Features and mechanics that allow players more flexibility in their level of stake have long been among the first areas of attention for regulators. Conversely, the freedom for players to enjoy their slot sessions in a manner of their choosing is something they hold dear. Bonus buys have been the perfect example of this since their introduction.

Prominent slot studio Play ‘n Go recently commissioned a poll of Swedish players asking them if the feature should be banned, revealing that 55 per cent of respondents thought it should. Throwing the question out to a wider audience CasinoBeats sought the opinion of several leading industry suppliers, streamers and affiliates to find out if the opinion was shared.

Representing slot studios are Dr. Eyal Loz, CPO of RubyPlay; Wazdan’s CCO, Andrzej Hyla and Amy Brewis Account Manager at Realistic Games.

From the affiliate world is BigWinBoard’s Founder, Daniel Hansson Sokcic, while Josh Green CEO of FruitySlots offers insight in his capacity as a renowned streamer.

CasinoBeats: With the vast majority of gambling done so responsibly, are there any other approaches, other than the ultimate sanction that could work?

Daniel Hansson Sokcic, BigWinBoard’s Founder

Daniel Hansson Sokcic: I firmly believe that prohibiting bonus buys isn’t the most effective strategy. While Relax Gaming’s approach with the Money Cart series offers an alternative, it’s clear that many players are dissatisfied with restrictions on their choices. Given that bonus buys are permitted in other jurisdictions, many players might feel unfairly treated. This discontent could lead them to seek alternatives, including playing at offshore casinos, which poses its own set of challenges.

Dr. Eyal Loz: The bonus buy feature is a hotly debated topic. On one hand, more suppliers are releasing elaborate buy feature designs with their newly released products. On the other hand, the value of a single feature can represent the overall cost of an average session, with some versions as expensive as 250x the player’s bet. Streamers are regularly seen immersed in sessions filled with excessive buy features purchases, which see individuals burning through eye-watering sums of money with often very little to show for it at the end of the gameplay. Therefore, it’s not surprising that operators and players alike are voting to exclude the buy feature from their platforms. 

Despite all that, this year RubyPlay introduced the buy feature mechanic to all newly released games and many existing releases. First and foremost, we enable our buy feature to have a very low entry price point, very low minimum bet support and a feature cost of 50X bet. Our debut buy feature title Mad Hit Marlin Bonanza offers players the experience at as little as $5. The feature offered is the signature aspect of the game and is frequently triggered by players during normal gameplay. At a low cost, players can test and experience the feature immediately, without having to spend their precious time grinding the slot.

Andrzej Hyla, Wazdan’s CCO

Andrzej Hyla: With the vast majority of gambling done so responsibly, are there any other approaches, other than the ultimate sanction, that could work?

At our core, we prioritise player autonomy and responsibility. Offering players the choice to enable or disable features such as bonus buy, empowers them to tailor the experience to suit their preferred gaming style. Players who do not wish to use this option can simply ignore it, but we do not restrict the freedom of other players in this way. By providing more control and customisation we aim to cultivate a gaming environment that fosters empowerment, safety, and enjoyment for all. An environment where everyone’s a winner.

Moreover, we comply with the regulatory requirements of each jurisdiction, including the integration of key responsible gaming features mandated by regulators. From panic buttons to reality check tools, maximum stake limits and minimum spin times, we put regulation and player welfare first. 

Josh Green: Current responsible gambling regulations seem to target slots over other verticals. While player freedom is important, the focus on limiting bets or bonus buys in slots doesn’t translate for instance to table games, where much larger wagers can be placed on a single hand or roulette spin. This inconsistency creates an unfair situation where slots are more heavily restricted, despite the potential for high-risk behaviour in other areas of the sector. 

One measure that we firmly believe should be introduced is the removal of a “max bet” button entirely from the user interface. This eliminates the risk of accidental clicks that can lead to unintended high wagers especially if this is located close to the spin button.  Players can still choose their desired bet size manually, allowing for more control and promoting responsible gambling.

Amy Brewis Account Manager at Realistic Games

Amy Brewis: The availability of choice, aligned with robust and proportionate responsible gambling measures must be the way forward to ensure a healthy regulated gambling market that works for all stakeholders and limits the impact and relevance of grey market forces.

Age restrictions for bonus buys or offering the ability for players to disable the feature may be considered among sensible steps to addressing any dissatisfaction rather than a blanket ban. Limits on the number of times players can purchase the bonus could also work, but there will always be a section of the player base that would object to any restrictions. Working with player communities and reaching consultative solutions are likely to enjoy the most success.

CB: Is this player opinion shared across geos?

DHS: If you pose a question to the general public about gambling, as Play’n GO did, the typical response is likely to be negative. However, if you consult the dedicated gambling community, like we did at Bigwinboard, who gamble regularly, you’ll receive a markedly different reaction. Specifically, the majority of this core group is opposed to the idea of removing bonus buys, indicating a clear disparity in perspectives based on the audience’s familiarity and engagement with gambling.

Dr. Eyal Loz, CPO of RubyPlay

DEL: What players do and what players say is often different. Players who engage with the buy feature typically purchase them at large intervals rather than serially. Unsurprisingly, streamers and average players behave differently when it comes to bonus buys. Our data suggests that the buy feature is a player retention-enhancing tool, not a bet-enhancing initiative. Players will only buy a handful of features and this results in much longer play sessions. I would suggest that purchasing a feature or two gives players a better indication of the quality of the overall design of the game.

AH: Currently, those who use the buy feature in Wazdan games make up only 5 to 10 per cent of our player base. However, we believe completely getting rid of this feature would needlessly hurt this minority and there has not been such a request from the vast majority of our players.

We believe in controlling one’s luck, and this approach is appreciated by players and operators alike, whether we are talking about the Buy Feature or any other aspect of our software. Of course, we have disabled this option in jurisdictions where it is prohibited.

Josh Green CEO of FruitySlots

JG: We believe the banning of bonus buys was not a well-thought-out, data-driven or logical decision. Whilst a bonus buy is inherently more expensive for the player, the returns are reflected in the RTP. Whether a player chooses to lose over a longer period of 100 or 500 spins as opposed to buying a bonus should be their choice. 

Across our community of slot enthusiasts from many different countries, we feel players largely echo this sentiment. There doesn’t seem to be a direct correlation between geos and player preferences towards bonus buys. People’s opinions tend to be strongest in those geos where they have already been restricted after having experienced the ability to bonus buy in the past.

AB: This is not something we have conducted huge amounts of research on, however, could be an opinion shared across the more regulated markets. Some of the feedback we’ve seen in recent months tends to suggest there is a level of demand for a ban, but like so many other issues concerning gambling in general it is difficult to come to a definitive conclusion without further consultation. 

CB: Has there been any adverse effects of banning bonus buys in the regions where this has been implemented already?

DHS: Yes, I do believe that banning bonus buys (along with other things) pushes players towards offshore casinos, which is a concern I often hear from UK players lamenting their lack of access to these features. From my observations, this issue is quite widespread. Many express frustration over the increased difficulty in triggering bonus features, as many current games are centred around the concept of bonus buys. In some instances, it’s actually impossible to achieve the max win without bonus buys, underscoring a notable unfairness within the game design.

I’m convinced that the availability of bonus buy options and responsible gambling can harmoniously coexist. Numerous effective tools are already implemented to support players in gambling responsibly, and these measures can be enhanced without detracting from the overall gaming experience. This balance ensures that players have the freedom to enjoy bonus features while also promoting a safe and responsible gaming environment.

DEL: We will continue to experiment with buy features at different price points and with different designs. Unfortunately, it seems buy features have got a bad reputation, perhaps due to PR or streamer behaviour. RubyPlay’s design focuses on giving players a quick “try before you buy” option, where players can decide to engage with our games, knowing full well that the most important aspect of the game is how well the feature delivers. So far, we are very happy to report that we see significant improvement in game engagement while seeing only a very modest increase in bet behaviour.

AH: Although we haven’t done any research on this issue, we are firm believers in empowering players with choice whilst upholding responsible gaming practices. Our players have a lot of self-control. They have the final decision when it comes to using the buy feature. We believe that players should and can be in control of their gaming, as evidenced by the fact that, despite the availability of the buy feature, those who don’t find it worthwhile simply choose not to use it.

From our data, we can see that only around 10 per cent of players use the buy feature, which shows that 90 per cent of players find playing our games in the “full version” perfectly fine and enjoyable, and we are happy to be able to offer both options and give our players the final say, without restricting them or making decisions on their behalf.

JG: Absolutely, It’s no secret that the black market has grown and benefited from this restriction. We constantly hear from players that they are now playing on non-regulated sites so they can experience features such as quick spins, auto-spins and bonus buys. It’s evident in screenshots of big wins that they send to us or share on forums. 

Whilst we encourage and urge players to avoid playing on unregulated sites, we understand players’ reasons for looking elsewhere for what they deem a better playing experience.

AB: Not so much an adverse effect, but it could have played a role in the way markets have evolved, where players prefer medium volatility games that offer more frequent wins. 

We’ve seen that players in such jurisdictions may not stay in a game as long because of the time it takes to get to the bonus, so it appears that bonus buys being unavailable has influenced play patterns.