The Clampdown on Free Bets and Bonuses Continues   

The offering of free bets and other bonuses by gambling companies has long been a controversial subject. Brazil is set to ban them and it’s possible there could be similar legislation in the UK on this subject.

Why are the bonuses offered by online betting sites so controversial? There are many campaigners who believe that they entice gamblers to join sites and keep them even if they are having problems with their gambling.

Imagine a situation where a customer is experiencing gambling harm and would love to stop placing bets. Suddenly being offered a free bet can delay the moment when they seek help. After all, that free bet isn’t going to add to their losses even if it’s a loser.

Another area that campaigners often point out is the terms and conditions that are attached to some offers. It is always advisable to read them to see just how fair the free bets/bonus offer is. High wagering requirements or too strict restrictions on how the bonus can be used are sometimes in place.

Another area of concern is that free bets often need to be used in a very short time. This again restricts how they can be used.

You may well get a win from your free bet but if the wagering requirements are too high, being able to withdraw any winnings may be extremely difficult. You also have to remember that when attempting to meet those wagering requirements, you will be back using your own funds so could experience more losses. 

That’s a situation that could possibly happen if playing with an unlicensed and unregulated online casino. 

Legislative Actions Against Gambling Bonuses

In Brazil, new legislation will make it illegal to “ grant, in any form, an advance, anticipation, bonus or prior advantage, even if merely for promotion, publicity or advertising, for the placing of bets.”  

There are also going to be new regulations regarding the time it takes for customers to make deposits and withdrawals. Cheque, cryptocurrency or cheque payouts will be made illegal. It’s expected the changes will come into force in October of this year.

That’s a month after a significant change will take place in the UK gambling laws. From September, the maximum stake for online slots will be reduced. If aged under 25, the maximum stake per spin will be only £2. For those over the age of 25, it will be £5 a spin. We wrote about affordability checks here.

It’s been a long wait in the UK for gambling reform. The last major piece of legislation was back in 2005. The way people gamble has changed dramatically since then. First, 24/7 online gambling arrived, followed by major changes in mobile telephone technology. The latter now allows players to gamble on their phones anywhere they like as long as an internet connection can be achieved.

Implications of New Gambling Regulations

All these changes have left the UK with outdated gambling legislation. In their manifesto for the 2019 General Election, the Conservatives pledged to update the 2005 Gambling Act.  The Conservatives may well have won that General Election but it’s been a long drawn out process to actually change the law.

It wasn’t until last year that a White Paper on gambling reform was published. The slots stake limits changes will be the first concrete moves to update the gambling laws. Another General Election is on the horizon and it’s one that is likely to see Labour take charge in Downing Street. How that would change gambling legislation isn’t certain.

The White Paper did mention the introduction of tougher restrictions on the offering of bonuses by gambling companies. It recognised that there is a “risk” associated with bonuses and mentioned how there had been restrictions placed on how they can be marketed. Caps on the size of wagering requirements may also be introduced. On top of that, there could be new rules that set an appropriate time frame for bonuses to be claimed at British new online casinos

It is important that such offers are not made to those customers who haven’t opted into receiving such promotional information. Nor should they ever be sent to customers who have self-excluded themselves from a gambling site. That has happened though and action was taken against the companies.

VIP schemes are an area that may see changes introduced in the future. These are seen as another way in which gambling websites in the UK can possibly exploit at-risk site members. Bonuses can be received but are dependent on how much money is spent on this site. 

Sometimes, this can see very large amounts required to be spent to receive not too generous bonuses. There has already been some action taken and since 2020 the number of customers accessing such schemes has fallen.

Just as in Brazil, the coming months are going to see tighter regulation of the UK gambling industry regardless of which party is in power.