New Restrictions Enforced on Free Bets and Bonuses from Gambling Sites

free bet regulations

New restrictions set by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) mean that gambling sites will have to change the way they advertise to potential customers.

Following an investigation which spanned over 12 months, CAP have taken action to ensure gambling sites are displaying key information about each promotion and that potential customers are being treated fairly and not being duped into participating in promotions with unfair terms and conditions. A number of concerns were raised by the Gambling Commission and players which led CAP to open a consumer law investigation in the Autumn of 2016. The investigation focussed on bonus promotion and how gambling sites advertise these bonuses to the public.

The gambling industry has been on the rise for decades and was further enhanced by the inclusion of the Gambling Act 2005 which came into force in 2007 and gave gambling sites the ability to advertise on TV. This allowed gambling sites, including betting, casino, bingo and poker sites, to expand their reach and attract customers who would not have otherwise come across them. As the gambling industry grows, so has the number of gambling sites, which are all competing against each other for customers. The most effective way for these sites to attract new customers and retain existing ones is through free bets, bonuses and promotions. As matched bettors know, various promotions are offered by the majority of gambling sites every day to customers which can be very profitable. However, despite looking similar on first glance, some of these promotions carry hidden terms and conditions which have caused upset and confusion in the industry from customers who were unaware of exactly what they were participating in.

An example of a type of promotion which has caused confusion are promotions which carry wagering requirements. For example, a gambling site may advertise a free £10 bet when a customer opts into the promotion and places a £10 bet with their own money. However, without reading through the small print, players may not be aware that they may have to wager any winnings from their initial bet X amount of times before being allowed to make a withdrawal. This type of promotion has become increasingly popular and the Committees of Advertising Practice have decided that gambling sites must make customers aware of any important terms clearly before deciding whether they would like to participate in the promotion.

The Committees of Advertising Practice want gambling operators to take a more responsible approach to advertising promotions. Calls to action should give users the choice of claiming a promotion and not entice them to and people should not be pressurised into placing bets or participating in promotions. An example is Bet365’s in-play TV advertising featuring Ray Winstone which looks to be binned as it calls on viewers to place bets before the second half of the match begins.

Shahriar Coupal, director of the Committees of Advertising Practice said:

“We won’t tolerate gambling ads that exploit people’s vulnerabilities or play fast and loose with eye-catching free bet and bonus offers.  Our new guidance takes account of the best available evidence to strengthen the protections already in place, ensuring that gambling is presented responsibly, minimising the potential for harm.”


What changes can we expect to see from gambling sites?

The Committees of Advertising Practice have outlined a number of key factors which must be implemented in advertisements for gambling promotions. These include:

1. Making sure any restrictions on gameplay are made clear to players

2. Displaying significant terms and conditions clearly in the advertisement of the promotion

3. Not requiring players to meet wagering requirements before being able to withdraw their own money from their accounts

4. Not relying on vague terms which can lead a players money being witheld or forfeited

5. Not obliging players to take part in publicity

CAP are also continuing their investigation to look into other areas of fairness in the online gambling industry. This includes areas outside of bonuses and promotions such as the current ability of operators to confiscate funds if they haven’t been played with for a specific amount of time or if customers haven’t verified their identity documents. They will also look into withdrawal limits that restrict customers from retrieving their money from their accounts.



Who does this apply to?

All operators in the gambling sector must comply with these new regulations and those being seen not to do so will risk facing regulatory action from the Gambling Commission. Currently, William Hill, Ladbrokes and PT Entertainment, who own the Titanbet and Winner brands, have all announced they are formally committed to adhering to the new regulations. This includes allowing people to withdraw they money at any time and to stop playing when they want to. They have also stated that they will change the way they advertise their free bets, bonuses and promotions so that customers know exactly what they are participating in.

Gambling firm GVC Holdings which runs a number of gaming brands such as Bwin, Sportingbet and FoxyBingo, have been fined £350,000 by the Gambling Commission for “repeatedly misleading consumers” in the advertising of free bonuses. This is a stark warning to operators who do not comply with the new regulations and we can expect to see changes from the majority of brands immediately.


What does this mean for matched bettors?

Thanks to matched betting sites such as Profit Maximiser and, the majority of matched bettors are aware of the various terms and conditions that are applied to some promotions and have the knowledge on how to effectively ‘work around’ these terms in order to make a profit. However, these terms do reduce the value of the promotions and can catch people out every now and again. Knowing the key terms of a promotion without having to read through the small print will cause less of a headache and the elimination of wagering requirements will be a bonus for matched bettors and general punters alike.

It’s unclear at this time whether we’ll see a reduced number of promotions from betting sites due to the value in promotions being effectively taken away from the operators but it is a positive and welcome move forward for the UK public who participate in online gambling.