Free bets are everywhere in modern betting scenes. Virtually every major operator has one or more on offer, and on the face of it, they often seem highly lucrative to new customers. Even ongoing promotions and free bets can be a big advantage. But do they really work in the customer’s favour, or are they just a marketing trick to attract new customers?
Let’s look at a few reasons to help us understand how they work in the operator’s favour far more than in the customers.
Perhaps one of the most common form of free bet is the deposit bonus. In this offer, you will receive a percentage of your initial deposit back as free bets, and the range can be enormous—sometimes as low as £10 and sometimes as high as £200. On the face of it, this seems like huge potential for free funds to bet with. These impressively high figures, slapped on promotional material, are often difficult for bettors to resist.
But the reality is much different than the illusion. You can’t just get £200 in your account in most cases but can only get it back through instalments of £50 at a time. Each of those £50 must be bet at specified odds. Further, any winnings you make with the free bet funds is all that will be paid to you—you do not get the stake back, too.
So, in short, read the small print. This is usually what will tell you that you are dealing with a marketing ploy, rather than a genuine, no-strings-attached offer.
So, we’ve seen how the reality of free bets is often quite different from the marketed illusion. On a more basic level, though, it’s simply quite clear to see when and why free bets became such a common tactic, and this explains the true reason behind them. Before the advent of online betting, the market was monopolized by a handful of companies. Now, there are over 2,600 operators in the UK officially licensed by the UKGC.
Competition, then, is fierce—so offering bettors apparently free money has become the go-to means of competing with other operators. It isn’t done to enhance your betting experience, but merely to entice new customers and inspire loyalty at the same time. This tactic can be seen with the large StarSports free bet offer on signup, which if you signup and bet according to their terms can net you £50.
While, again, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to use free bets to your advantage, it just goes to show the real motivation behind them.
Often, free bets and welcome offers are centred around specific events, say, in the sporting world. Games and matches with high viewership are a good marketing opportunity for any sportsbook betting company, and they can use the draw of “enhanced” odds to grab potential customers’ attention.
You might see odds on football matches enhanced from 1.26 to 29.0—on the face of it, a hugely advantageous deal. But in reality, the maximum stakes are often £1 or less, and all the winnings are paid out in free bets—not in funds that you can withdraw.
Again, this is plainly a marketing trick, and little more.
Gambling is always a tricky and risky game, then, and free bets are clearly a part of that risk. Though, on the face of it, they seem to work in your favour, the fact is that, by and large, they really only serve the operators. While they can be used to your advantage, if you take the industry as a whole, free bet offers are, clearly, just a marketing trick—the companies do not even really attempt to hide this.