Are Wagering Requirements Becoming A Thing Of The Past?

Casino bonus wagering requirements have been getting a lot of attention recently after the Gambling Commission and CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) found that players may be left out of pocket due to “restrictions on their right to withdraw winnings made from gameplay with their deposit unless they meet extensive wagering requirements”.

The wagering requirements they’re referring to are terms attached to welcome bonuses (as well as reload bonuses and free spin promotions) offered by virtually every online casino out there.  The terms usually state that for players to be able to withdraw their deposit, the bonus and/or any winnings won as a result of using the bonus, they must place wagers of 40 times (and sometimes more) the value of the bonus they received.

For example, let’s say you claim a 100% welcome bonus with 40X wagering requirement on your first deposit of £100; you receive a £100 bonus (£200 total funds). You play with your bonus and win £1,000 (lucky you). However, the wagering terms state that you have to wager the bonus amount 40 times over before you can withdraw your £1000 in winnings. That’s £4,000 (£100 bonus x 40) worth of bets you’ve got to place before you can cash-out. Not feeling so lucky anymore are you?

No surprise there why the Gambling Commission are getting concerned. But why now – wagering requirements have existed for years, well over a decade even.

The problem is that over the last decade the number of new online casinos coming to market has risen dramatically with the advancement of technology and whitelabel solutions allowing anyone with enough capital to license the third-party software to launch their “own” online casino.  As a result, competition has soared and newcomers attempt to cut through the noise in the only way they know how – by offering huge welcome bonuses, some as high as 1000%, or even £1000.

Casinos don’t give that kind of money away for free, and so they attach wagering requirements to them making it practically impossible for claimants to win anything from them. Until recently though, most players weren’t aware of the terms of the bonuses they were receiving, and along with the “bigger and better” bonuses so did the complaints.

2017 has seen the Gambling Commission and CMA issue a number of fines including £300,000 to Bgo Entertainment for misleading advertising and a whopping £7.8million to 888 for failures in handling vulnerable customers. They also issued a number of severe warnings to license holders which prompted operators industry-wide to boost compliance to the top of their priority lists and display significant terms and conditions of their bonuses and promotions clearly next to each offer, including their wagering requirements.

Bgo took their penalty so seriously that they decided to do away with their wagering requirements entirely, saying that “if we have evidence players find wagering conditions confusing or unfair, then that’s enough for us to take a decision…and we look forward to operating bgo casino with wager-less bonusing”.

They also noted that they “remember when a 100% match bonus with a 20x turn requirement was the standard casino sign-up offer… Now we are seeing, 200%’s, 400%’s, no deposit bonuses, free spins, higher turn requirements, max bets and less/non contributing games”.

The industry-wide reaction from operators to display significant terms next to their offers has now made it obvious to players how high the wagering requirements are on some (most) bonuses. Of course, many players who don’t understand what wagering requirements are will remain none the wiser and probably continue claiming the bonuses. But, with mainstream brands like Bgo shouting about their new wager-free bonuses in their advertising and on TV, awareness is sure to rise and more players will begin to acknowledge them.

The shake-up has also given rise to new casino website NoWagering which specialises in wager-free bonuses and promotions. On their website they mention that “we are seeing more and more online casinos launching with more restrictive and complex wagering requirements and terms than the previous” and that “it's time to say ‘NO’ to wagering requirements and unfair terms”.

By the looks of things, NoWagering isn’t short of deals either, with over ten no-wagering free spin offers, a generous selection of no-wagering welcome bonuses, and even a handful of wager-free no-deposit bonus offers too.  Many of the operators on their website appear to be new brands, suggesting perhaps that this is the new trend, although there are other mainstream brands on there too including William Hill, Betfair, and PlayOJO – who recently got voted “Rising Star of the Year”.

Clearly something big is happening. Whether wagering requirements are being phased out entirely or not remains to be seen, but the ball is certainly rolling and ultimately it will be up to the players to decide which way the industry will turn.