Simon Cowell’s big-budget game show Red or Black will be pre-recorded when it returns in the autumn – to avoid a repeat of the controversy that surrounded some of last year’s winners.

According to The Sun, producers have taken the step so as to have more time to research the backgrounds of their contestants, following the storm that erupted when it emerged £1m winner Nathan Hagerman had a previous conviction for beating a woman.

Two other contestants on last year’s series were also ditched from the show after it emerged they had criminal pasts.

The show’s main £1m game, which featured a giant roulette wheel, will also reportedly be changed after complaints from the Gambling Commission that it glamourised betting.

Instead, this year’s crop of hopefuls will have the chance to win the top prize by guessing how long a ball will take to drop through a ‘mini velodrome’.

“We had planned a game where people have to get the ball into a red or black hole,” a source told the paper. It would have been like a pinball board, where how hard you send the ball running and when you flick the ball determines where you end up.”

However the insider added that the chosen game “will still be as tense as the roulette wheel — it could even be more exciting as the ball will hang around for longer.”

This year’s top prize will be reduced to £500,000 although will be rolled over in the event of finalists losing – meaning that someone could potentially pocket up to £3.5m.

Filming on the new series – once again hosted by Ant and Dec – begins next week, with footballer Robin van Persie and cricketers Kevin Pietersen and Mark Ramprakash rumoured to be among the celebrity participants.