In the first column of Rick Elliott’s Sports Betting World I highlighted some of the positive and negative aspects of bookmaker free bets and bonuses. There are some genuine offers that are transparent and easily achievable but there are also some bad apples. Punters will now get more protection due to an initiative from the Gambling Commission. Unclear and ambiguous terms and conditions should be a thing of a past and gamblers will be in a better position to take advantage of the concessions.
However, one of the strange comments from the Gambling Commission was that betting should not be presented in financial terms. Like it or not betting is about money and winning something for nothing. Some gamblers might say they enjoy the intellectual challenge but fundamentally we place bets to win money. The main issue with the Commission is glamorous advertising and misleading free bets and bonuses. However, trying to prevent “undue emphasis on money-motives for gambling” will fail because for most people the motive for betting is to make money.
We all know that there are problem gamblers, just like there are alcoholics and over-eaters. Bookmakers are accused of exploiting problem gamblers with claims of risk free bets and bonuses. The TV adverts can be quite appealing and seductive but now there will be tougher rules. Adverts that encourage bettors to place bets as a matter of urgency may be a thing of the past. The face of live betting at bet365, Ray Winstone, may disappear from the operators’ adverts.
The advice from the column two weeks ago was to use some discretion when opening an account to take advantage of a welcome offer. Hidden in the small print could be unrealistic staking and odds requirements and vigilance was advised. However, the whole landscape for free bets has changed for the benefit of the customer and the Gambling Commission should be applauded for making that happen. In association with the Committee of Advertising Practice the body has cleared some of the muddy waters with regards the requirements associated with free bets.
Unfair terms and conditions were examined by the Competition and Markets Authority and some heavy fines have been issued for bookmakers who abuse the rules. One of the main problems with offers is the distinction between cash refunds and money in the form of free bets. Those eye catching adverts that say “Back Manchester United at 33/1 to beat Stoke” are good examples of things not being what they seem. There is a maximum bet of £1 and extra winnings are paid as free bets.
I’m sure there are few gamblers who believe they can have unlimited stakes on such enhanced prices. However, most people would be expected to be paid in betting funds and not free bets. The initial bet is not risk free because ultimately the stake can be lost. The various bodies are serving their consumers well by making the rules more stringent and hence offers more transparent. Bookmakers can be fined and ultimately the Gambling Commission can revoke licences.
The advice from the earlier column still applies. Make sure you are fully conversant with the terms of a welcome offer before opening an account, making a deposit and placing a bet. The days of misleading promotions will soon be a relic from the past. The Gambling Commission and their associates have acted on behalf of you the customer and that can only make for a more level playing field and more opportunities to beat the bookie.