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.
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 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 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.
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 on 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.
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 feature in UK casinos underwent an expensive and lengthy process to remove it. Developers today often create a different version for the UK (w/o 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.
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 bonus 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 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 addition has the most-grave consequences in this instance. Assuming you’re a problem gambler, then you want to avoid slots with buy bonus 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.
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.
The buy bonus option is banned over fears regarding problem gambling. It requires players to increase their stake by a massive amount.
Of course, buying the feature can result in a huge payout. You could win up to 20,000x your stake or more, depending upon the game.
The risk, though, is that you win far less than you spent. Betting 100x your stake can quickly backfire if you fail to win anywhere near this amount.
You don’t necessarily have to fear using buy feature when it is available, though. Instead, you can use it a few times per session as long as you have the bankroll and don’t suffer from gambling addiction.