The existence of bonuses and sign up offers in the form of free bets has long been a controversial point for bookmakers. While bookies see it as an unmissable marketing opportunity, and punters see it as free money, critics see it as a way of enticing vulnerable people to part with more money when placing bets. Whatever your standpoint on betting offers, there’s no getting away from the fact that they’re incredibly popular in the UK. Punters can utilise a third-party site like Top Betting Sites, access thousands of free bets and promotions from UK bookmakers, and potentially maximise their profits.
As football is the most popular sport for online betting, we examine whether or not betting offers should be banned to curb addiction and to prevent people from falling into massive debt that they can’t payback.
Could the UK follow Australia in banning free bets?
As of 2018, Australian bookmakers were banned from offering signup bonuses to punters, in a widespread attempt to curb problem gambling across the country. According to OLBG, the main reason that gambling inducement advertising was banned in Australia was a ‘harm-reduction’ measure. The Australian government thought it was an essential measure to try and stop people from falling into gambling addiction, as the country has struggled with problem gamblers for many years. While some people argued that the ban wouldn’t do a great deal to change the situation, it certainly limits people from opening accounts on too many sites and is part of a broader scope of measures aimed at addressing the issue.
But is the UK likely to follow suit and introduce a ban on free bets and bonuses for online football betting? It’s hard to know at this time. However, the UK Gambling Commission announced a stream of new regulations and measures to be introduced in both 2020 and 2021 to reform the gambling industry. Some of the changes introduced include limits on online stakes, an end to VIP sections of gambling sites, and various other safe betting initiatives. The call for tighter regulation is supported by many within the British government, and more changes could be forthcoming.
Sports betting and football.
Betting on football is almost as popular as watching the game itself. In the Premier League alone, eight out of twenty teams are sponsored by gambling companies, each of which offers bonuses and free bets to their customers, as well as a range of specific offers to supporters of the clubs they sponsor. What’s more, gambling advertisements are prolific on TV just before the start of a game, as well as during the half time break. It isn’t easy to get away from betting on football, and it’s becoming somewhat normalised and is accepted as part of the matchday football experience.
For some, the prevalence of betting companies on football merchandise is a cause for concern, as children are exposed to their team’s sponsors from a young age. In July 2020, a House of Lords Select Committee report suggested that Premier League clubs should not be allowed to have betting firms on their football shirts. While such a change is not expected in the next season or two, it may come into effect as early as 2023, which will leave sports betting companies with a similar problem that faced the tobacco industry in years gone by.
Would banning bonuses help curb gambling addiction?
It’s clear that placing bets is a significant part of the UK’s football culture and will continue to be popular even if advertising opportunities are reduced. As the betting industry is facing considerable reform, we might see changes to the way in which signup offers and bonuses are given to new customers. But will this help stop the problem of gambling addiction? It’s too early to look into the figures from Australia’s ban on free bets to see if it has been beneficial, but there is cause to suggest that limiting the number of free bets and offers given to football fans could prevent them from getting carried away.
With the market as it is, punters are incentivised to sign up for as many bookmakers as possible, to extract as much in the way of ‘free bets’ as they can. This isn’t a sustainable strategy and can cause people to lose track of the bets they’re placing, which creates a problem. While banning free bets on football might not be a guaranteed solution to the issue of problem gambling, reforming the sector in some way might lead to some positive outcomes.