Going Wager-Free: An Evolution of Wagering Requirements (Part 1)

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The evolution of wagering requirements has a complex history that has affected iGaming industry stakeholders at all levels. We're very pleased to have Pavlos Sideris (right), founder of NoWagering, the dedicated resource of no wagering casinos and wager-free spins, here to unpack the current state of wagering requirements and share expectations for the future. Sideris has authored a two-part blog post,  part one of which can be found below. Part two can be read here.

There was a time, long ago, when wagering requirements didn’t exist. Players were instead offered bonuses, which could be played and converted to cashable winnings. However, low-risk strategies and even-money bets soon put an end to this, as casino operators realised the bonuses were being heavily abused by players who had no intention of playing for real.

This is when additional terms and wagering requirements were born.

Fast forward a decade or two and bonus Terms and Conditions are the bane of every online casino player’s existence. Overly complex conditions and terminology, including wagering requirements, game weightings and maximum bet amounts have led to an outcry from players having their legitimate winnings confiscated as they fall foul of the small print.

The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 requires that operators obtain a license if they want to serve UK customers. The Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) set out the conditions for this license, which stipulates that “Licensees must ensure that all significant conditions, which apply to marketing incentives are provided transparently and prominently to consumers,” and that they are presented “at the point of sale for any promotion.”

Alas, numerous operators didn’t take much notice, and in a powerful but long overdue move by the Gambling Commission and Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), operators began receiving heavy penalties for non-compliance.

Wagering Requirements Come Full Circle

The enforcement action led to widespread adoption of the ‘significant T&Cs’ we are all now intimately familiar with. Welcome offers were revised to remove any doubt or confusion, with some operators, such as BGO, going as far as completely scrapping wagering requirements.

New casinos, promotions and loyalty schemes launched with wager-free approaches, and a growing awareness amongst players forced the trend to continue further. The introduction of the tax on freeplays further tempted operators to shy away from traditional ‘generous’ bonuses to ‘cheaper’ free spins. However, as the Gambling Commission voiced concerns around the use of the word ‘free’ alongside offers with wagering requirements, more pressure was put on operators to remove wagering requirements from free spins and further fuel the trend of wager-free spins.

It’s worth noting that the majority of online casino and bingo operators still have wagering requirements on their bonuses and promotions. It seems that for most, the trend is not enough to warrant any change. This is somewhat understandable, given the previously stated reasoning for introducing wagering requirements in the first place.

At the time of this writing, there are 1,086 active remote casino operating license holders. At NoWagering.com we have around 40 operators with wager-free offers. Clearly our list isn’t exhaustive, and there are others which aren’t suitable or don’t pass our initial audit.

Evidently there are far more operators out there who choose not to go ‘wager-free’. Learn more in Part 2 about potential factors behind their decision, including player value and how no wagering casino bonuses affect the bottom line.

Once you’ve read the second and final part of Pavlos Sideris' guest post, where he discusses why wager-free deals are still comparatively rare and what the future holds for wagering requirements in general, please share your thoughts in the comments section.