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  • Online bookmakers ‘welcome bonus’ terms and conditions.

    I submit a copy of correspondence I have sent to my member of parliament and other media bodies.

    I would like to draw your attention to the practice of online bookmakers welcome bonuses for new customers. It would appear that the terms and conditions of these bonuses actually allow them to steal a client’s money should that client change their mind and wish to close the account.
    All bookmakers have wagering commitments in the terms and conditions of their bonus awards whereby the players has to wager many times the bonus amount in ‘rollovers’ to be able to withdraw it. I don’t have a problem with this as, despite their claims, bookmakers never give something for nothing and they ensure the bonus wagering commitments are so high that it’s unlikely most players will roll over the bonus enough times before losing it in order to be able to withdraw it. However the scandal is that some of them do not allow the player to withdraw their original stake either while ever bonus conditions exist. This should not be allowed as it is the client’s money and not the bookmakers.

    On 10 October 2014 I joined Virgin Games and deposited £100. I was awarded an extra £200 welcome bonus, making my total balance £300. I didn’t really want the bonus as I was aware that all online bookmakers have extremely high wagering commitments, however it appeared much easier to accept the bonus than to decline it, which is what the bookmakers want you to do; similarly it is always easier to make a deposit than a withdrawal - deposits are instant, withdrawals always have a ‘pending’ period of anything up to several days at weekends, during which time they hope the player changes their mind and cancels the withdrawal.

    After playing some slot games with Virgin Games I was actually briefly in profit and had increased the £300, £100 of which was my own money from my initial deposit, to £370. However when I came to try to withdraw anything I was disappointed to see that not only did I have to wager another £350+ but my wagering commitments thus far for the terms and conditions amounted to less than 10%. I gambled some more and sure enough began to lose. Despite losing over £200 when I checked the withdrawal situation it appeared to have changed very little. I still needed to gamble another £340+ and had only met 11% of the wagering requirements needed.
    It was at this point, when I still had my original £100 in the account, that I decided to close the account and self exclude as I have had a long standing addiction to online slots and Virgin Games were the last bookmaker I am not self excluded from. At least if I closed the account and self exclude I will get my original stake back, or so I thought.
    Virgin Games were obliging when it cam to closing my account and excluding me at my request however they refused to give me my £100 stake back, citing ‘terms and conditions.’ I insisted this was my money and as I was no longer a client and they were obliged to return the deposit. The advisor was adamant that this couldn’t be done. I asked to be referred up their hierarchy and I was later duly contacted by someone who was presumably senior. However this person said the same, that owing to the terms and conditions which had to be applied to all customers they couldn’t return my original deposit.
    It was explained that the bonus conditions would lapse after thirty days and any profit could then be withdrawn. However this would not apply in my case as not only was I not in profit as I hadn’t fulfilled the wagering commitments, but I was now self-excluded so wouldn’t be able to play. I asked if it was possible to change the self exclusion and at least allow me to try to meet the wagering commitments and have a chance of winning and was told this wasn’t possible as self exclusions cannot be reversed. This, as far as I am concerned is tantamount to Virgin Games stealing my deposit as they refuse to return it or to even allow me to play with it.

    It transpires that the original deposit is used first in any wager, and the bonus is not wagered until the original stake is lost, thereby meaning that anything left will not be allowed to be withdrawn until the wagering commitments have been met. It would be fairer if this was the other way around, and players should always be allowed to withdraw their original stake which is, after all, their own money.

    It also transpires that wagering commitments vary wildly between different games and slots games contribute the lowest towards this, hence despite the amount of times I played and the money I lost having little impact on my wagering commitments. This is buried deep within the terms and conditions. A £10 stake on slot games only contributes 50 pence towards the wagering commitments which meant that I would have had to stake in the region of £7000 in order to achieve the £350 wagering commitments required to be able to begin to withdraw. This is a ridiculously high wagering requirement. Furthermore roulette only contributes 12p for a £10 stake towards meeting the requirements whilst blackjack contributes nothing; only bingo contributes £10 for a £10 stake. This is explained in the terms and conditions, but isn’t something most new players would be aware of when seduced by the bonus banner headlines on the welcome page.

    To summarise I believe legislation needs introducing regarding online bookmakers terms and conditions.

    1. Bookmakers should not be allowed to withhold a client’s original deposit until wagering commitments have been met. This is the client’s money and not the bookmakers and the terms and conditions amount to little more than licensed robbery.
    2. If a player closes an account for whatever reason any part of their original deposit remaining should be returned Under the present terms and conditions the deposit is used first, thereby leaving the bonus in the account and allowing bookmakers to withhold it as ‘their money.’ The terms and conditions must be amended so that the bonus is staked before the deposit.
    3. The rollover amounts of twenty to thirty five times the stake are far too high and unfair. On no game should the wagering requirements be higher than ten times.
    4. It should be made clearer that the wagering commitments vary so much between different games.
    5. The terms and conditions should be more prominent. As present the bonuses are advertised in colourful banner headlines, suggesting bookmakers are giving you free money, whilst there is a small asterisk linking to terms and conditions. Very few new players will read these.

    Returning to point one, the most important of these points, some bookmakers do allow players to withdraw their original stake whilst a bonus is in operation and all bookmakers should be compelled by law to allow this. I am not asking for access to the bookmakers money, just my own. It appears that the present terms and conditions simply allow them to steal a client’s money and not return it even after they are no longer a client.

    I await your response and hope that action can be taken on this matter.

  • Is this serious???

    No offence but this sounds like an extremely naive attempt at bonus fraud!!! You didn't want the bonus but took it anyway, played through £200 (the exact amount of the bonus) and then want your deposit back!!!

    It sounds like you are either young and naive or just naive and thought you found a risk free way to play at casinos only to find it doesn't work!

    However if you are being genuine, let me point a few things out to you which will help you understand your situation / complaint.

    When you sign up somewhere and especially when you take a bonus, you are asked if you have read the terms - upon ticking the box and accepting, you are effectively entering into a contract and bound by those terms. If you really didn't want the bonus then you shouldn't have taken it or you should have contacted a customer service representative via phone or live chat.

    The reason your deposit is tied up is because you accepted the bonus, normally your cash is used first before the bonus, but sometimes the bonus is used first and your cash is locked until you meet the wagering or bust out. The reason your deposit is used first or locked is to stop people gambling risk free. If you could take back your deposit after playing a bonus and not meeting the wagering requirements, casinos would go bust eventually as players could gamble with out risk!

    In regards to the contribution of each game to the wagering requirements - these vary predominantly due to the house edge of the game. Games with a lower house edge such as blackjack and roulette will contribute less than slots. Although slots usually contribute 100% to the wagering.

    Rollovers - these are high so they are in favour of the casino. I suggest you research something called "expected value". It's basically a calculation to see whether a casino bonus could be profitable using the bonus amount, rollover and house edge of the game.
    Expected value can be positive or negative. A positive expected value means that the bonus is in favour of the player. Usually bonuses with a rollover of 20x or less have a positive expected value and are in favour of the player, over a long period bonuses like these would lose the casino money. Nearly all casino bonuses are 30x rollover as the expected value is negative and thus in their favour.

    Casino bonuses are completely different to bookmaker bonuses, so I don't know why you have used Virgin games as an example.

    The terms are your responsibility to read. While I agree they are not made that prominent, you did notice on the banner that terms and conditions apply and you failed to read them, there is also a link next to the check box asking if you agree to the terms. Again you failed to click the link and read them, so I have no sympathy for you. You can't complain about terms and conditions when you don't know what they are and blindly dived in to something when you had chances to read them. You are a casino bonus managers wet dream by not reading terms. Imagine if you had won thousands, but broke various rules in the terms and they didn't pay you - this happens all the time by the way.


    Good luck, but you are wasting your time. All of this is in place to stop fraud and ensure the casino is a profitable business. If they all acted how you want them to then they wouldn't exist and we'd all be millionaires.


    • I only wish I was young and naïve. Far from being young and naïve I have had great experience with online bookmakers, so much so that they have actually ruined my life. You sound like you work for one. Terms and conditions hide a multitude of sins. In effect what you are saying they should be allowed to put a contract in place which doesn't allow players access to their own money until they have fulfilled impossible wagering commitments.
      I have written to various other regulators about this and so far the consensus seems to be that it is the bookmakers who are using their terms and conditions to mask fraud. If some bookmakers allow a player to withdraw their own money why can't all of them? The fact that I am no longer a member and have self excluded from them means they have in effect stolen my deposit, regardless of what their t & c might say.
      Bookmakers also make great play on their behaving responsibly towards problem gambling. The only thing they are responsible for is making huge profits from creating poverty and misery.


      • Deleted own post - apologies.


        • Your example refers to a casino and not a bookmaker - bonus terms are different. Bookmakers usually offer freebets in a variety of ways. Most will be bet £xxx and receive £xxx freebet. The free bet is usually credited after your first bet is settled. Free bets are either stake not returned or some do include the stake, but will have a rollover attached - I think these are the bonuses you are referring to when you say you can withdraw. You are correct there, but you forfeit any winnings from the free bet.
          As you normally have to make a bet with your own cash first, it is no different to the casino bonus you mention in your first post.

          While it seems unfair with casino bonuses, why should they allow you £200 freeplay and then be able to withdraw because you didn't win with the bonus. It's business suicide from any casino perspective.

          The terms now have unfortunately evolved to these high rollovers and other stipulations due to fraud by players and also sharp players finding the best way to play against them.

          Nothing in this world is perfect and there will always be a way to exploit something. In this industry, once a casino or bookie realises players are gaining an advantage somehow, they will find a way to turn it back in their favour.


          • I've just re-read your initial post again and realised I missed something. It appears you actually signed up for the Virgin Bingo Bonus rather than a casino or games bonus which is why the wagering requirements were so bad. Although it still brings me back to the point of you noticing the terms and choosing not to read them until you had already played.

            Which brings me to this:

            " The fact that I am no longer a member and have self excluded from them means they have in effect stolen my deposit, regardless of what their t & c might say.
            Bookmakers also make great play on their behaving responsibly towards problem gambling. The only thing they are responsible for is making huge profits from creating poverty and misery."

            They didn't steal your deposit as you played it through - it will be in the terms of the bonus that your cash is used before any bonus is played.

            I agree that gambling establishments don't really do much to combat problem gambling, I'm sure it's much harder tell online than physically seeing the person playing, but even in land based casinos / bookies nothing is ever done even if the manager suspects something.

            I have to disagree with the last statement though - casinos / bookies don't create this, it's the person themselves due to a lack of self control.
            If I was addicted to sex is it a woman's fault?? No, it's all psychological.

            Sorry if I'm being harsh, but it does annoy me when people complain about things when it's their own fault due to laziness or incompetence. Everyone just wants an easy ride, something for nothing or compensation for their own idiocy. The world we live in is disgusting in my opinion, life isn't supposed to be a walk in the park and people need to start dealing with things and taking responsibility for their own mistakes, not crying about it and hoping someone bails them out.


            • I agree with your last sentence. However until maybe eight years ago I would have agreed that addiction was the addict's own fault. However I now realise it is an illness. Not for nothing is it called addiction.

              The one good thing to come out of my experiences with Virgin Games is that I am finally finished with it now and excluded from them all.


              • Were you just on here to get a reaction to plug your book??? If so well done, very creative.

                Gambling can be psychologically addictive and only people who can't admit they're addicted perceive it as an illness. It's just another excuse in the ye olde book of "it's not my fault" of excuses.

                This whole "its an illness thing" was probably coined by psychologists to combat addicts who couldn't admit any problem

                "hey if we tell this guy he has an illness maybe he'll believe he can be cured"

                Addiction is addiction, no illness about it. There are numerous drugs that are psychologically addictive, however the person taking these doesn't have an illness, they are perceived as a dirty drug addict. They are still chasing the same buzz, high or stimulation the equivalent person gets from gambling.

                One plays machines or makes bets for that buzz or rush of the huge win, the other takes a drug for the same stimulation. They are exactly the same, one can't be an addiction and the other an illness. They have to be the same thing.

                How's about a crappy analogy to finish with. Remember years ago there was a bar of confectionery called marathon and one day mars decided to call it snickers instead. The product was exactly the same they just relabelled it on the outside. That, in effect is what has happened to gambling addiction. Society has relabelled it on the outside but on the inside it still is and always will be addiction.


                • Replying to the original post, you do need to read terms and conditions carefully before you start with a bonus.

                  Does anyone give money for free and not make it so they don't lose the money? No. Same as bookmakers.

                  Bookmakers need to earn money, and so do players - but bookmakers make most of the rules. Next time, look at bonus rules, and if you break them, then you can lose the bonus or not get a special promotion later. It's normal, I think.


                  • Whatever the merits of Nik's particular case,I do agree with his premise that since bonuses have become traps for the unwary,bookmakers should be prohibited from including them by default.They should also have to publish rollover requirements in large type along with the bonus promotions,and not just in the terms and conditions.If a withdrawal is prohibited before the rollover has been completed,that should be in large type,too.


                    • I'm glad someone agrees and that you aren't all 'bookie lovers' and employees defending their scurrilous practices.


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