As part of a consumer protection policy aimed at online casino customers, the UK has brought a hefty fine against one of the most popular and well marketed online casinos that operate in the UK, BGO.com. As most news involving online casinos, what happens in one country usually has ramifications everywhere in the world since, like in this case, the casino will have to change their online presence in order to comply with the new regulations in the UK. Another reason to pay attention to what is happening in other countries is that usually, governments take cues from each other when it comes to enforcement of laws and if the laws are worth writing.
The fine filed against BGO is expected to be around half a million dollars, so will immediately open the eyes of all online casinos in regards to advertising methods and false or misleading claims. In the case of the UK laws, the new regulations required that the casino must prominently advertise any restrictions or limitations to promotions, especially regarding free money bonuses. It is a very common practice for online casinos to advertise ´free money´ or 500% deposit matches without explaining the limitations of the free money.
With BGO, and with many casinos, the free money comes with a ton of restrictions including the fact that it cannot ever be withdrawn. Only the winnings from the bonus money can be withdrawn, so the regulatory body in the UK deemed it to be misleading to advertise it as free money. They also took exception to BGO using ´small print´ to obscure issues such as play-through requirements and limitations on games that can be played. In most casinos, players who accept ´free money´ are required to wager the total amount a certain number of times, usually between 15x´s and 99x´s. What this means is that if a player collects free month, and then wins some nice jackpots very early, that player will not be able to withdrawal the winnings until they have wagered 50x´s the amount of the bonus money. And as everyone knows, there is a house advantage with gambling, which basically means that an early winner cannot walk away from the table with their winnings, instead, they are forced to continue to play against the house advantage.
Another advertising tactic that the UK commission took exception to is the limitations of what games can be played with bonus money, and what happens if a player accidentally plays the wrong game with bonus money. This issue has been a sore spot for online casino players for years and is the biggest cause of player complaints against online casinos. For the most part, online casinos operate with this model. If you accept and use bonus money or free cash, you are usually restricted to only playing slot machines which have the highest house advantage. Furthermore, if you play another game besides those specifically allowed, you forfeit all winnings from your bonus money even if you did not actually win any of it at the disqualifying game. These restrictions are usually buried in the terms of service and are in very small print. There is no doubt that the UK commission did their research before writing the regulations for operating and marketing online casinos.
The UK is a pretty big market, it will be interesting to see how online casinos react to this issue. My hope is that online casinos move to more sanity when offering promotions and instead of offering huge promotions with strict and disqualify rules, instead use much more moderate bonuses which come without so many gotchas.