The thorny issue of the lack of transparency regarding bookmaker free bets has come to the fore again because the Competition and Markets Authority is extending the investigation into how punters are being treated in this respect. Every online bookmaker worth its salt uses sign up free bets and bonuses to attract new accounts and some are behaving less fairly than others.
The nub of the matter is the feasibility of the terms and conditions that must be met before the free bet is credited to an account and any winnings can be withdrawn. Two prominent operators offer £200 in free bets to new customers. In one instance there is a 90 day time window to turn over the free bets but another company asks new customers to stake the rollover requirement in 14 days.
The recognised and trusted brands are fair in general and the staking requirements are realistically achievable. It is some of the smaller firms that have been identified as more likely to bamboozle customers with the terms of the new customer bonus. The Gambling Commission have said the industry was still “not doing enough” to ensure terms and conditions were fair so the CMA is investigating again.
The Authority has done some preliminary work in this field but are proposing to look in more depth at the issue. In its latest statement, the body are planning to increase the assessment of online gambling. The first study was carried out last October and at that time consumers were asked to provide anecdotal evidence of their concerns. The amount of information that was offered has led to the CMA writing to certain operators with requests for details of how their free bets work.
In some instances, punters have placed bets having been led to believe that they then qualify for a free bet. It then transpires that they are not eligible for the promotion but by then they have opened a new account, made a deposit and placed a bet. That really annoys customers and not the best strategy to maintain customer loyalty. It would seem in the interests of the bookmaker to play free bets with a straight bat.
The free bets bonanza becomes a feeding frenzy up to and during the Cheltenham Festival. The Gambling Commission have highlighted how two small operators showed failings during the biggest betting meeting of last year. Thousands of new account holders had winning bets cancelled on the basis of some small print. The reasoning was abuse of bonus offers but the firms had to admit the terms and conditions were unfair and not clear.
As consumers of betting products, we should welcome the CMA’s work. There are some genuine free bets and bonuses that provide a good incentive for opening an account. The CMA will get rid of the bad apples and that is a good thing for anyone considering betting with a new bookmaker and are tempted by the sign up free bets. We shouldn’t have to closely examine the small print to get to grips with the rules.