UKGC warns over wagering requirements encouraging excessive play

UKGC
UKGC

With the inception of licensing bodies such as the UK Gambling Commission, which has a set of strict protocols, gamblers are able to play safely and conveniently online. As a result, the UK iGaming industry has gone from strength to strength in the last decade, with hundreds of international operators offering their digital gaming services within the country today.

Just recently, a wildcard element known as the global pandemic, has been attributed to a slow, yet positive trajectory in the industry, and on an international level too. As a result of Covid, there was a dramatic shift in the way we as a society could interact with the world around us. Lockdowns forced people to stay within the confines of their homes, and many lost their businesses or their employment. Consequently, an increasing number of people turned to the internet during lockdown periods, both as a source of entertainment, and as a way to generate some form of extra income.

With so many online casinos competing for business within the UK digital gambling environment, the sign up bonus has become increasingly elaborate and alluring to say the least. This fact has become even more pertinent with the notable increase in online gambling within the UK which has been directly linked to Covid lockdowns.

That said, one of the biggest issues surrounding online gambling bonus offers is not so much the staggering amounts of ‘free cash’ offered to players once they sign up, but rather the wagering requirements attached to these offers.

What are the Issues Surrounding Wagering Requirements?

Wagering requirements have long been seen as a controversial subject, especially from a player point of view. The reason for this is quite understandable since many operators within the UK gambling industry have sought to misuse the sensible intention of wagering requirements. This sort of practice takes on many forms, something which the UKGC (UK Gambling Commission) recently addressed.

The original intention behind the institution of wagering requirements on almost all bonus offers was in fact key to the survival of online casino operators. Wagering requirements are essentially restrictions that a given gambling operator will place on their bonus offer. The idea is that, should a player choose to take up the bonus offer, they would be required to play through (bet) their bonus value a certain number of times before being allowed to withdraw any winnings accrued from the use of said bonus.

The reason that operators implemented wagering requirements in the first place was as a measure intended to combat ‘bonus hunting’, a practice that was rampant in the early part of online casino development. However, while that may all have started out with sensible intention, some operators have outright abused the safeguard role that wagering requirements were originally designed for.

The UK Gambling Commission recently published an updated guide for all operators in the UK regarding fair and transparent terms and practices. The Commission found a number of licensees (operators) using bonus terms that are potentially unfair.

Published examples include:

  • Terms that allow operators to confiscate the ‘un-staked’ portion of a customer’s deposit
  • Bonus promotion terms that entitle the operator to avoid real money winnings if a customer is deemed to have inadvertently broken staking rules
  • Bonus terms that permit the operator to reduce potential winnings on open bets
  • Terms and conditions that are difficult to understand
  • Welcome bonus offers and wagering requirements that may encourage excessive play

Reactions to the UKGC’s recent findings have been largely positive, with many industry insiders and experts expressing similar views. Pavlos Sideris of NoWagering.com, a website dedicated to operators without wagering requirements, said on the subject: “We’ve been voicing our concerns over excessively high wagering requirements for years… It’s somewhat comforting to know that the GC now also recognises the same concern and we hope, as a minimum, this acts as warning to operators who disregard the importance of treating players fairly”.

Sideris is not alone in his views, and there are those asking whether or not the time has come within the UK gambling industry to apply a maximum limit to wagering requirements.

The central issue with excessive wagering requirements lies in the fact that players are forced to play for much longer than they normally would, and ultimately spend more money than they have, just in order to satisfy the demands placed on them via excessive and unfair wagering requirements.

What are the Alternatives to Wagering Requirements?

While the argument for wagering requirements is at its core, a good one, it is not the only solution out there. In fact, a number of operators have made a radical shift in the opposite direction and are now offering their players ‘wager-free’ bonuses.

While the idea of wager-free bonuses may seem counterintuitive given the reason why wagering requirements were instituted in the first place, these operators believe that this is not the case. Moreover, calls have been made by various industry insiders and affiliates for more operators to jump on the ‘wager-free bandwagon’.

Could this be the way of the future for the UK gambling industry?

It would seem likely given that a number of top casino operators such as PlayOJO and BGO have been offering their players wager-free bonuses for quite some time now.

Wager-free bonus offers can take on a number of incarnations, including a variation on free spins with no wagering requirements. This is a rather popular style of wager-free bonus, which essentially removes any wagering requirements on any winnings made using free spins that form part of an operator’s bonus package.

Whichever type or format of wager-free bonus offers that progressive online casino operators choose to go with, it seems that excessive wagering requirements and bonus restrictions could be on their way out, and a new era in fair and equitable online gambling practices is coming into view.

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