.

Online Slot Buy Feature Screen

Autoplay is an upgrade over manually spinning to trigger the bonus. The issue here, though, is that you still must wait—you just don’t need to spin the reels when doing so.

Buy bonus lets you quickly move past all of the spins that it takes to randomly trigger free spins, or whatever other feature is available.

Take a Chance at the Biggest Prizes

Outside of progressive jackpot slots, most games offer the largest prize in the bonus round. A slots bonus usually consists of free spins with one or more modifiers, like win multipliers and/or expanding wilds.

Assuming the multiplier keeps increasing throughout the bonus, you can look forward to big prizes. Some slots pay anywhere from 10,000x to 50,000x your stake through the feature.

Here’s an example of how much you could win in this scenario:

  • Your minimum bet is $10.
  • The top prize is 25,000x your stake.
  • 25,000 x 10 = $250,000 maximum win

You might only be able to win up to 1,000x your stake in the base game. Bonuses become much more attractive in these instances.

Raise RTP

Many slots offer enhanced return to player (RTP) through the bonus. The extra modifiers are the key to this increased payout percentage.

For example, online slots may normally offer 96.2% RTP. However, you can boost this amount up to 97.5% payback with the feature in play.

You’re still facing a 2.5% house edge in this instance. But you also get to enjoy another added benefit when buying the bonus.

Some Jurisdictions Outlaw This Feature

In 2019, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) made headlines when they banned the buy bonus option. They noted that this function has the ability to push certain players into losing far more money.

Back then, software developers that offered buy features in UK casinos underwent an expensive and lengthy process to remove them. Developers today often create a different version for the UK (w/o a buy bonus) and other markets.

The Gambling Commission began reviewing the matter two years ago as part of an effort to reduce problem gaming. After all, the UK has a problem with gambling addiction.

During their research, the Gambling Commission noticed that gamblers were spending more than normal when the buy feature was available. Oftentimes, they had to risk 100x their stake or higher to trigger the bonus.

Of course, gamblers can always avoid using this option. But some players simply don’t have the ability to make themselves stop once they start.

Responsible Gambling Is the Key Theme Here

Banning the buy feature isn’t the only bold move that the UKGC has made recently. This gaming body has also banned credit-card payments at casinos and reduced maximum stakes for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to just £2.

The latter decision figures to have the biggest impact on the country’s gambling market. Previous FOBT stakes used to reach £100.

However, the buy-feature ban should have an impact as well. Gamblers’ habits can get out of hand when they purchase the bonus multiple times.

Here’s an example:

  • A British slot offers maximum bets worth up to £100.
  • You begin placing the largest wager.
  • The buy feature option costs 80x your stake.
  • 100 x 80 = £800.

You’re now risking £800 ($1,000) per spin, which is a serious amount of money. The upside is that you could score a huge payout that’s worth thousands of times more than your stake.

The downside, though, is that you could also walk away with a prize worth much less than what you spend. Winning just £100 or £200 is really going to sting in this case.

Again, the UKGC simply didn’t feel comfortable allowing players to take these risks. They decided to completely rid their internet gaming market of buy bonuses as a result.

Other regulated gaming jurisdictions will likely consider doing the same in the future. After all, the UKGC is currently the most-respected online gaming authority in the industry.

Will Buy Bonus Make You Addicted to Gambling?

You can still find the buy feature in many real money slots throughout the world. Therefore, you might see this option and fear using it.

Much of your decision to purchase the feature will depend upon your individual circumstances. You should ask yourself the following questions regarding this matter:

  • How large is my bankroll?
  • Do I have addictive tendencies when it comes to slots?
  • Will I keep using the buy bonus over and over if I don’t win big the first time(s)?
  • Is the maximum prize and RTP increase (if applicable) worth the extra money?
  • Do I already have enough fun playing the base game?
  • Do I value playing time just as much as bonuses and pursuing big payouts?

The first question is one of the most important in this scenario. If you only have a $20 bankroll, then you’ll likely have to risk most or all of it on one feature. In contrast, you could buy the feature quite a bit with $1,000 or more.

Gambling addiction has the most-grave consequences in this instance. Assuming you’re a problem gambler, then you want to avoid slots with buy bonuses in general.

You might already have enough fun as it is just playing the base game. In this case, you should simply enjoy yourself and let the features come naturally.

Online Slots Bonus Buy Screen

Regarding the last question, you might not be comfortable risking a large portion of your bankroll for bonus glory. Instead, you may appreciate the thrill, and low cost, of each spin.

Many factors go into deciding if this option is worth your while. You should definitely consider the questions posed above before making your decision.


Buy bonuses give players a chance to win massive amounts of money playing online slots. However, many jurisdictions have banned these features over fears regarding problem gambling. Luckily, there are plenty of other great casino bonuses to choose from.

For more about slots, check out these other blogs.

Posted in: Slots

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