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From the beginning of online casinos in the mid-90s to 2017, profitable bonuses were all the rage. As more and more business got into the game, the competition started to heat up, necessarily increasing the need to better loyalty programs, welcome bonuses, and any other benefit to get players in (the proverbial) ‘door’.

Times have changed, however, and the party just isn’t what it used to be in the UK’s online casino market. There are several important reasons behind these recent changes, including problem gambling, lack of customer satisfaction, and the booming growth of the industry which triggered increased government regulation.

The evolution of the bonus

If you look at the types of bonuses being offered to UK players, its constantly changing, both due to competition and due to regulatory interference.

Casino bonuses started off small with simply match bonuses, free spins, and loyalty bonuses. As the industry grew, online casinos wanted to reward their players with more options. We can think of this as the golden age of online casino bonuses in the UK, with multi-tier match bonuses that eventually evolved into free play bonuses, no deposit cash bonuses, and finally, no deposit free spins.

These days, however, the United Kingdom Gambling Commissions (UKGC) is starting to put pressure and no deposit bonuses are changing.

In the early days of online casinos, the concept of a “bonus” was not really commonplace. The only bonuses that really existed were minimum bet bonuses at high-end VIP clubs that almost nobody could afford. As time went on, however, online casinos started popping up all over the place. And with that, operators needed to step up their game to attract players to their establishments.

The Development of the UK Marketplace

The United Kingdom was an extremely favourable place to do business up until a few years ago for three important reasons.

First, the demand for online casinos was off the charts. Second,  advantageous trade terms resulted in extensive TV and radio advertisements, bringing in yet more players, and in turn, huge revenues. Lastly, several large foreign companies saw a grand opening in the UK and were quick to pounce. Organizations like Sweden-based Leo Vegas started buying up small UK-based casinos in an attempt to get a piece of the pie.

UKGC Regulations

The UK has a long history of gambling and, as we’ve said before, has been an incredibly lucrative market for the past few decades. Unfortunately (for casino operators) it has also recently become a model for gambling regulation the world over.

The UKGC has become a thorn with ever increasing restrictions

The UK Gambling Commission is the government body responsible for overseeing and regulating all legal gambling activities in the United Kingdom. Instituted in 2005, following the Gambling Act passed that same year, the UKGC has become a prominent and well-respected regulatory authority throughout Europe.

The stated goal of the Commission was to protect players from predatory operators, making gambling safer and fairer in the UK. Taking swift action against UK online casinos, the implemented the following regulations to fulfil their promise to the public.

  • Tighter age verification measures: This required players to prove their age before being able to accept any bonuses or free play. The aim was to protect children and deter illicit activities involving money laundering.
  • New marketing compliance requirements: To prevent misleading messaging, online casinos are now obliged to clearly display all significant terms and wager conditions. The use of terms like “no deposit free spins” in to “no deposit bonus spins” were strictly banned as well.

The results of regulation

Following the Act, higher taxes were imposed on online casinos operating in the UK in addition to a storm of bad press. The negative media attention, decreasing profits, and higher taxes led many operators to leave the UK market altogether.

The golden age for players and operators seemed to be at an end but there were many operators who decided to stick it out. Despite additional ensuing regulations imposed in 2014 and 2018, the UK casinos found a way to adapt.

Wager-free casinos, like PlayOJO, Trada and BGO, began popping up, offering fair play (and a way to combat the bad press). For a time, no deposit/no wager bonuses made an appearance but were quickly shut down due to possible abuse. Abiding by the mandatory laws of the UKGC, casinos have continued with wager-free bonuses to this day.

Fair play for better pay

The final results of these legal actions are still yet to be seen, but in the meantime have afforded players fewer options, fewer casinos, and smaller bonuses. The benefits are there, however, with a safer and fairer gambling atmosphere, and fewer opportunities to be taken for a ride.

Online casino operators are working overtime to get and keep new players’ business. As a savvy player, not only should you be on the lookout for high-quality games with the best tech, you should always do your homework before signing up to play to get the best online casino bonuses you can find.