No wagering casinos: positive for the industry

No wagering casinos: positive for the industry

No wagering casinos: positive for the industry

Can the online casino industry learn from the free-to-play sports betting products in relation to wagering requirements in online casino? The two sub-segments may seem to have little in common, but some features can apply across both verticals.

Wagering requirements have for over a decade been treated as almost inseparable from bonuses, a required condition that prevents online casinos from being cheated by “unscrupulous players” or bonus hunters.

But in an industry where some operators choose sky-high requirements, fairness has rarely been the driving force behind wagering requirements. More recently, there’s been a growing trend between forward-facing operators of ditching the wagering requirement, with some taking stock of free-to-play sports betting products and platforms and applying similar concepts to real money online casino wagering. Let’s take a closer look at the no wagering phenomenon and whether it’s positive for the industry.

Wagering requirements: 101

Wagering requirements essentially are terms and conditions for online casino players to unlock bonuses. Players agree to the terms when they take up a casino offer, and it details how much a player must spend before they can withdraw any winnings generated from the use of bonus money. A wagering requirement is always multiple, say 30x, 40x or 50x; this is the amount the player must multiply the total bonus by and play through before withdrawing. For example, if a casino awards a player £100 with a 30x requirement, the player must wager £3,000 before withdrawing.

Wagering requirements must be completed within the set time limit for the bonus, usually 30 days. From the operator’s side, this condition prevents a player from signing up, depositing, claiming the £100 and withdrawing immediately, having not played at the casino. In many cases, wagering requirements allow operators to offer substantial welcome bonuses, securely knowing the player will be bound to use the site through the terms; as such, it can also be viewed as a player retention strategy.

Players aren’t fans of wagering requirements, as they prevent them from withdrawing winnings easily. This has led to a massive increase in online searches for “no wagering requirements” or “no wagering” bonuses over the last few years, coinciding with the growth of platforms and operators happy to meet this demand.

UKGC cites wagering requirements as problematic

In the past, bonus terms and conditions have been subject to UKGC regulation, as unclear advertising led to many player complaints. In 2017, the UKGC and Advertising Standards Authority took action, fining several operators that featured difficult-to-understand terms. The two main issues were unclear wagering requirements and excessively high wagering requirements, upwards of 100x, which not only bind a player to the casino financially but also encourage them to gamble a sizable amount of money in a short time span.

In 2022 the UKGC updated its operator guidance on fair terms and practice, vocalising for the first time that they were aware of “welcome bonus offers and wagering requirements which may encourage excessive play”. They required all operators to “review their offers, particularly welcome bonus offers or those with wagering requirements. The LCCP requires rewards and bonuses to be constructed in a way that is socially responsible. Although it is common practice to attach terms and conditions to bonus offers, the Commission does not expect conditions, such as wagering requirements, to encourage excessive play.”

Neither players nor the Gambling Commission views wagering requirements positively. What’s more, it’s expected that the now long overdue white paper will cover wagering requirements, or potentially cap unrestricted wagering requirements in line with other responsible gambling measures such as affordability checks and player budgets.

The Free Play Industry

The US is an emerging gambling market, with many states having recently legalised sports betting. In the meantime, many free-to-play betting solutions and daily fantasy sports sites have been made available to players, especially in states where sports betting had not been regulated. These sites have allowed operators to start building customer databases that they can use later to target real money promotions.

The free-play sites play another important role in that they enable US operators to familiarise players with sports betting. Fox Bet’s Super Six Offer is another example of this as it offers a nationwide, free-to-play predictions game with cash prizes of up to $100k per week.

These free-to-play products are part of an educational play where operators are enabling players to understand how sports betting works in a risk-free environment. They operate in both regulated and unregulated states, but players in states that are not yet regulated are able to acquire knowledge about the product and operators can then market real money offers to them should the vertical become regulated.

The rise of UK no wagering casinos

Wagering requirements don’t benefit the player or the industry, and it’s now arguable that due to the attention the industry receives from the media and UKGC, they can also damage an operator’s reputation if they feature predatory requirements. However, not all operators are walking the line. Since the 2020s, there’s been a dramatic rise in the number of casino sites without wagering requirements. These sites specialise in zero or 1x wagering requirements, meaning the player is only bound to spend the bonus at the casino and any winnings can be withdrawn – fair is fair.

The number of highly successful platforms already in operation offering this option (like PlayOJO, Betfred, MrQ, and more) shows that gambling sites don’t need to bind players to create loyalty – zero wagering offers are a great way to build a following of happy players. It’s also unquestionably the more responsible route to take when it comes to protecting players and not encouraging excessive gambling.

Operators that have already lowered or removed wagering requirements build trust and integrity in the industry. Wagering requirements and especially unclear conditions lead to large numbers of unhappy players who expressed their dissatisfaction to the Commission.

Removing requirements and making things clear and transparent to players is helping repair this earlier damage to the industry’s image. Zero wagering bonuses allow new players to easily enter the online gambling industry. By offering players a product that meets their requirements and doesn’t encourage “excessive” spending or play, retention is more likely as players are satisfied with the service provided.

Ditching wagering requirements is positive for all, but none more so than for the players. The main lesson to be learned is that consumers always want a fair shot, whatever the topic – bonuses, games or services. Wagering requirements over 30x have never been fair, and reform has been long overdue. With wagering requirements finally coming under the regulatory microscope with the new gambling white paper looming, operators should get ahead of the curve and move towards no wagering bonuses (or certainly fairer bonus terms and conditions) sooner rather than later.

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