Free spins remain as popular as ever but they’ve come under a bit of scrutiny in recent weeks, particularly in the UK. The Gambling Commission has been busy fulfilling its regulatory obligations by conducting a sweeping review of online casino advertising. Given that they’re so central to most casinos’ marketing strategies, you won’t be surprised to learn that bonuses have attracted particular attention. Even the very definition of the phrase ‘free spins’ has drawn their ire, and it’s likely casinos will have to react accordingly. So can free spins truly be described as ‘free’ at all?
It’s a topical question and it’s not entirely easy to answer. You can understand why the Gambling Commission have raised the question, particularly when you consider the traditional distinction between no deposit free spins and deposit free spins. The latter requires a payment from the player, albeit one they can use to play subsequently. The former, on the other hand, are provided to the same player without any need deposit some cash. You could argue that free spins without deposit are the real ‘free spins’, and ‘free spins’ which require a payment are something different altogether.
Yet, there are other considerations here too. Although no deposit free spins are provided without any ‘obligation’ to pay, they are still liable to certain terms and conditions. Most notably, there are typically wagering requirements, which stop a player from withdrawing any winnings generated from the free spins until they have staked the cash amount a number of times over. Wagering requirements exists as insurance policies that casinos use to reduce their exposure to risk. But their very existence ensures that ‘free spins’ don’t behave like normal spins that you pay for yourself.
Indeed, wagering requirements can be of a significant size. Most probably fall somewhere between x25 and x40, but some can be higher. Even if we use x25 as an example, you can see how much harder wagering requirements make it to win. If a player won £10 using some free spins, he/she would need to wager through £250 (£10 x 25) of bets before he/she can withdraw the winnings. That seriously reduces the chances, and somewhat dilutes the potency of the ‘free spins’ as a tool to win some cash.
All online casinos will outline the requirements in the terms and conditions of an offer. The best ones will include wagering requirements on banners and adverts and explain the player’s obligations very clear, should they exist. But these restrictions do change the behaviour of free spins, and ensure that they don’t quite replicate real money spins. It’s important that players understand that before they take advantage of another. Plus, wagering requirements aren’t the only terms and conditions typically attached to these offers.
Others will include minimum stake levels and maximum win ceilings. Whereas you have complete flexibility when you use spins paid for from your own cash, it’s different with freebies. You’re often limited to the minimum bet level and coin value on the game. Given that some online slots will allow a range of stake levels between, say, 20p and £200, this again changes the way you can play, as well as how much you can win. The same is true of maximum win ceilings. Their restrictions that ensure that free spins are different from standard spins.
Whether any of these considerations are enough to warrant a name change is open to judgement. Some online casinos have already reacted to the Gambling Commission recommendations by introducing new names like ‘fair spins’ and ‘extra spins’. Others may well follow suit. Although most players understand the restrictions applied to free spins offers, these changes could ensure clarity for beginners, which is hardly a bad thing. It would take some getting used to for everyone else though.
For now, the term ‘free spins’ remains at sites like All Irish Casino, even for the UK market. Whether the moniker remains in use or not, players would always be best advised to shop around. As competition increases, some online casinos have already dropped wagering requirements from their free spins offers. Others have introduced higher value free spins too. The new changes in the UK may encourage others to follow suit as they reassess the way they advertise the free spins opportunities to their audience base.
Most importantly, players should view free spins as an opportunity to try out new games for fun. They’re great for that – especially if you have a nice sized bundle that’s eligible for use on lots of different games. Of course, free spins also represent a great way of trialling a new casino without committing too much of your own cash (or any of your own money should you use no deposit free spins). Use them primarily for those reasons, while making sure you gamble responsibly, you can’t go far wrong. Players should never expect to score a big win using a bonus, whether it’s conceivable or not.