We strongly advise that anyone who is even half-serious about betting on sport and other events should have accounts with a range of different betting sites. The more accounts you have, the more likely you are to be able to access the best odds. It also means you won’t be too negatively impacted should a bookie limit or close your account, or if their website or app experiences any downtime (just before the big game you want to watch and bet on!). But undoubtedly one of the main reasons just about all punters should join a range of bookmakers is because it means you can grab some great betting offers and hopefully shift the odds in your favour.
All major betting sites offer new customers some form of free bet, bonus or betting offer when they first join. Statistically, these give you the advantage and, over time, even a novice should be able to make a few quid if they stick to taking advantage of such offers. In addition to the main welcome offer, the vast majority of sites have a range of offers and promotions for existing customers too. The more bookies you join, the greater the number of such promos you will have access to. And for regular punters, these offers can deliver extra wins that soon add up over the course of a year, making a real difference to your bottom line.
So, welcome to our betting offers hub, where you can find all the best offers and latest promos. We’ve also got everything you need to know about both sign-up offers and existing customer deals, including what to look out for, whether these offers are worth taking up and how things have been changing in terms of how such promos can be advertised and how such bets and offers may have to be shaped in the future.
Understanding Sign Up Offers
Visit most retail websites, be it to buy a posh steak from a cow that’s been massaged and sung to, or to check out the latest running shoes that will shave a second off your PB, and you’ll probably be offered some sort of deal or discount. It might be a free sausage, a cushioned innersole or, more likely, a 10% off code. But whatever it is, many online sellers use welcome offers to attract new customers and convert interested parties from someone who is merely browsing into a customer.
Bookmakers are no different. The UK betting arena is a crowded and competitive marketplace, with almost 100 sites licensed to trade here. Rather than a discount code or slightly random freebie, online bookmakers try to stand out from their rivals by offering tempting and potentially lucrative new customer offers. These are often loss-leaders, where the bookie will expect to lose money on average.
However, compared to a costly televised advertising campaign featuring a third-rate ex-footballer, such marketing promotions are often good value from the site’s perspective. There is no obligation to use a site once you have claimed the welcome offer but lots of customers do and as long as a few become regular customers, the bookmaker is more than happy to give away a few free bets or big enhanced odds deals.
How Do You Claim an Offer?
Bookies want you to take them up on their generous offers and promotions and so claiming them is usually easy. That is especially the case at the sort of top-class sites we work with, the big players and major brands who have deep pockets and bags of experience at knowing what punters want and making things simple. Typically, as long as you tick the following boxes, you should be good to go:
- Aged 18 or over
- A new customer (usually offers are limited to one per household, address, IP address, etc)
- Resident in the UK (or other country where the bookie is licensed and offers the bonus)
Assuming you meet those core criteria you should be eligible for all of the offers we feature here. Information about the specific promotion a bookmaker offers will be detailed at the site. Usually either on the homepage when you first bet, or if not, via a “Promotions” (or similar) tab, you can see the key terms and conditions. This will tell you all the major elements of the promo and how to claim it, as well as provide a link to the full terms and conditions. This small print is not to catch you out but will explain in full exactly how the promotion works, what you need to do and what, if any, exclusions apply, as well as what might happen in certain unforeseen circumstances (such as your selection with the free bet being a non-runner or having been placed on an event that is subsequently).
As said, bookies aim to make this process as quick and straightforward as possible as they want you to take advantage of their deal, try out what they offer and hopefully become a regular customer. Assuming you like the sound of the bookie and the betting offer they have, you’ll need to sign up first.
This is a simple process, just like opening an account with most non-betting online retailers. You will need to enter some basic personal information, accept the terms and conditions, set certain preferences (such as those related to marketing and responsible gambling) and that’s it. Some betting offers may require the entry of a promo code, either when you join, or when you make a deposit. Details of this will either auto-populate if you click on the offer or be shown in the Ts and Cs. If such a code is required, they make you enter it, though often the free bet or bonus is added automatically.
Age and identification verification is usually automatic and behind the scenes but if you have recently moved house or cannot be verified for some other reason you may need to send scans of documentation such as a passport. That is usually a quick and simple process and next, you are ready to make a deposit.
How Do the Offers Work?
Once you have opened your betting account, the next step will usually be to make a deposit. Just enter payment details into the site in the same way as you would pay for any item online. Bookies use first-rate security so this is no riskier than buying anything else online or using online banks.
From time to time a site may offer a no deposit bonus which, as the name indicates, does not even require a deposit. Such betting offers are now rare but they are among the best around, especially for newbies, as you do not need to risk any of your own cash. Most promotions will require that you make a deposit, however, usually of a specified amount or more.
The various great offers currently available come in all shapes and sizes. Most are some sort of matched free bet offer based on the value of your deposit, your bets, or both. For example, you may need to deposit and bet £10 in order to receive a 100% matched free bet worth £10. Other deals may offer a 200% match or even higher, with some, for example, offering £20 in free bets for just a £5 stake, or perhaps a £50 offer bundle for just a £10 bet.
As well as these offers which are essentially matched “free” bets, there is a range of other promotions used as welcome offers by bookies. These include but are not limited to:
- No Risk First Bets – place a first bet and if it loses you get your stake back. The refund is sometimes as cash but usually as a free bet.
- Bonus Funds – bonus fund offers are similar to free bet promos and are usually based on the value of your first deposit. The key difference is that these usually allow you to keep the bonus funds (with almost all free bets, the free bet stake is not returned with winnings). The downside of this is that such offers require the value of the bonus to be wagered or rolled over multiple times before any funds are withdrawn.
- Enhanced Odds – rather than a free bet, these betting offers give (often huge) enhanced odds on specific games or outcomes. So for your opening offer you may be able to back an even money favourite at odds of 8/1, for example.
- Odds Boosts – related to the above but rather than being on a specific game, such odds boost can be used on any selection you like, offering double or perhaps triple the standard prices, so not usually as generous as enhanced odds offers.
With all of these betting offers and new customer promotions, as well as bonuses for existing customers there will be various terms and conditions that apply. These will differ from one betting site to the next and will depend on the offer itself. As said, the key points and most important terms will form part of the main banner or advert.
Terms & Conditions
In addition, the full Ts and Cs should be accessible from this. These will detail exactly what steps you need to follow and how the offer works but key terms to look out for and be aware of include the following.
- Eligibility – Some offers may be restricted geographically or based on other criteria, including deposit method (debit cards are almost always fine).
- Minimum & Maximum Amounts – You may need to deposit and/or wager a minimum amount, whilst maximum amounts may also apply to free bet values, stakes at enhanced odds, or money back on losses.
- Time Limits – Time limits are relevant in a range of ways, including from when you join a bookie to when you claim an offer, how long a free bet or bonus lasts and how long you have to complete any wagering requirements.
- Minimum or Maximum Odds – Qualifying bets that earn a free bet or bonus often have to be placed at odds of at least evens. Sometimes the level may be lower but typically minimum odds requirements range from 1/5 to even money. Minimums – but more typically limits – may also to free bets or stakes with bonus money.
- Wagering & Stakes – Most standard free bets are stake not returned. This means a £10 free bet at evens returns £10, not £20. Where the stake is returned, you typically need to wager bonus funds (often termed as such rather than free bets) a specified number of times. This may be six times the value of the free bet, for example. In the situation detailed above you would receive £20 back but before withdrawing you would need to make bets worth £50 more.
- Permitted & Excluded Bet Types & Markets – Some welcome offers may mean your qualifying bet has to be on an accumulator or in-play, whilst with others the free bet itself may have to be used in a certain way. Equally some markets may not be eligible for offers, with in-play bets often excluded, alongside Asian handicap bets and certain other low-margin and/or low-risk bets.
To conclude, there are lots of different types of betting offers out there and most work in slightly different ways. There is nothing to catch you out though and terms and conditions are usually clear and simple and are often summarised at the top in a prominent fashion such as with bullet points.
If you have any questions just contact customer support before you join a bookie and ask them about the offer. All reputable sites will be more than happy to help a prospective new customer.
How Generous Are Offers: Are They Worth It?
There is no doubt about it, the vast majority of welcome offers from bookmakers favour the player. By this, we mean that on average the site in question can expect to lose money, whilst anyone claiming the offer can expect to profit. This is because the value the bookie gives away in terms of the free bet, bonus or money back, outweighs their profit margin. Of course, you might well ask why a bookie would do such a thing and wonder how they make money.
As already mentioned, the betting site simply hopes that enough players take up the free bet and become regulars to outweigh losses from those who use the free bet and then move onto another site. Free bets are often viewed as marketing and may come out of a site’s promotions budget. With some estimates suggesting the average punter is worth £1,000 to a bookmaker over the course of their betting life, they do not need a particularly great conversion to make betting offers profitable for them overall.
Are Offers Less Generous Than They Used to Be?
Ah, the good old days. Everyone loves the good old days when – to paraphrase Monty Python – we used to drink cold tea with no milk or sugar out of a rolled-up newspaper and, of course, the free bets were worth millions. We might be mixing our points here a little but the fact is that if you speak to certain betting old-timers, there is a fair chance they will tell you how much better offers were “back in their day”.
There may be some truth in this because the growth in bonus bagging, matched betting and other techniques used to (legally and fairly) take advantage of offers to virtually guarantee a profit has led to offers becoming a little more restrictive. No deposit free bets and stake returned free bets have all-but disappeared, for example.
The former may crop up occasionally and essentially gives new customers a free hit – a totally risk-free chance to win real cash. The latter offers have not been offered by any bookmaker of note for some time, simply because they were too easy and too profitable to exploit. Such freebies typically required a qualifying bet and then gave you a free bet of the same value. The key difference was that unlike in the example above, the free bet stake was added to winnings. This meant, for example, that you could bet your free bet of £10 at very short odds (let’s say 1/2) and have a very high chance of walking away with an easy £15.
In addition, free bets and betting offers now come with far more terms and conditions attached. Such small print is not designed to hurt average recreational punters but is generally just to limit the harm bonus baggers can do to bookies via these offers.
What Offers Are Available These Days?
The sorts of free bets and betting offers that are currently available are varied and we have already alluded to some in general terms. Check out the specific pages for full detailed information but, as said, offers today remain generous and should (on average) put the odds in the punters’ favour. Minimum odds terms may be a little stricter than they used to be and the list of country restrictions is often longer (though the UK and Ireland are almost always fine). In addition, the offers mentioned above are far rarer but there is no doubt at all that lots of current offers are well worth taking up.
Certain offers might require a £10 free bet but then give you £30 in free bets (subject to Ts and Cs) plus additional free spins or bonus funds in the site’s online casino. Others might give you the same £30 bundle but for just a £5 initial bet. One of the biggest offers around gives you £100 in non-withdrawable bet credits as a 100% match of your first deposit. Others have 100% matched free bets of £20 or £10, whilst others have bet bundles where you can claim up to £100 in free bets by placing a series of bets that release the freebies £20 at a time.
Given that almost all betting sites now also offer a range of gambling facilities (such as casinos, live casinos, games, lotteries, bingo and poker), many of their betting offers include other areas of the site, usually the casino. This is a great way to try something new and whilst the terms of casino offers can often be more complex than those for sports betting, as an extra bit of icing on the cake these are a fun addition.
Any Offers to Avoid?
We would not say there are any betting offers or types of betting offer you should really avoid. Certainly, there are no dangers with regards to the sites we promote because we only work with bookies we trust. That said, all things being equal, some offers are, of course, better than others.
Probably our least favourite type of promotion is often advertised or certainly used to be, as “risk-free”. Such a promotion grants you a free bet or bonus but only if your first bet loses. Obviously, if you win your first bet that is great as you make a profit. On the other hand, if you don’t you will get a freebie to have a second bite of the cherry.
However, with so many great betting offers that grant you a free bet whether your first bet loses or wins, risk-free promos are clearly inferior. If you have already used up all the other available offers then they still give you decent value but just not as good as that which is available with many other welcome deals.
What Rules Do Bookies Have to Follow When Advertising Offers?
For good or for bad, the rules bookies must now follow when advertising their promotions and offers are far stricter than they ever have been. Over the past five or 10 years, there has been a lot of negative press coverage of the industry and a lot of attempts by some within the government to restrict gambling.
There are parts of this we wholeheartedly agree with, such as trying to help problem gamblers, the banning of credit cards for betting and serious attempts to stop under-18s from being able to place bets. There are other aspects of the changes that we feel serve no purpose and are more for show than any effective change. Anyway, if we started listing our gripes with the government, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the betting regulators, we’d probably end up in court, so we’ll move on.
On a positive note, whilst offers may be more restrictive these days in some regards, the terms and conditions are generally much simpler than they used to be. Key terms always have to appear alongside any banner or mention of a betting offer. This is great for punters as you can easily get an idea of what the promo is about without having to trawl through small print or search the bookmaker’s entire site.
In addition, the full terms have to be easily accessible from this summary and neither the “headline” for the offer nor any of the terms can be misleading. The ASA have been very strict about this which has led to far less confusion and misunderstanding when it comes to punters claiming offers.
What to Do If You Think You Have Been Misled
In the unlikely event that you think you have qualified for an offer and a free bet or bonus has not been granted, or you think you have been misled in some other way, the first thing to do is always contact the bookmaker directly. A polite, measured query to their customer service team (via live chat for the fastest response) will often resolve the issue almost instantly.
It may be an error or oversight on their part that has caused the free bet not to trigger. Alternatively, you may have missed an offer code, a time limit, an odds requirement or another part of the offer’s terms. If you’re lucky and it was clearly an honest mistake, the bookie will manually add the bonus “as a gesture of goodwill”.
If they do not and you do not accept their explanation then the next step is to try and speak to a more senior member of staff. This is not always easy and often you will get the same answer. In this case, it is time to escalate things further if you feel strongly about the issue.
IBAS, the ASA & the UKGC
Depending on the precise nature of your dispute and what outcome you are hoping for, there are various options available. Before deciding to go down any of these routes it may be worth questioning whether it is worth your time and effort. If you genuinely feel misled and wronged, be aware that gaining a positive outcome via any of these avenues will take time and a degree of effort. On principle, you may decide to proceed or alternatively you may decide that for the sake of a £10 free bet it is just not worth it.
The ASA are the best option if you feel an advert is incorrect, misleading or in breach of guidelines concerning how betting can be promoted. IBAS, the Independent Betting Adjudication Service, as the name suggests, is an independent body that can help settle disputes between bookies and punters. Last of all, the UK Gambling Commission is an option you can consider if you have an issue with an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) provider (such as IBAS) or how a gambling site is being operated.
All of these bodies serve a purpose and all have relatively simple steps you should follow in order to take further action. These can be found by visiting the sites directly where you will also find more info on exactly what types of complaint they handle.
Might Free Bets Be Banned?
Over the past 10 years, there have been countless reviews, reports and investigations into the gambling industry. Gambling is enjoyed by millions worldwide as a hobby, a bit of fun that adds interest and excitement to the sports they love. However, there is no doubt that for some it can be addictive and it is right that regulatory bodies try to make gambling as safe as possible. In addition, it needs to be fair and promotions need to be advertised responsibly and be simple to understand.
The latest review looked at a number of issues including whether or not free bets should continue to be permitted. Some measures that were discussed in the review or other recent debates have already been adopted by many sites, whilst others, such as a ban on credit card betting, have come into force.
When it comes to free bets we do not know what, if any, changes we will see. There was supposed to be a new UK Gambling Act in 2020 but (due to you-know-what) this got delayed. With the global health concerns and also Brexit likely to be causing major headaches for some time yet we may not get the new law until late into 2021 or even 2022. However, when we do, might free bets and certain other betting offers be outlawed?
The issue with such promotions is twofold. First, they can entice problem gamblers to bet, believing that the offer is too good to refuse, or offers real value (they often do but for those struggling with addiction this makes things worse). The second is that some betting offers, especially at lesser sites, can be misleading.
On a very basic level, some have argued that a bet is not “free” if you have to wager £20 to get it. But of course, this marketing applies to supermarket “BOGOF” deals, wine offers where if you buy two glasses of wine you get the rest “free” and so many other similar promotions.
Changes to the way bookies would be taxed on the promotions they offer have been mooted for some time. Because of this many sites began offering enhanced odds instead. It is hard to know for sure what might happen to betting offers in the future but it seems unlikely that a blanket ban on all promos would be introduced.
If a more targeted restriction is put in place, be it simply on the use of the term “free bet” (which has already been dropped by some notable bookmakers) or on a certain type of deal, we strongly suspect most sites would simply respond by presenting slightly different offers instead. So, to conclude, whilst it is possible that “free bets” could become a thing of the past, we strongly suspect that betting offers and other similar promos are here to stay!