Free Bets From UK Online Bookies
Depending on who you believe, the best things in life are free, or alternatively, nothing in life is free. Why is the world so confusing? As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle when it comes to “free” bets and these two aphorisms. Free bets and related offers are great – we love them. But, at the same time, they are rarely, if ever these days, completely, utterly free.
Nonetheless, they still offer great value to us punters and, in this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about free bets. We’ll cover the issue of whether or not they are truly free, how they work, the different types of promotions available and things you need to know, including any sneaky terms or conditions you should be aware of.
List of Free Bets For December, 2022
How Do Free Bets Work?
Free bets and other bookie offers that fall under the same umbrella vary but, at the same time, they often have a lot in common. Note that here we are talking about welcome offers, introductory free bets or bonuses that a bookie gives when you first join and that can, typically, only be claimed once. We will look at ongoing promotions for existing customers more briefly later in this article.
We have already touched upon one key thing about these deals – they can be claimed just once, when you first join a new betting site. Typically, you need to register a new account, make a deposit and then possibly place a bet. Subject to the specific terms and conditions of the offer in question, you will then be given an extra amount on top, for “free”. This might take the form of a simple free bet, bet credits, bonus funds or promo cash.
Sometimes these are merely different names for the same thing, however often they indicate that the offer in question will work in a slightly different way. As a general rule, a free bet will be more straightforward and simply involve staking the bonus funds once, with any winnings being yours to keep. In contrast, if your freebie is credited as bonus funds, it is more likely that further wagering will be required before you are able to withdraw and cash in.
We will explain more about some of these differences below when we look at the different types of free bets that exist. In addition, we will also cover certain aspects of this when we go into a little more depth regarding the Ts and Cs.
Different Types of Free Bets
There are dozens of bookies that are licensed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) and that we believe are safe, trustworthy and high quality. That means there are a lot of different free bets and offers available for you to claim and almost all of these are subtly different from each other. That said, we can group most of them under a small number of umbrellas and these are detailed below.
A free bet is the offer you are most likely to see when joining a bookie. As already said, this typically involves placing an initial bet, or qualifying stake, in order to be given a free bet. The value of the free bet is usually at least as much as your initial punt and often more. Offers such as “Bet £5, Get £20” or “Bet £10, Get £30” are not uncommon, whilst sometimes bookies are even more generous, especially around big events, such as the football World Cup.
These bets are probably the best place for a betting newbie to start as they are the simplest form of offer. In addition, with a promo such as bet £5, get £20, your initial risk is not going to break the bank – you will only be putting £5 of your own cash on the line. However, for that £5 you will get £25 of betting, making this a great and inexpensive way to both try out a new bookie and also to get to grips with the basics of betting in general.
Free Bets Plus
Some of the most generous offers, that might give you £60 or even more for a £10 qualifying bet, we will label Free Bets Plus. This is because, whilst the fundamentals of the offer are the same as detailed above, they are slightly more complex. Such a promotion might, for example, require a £10 initial bet in order to gain £60 of freebies.
However, those freebies might include a casino bonus, free spins (on an online slot), extra funds that can only be used on bingo, or free bets that have to be used on more specific markets, such as accumulator bets or live betting (in-play). These promos are often more rewarding in terms of the headline offer but are certainly somewhat more complex so are best left until after you have claimed some of the simpler deals and you fully understand how they all work.
Bet Credits / Bonus Funds
Once again, the fundamental principle is the same – make a bet with your own money and get something extra on top for “free”. However, with the offers the funds are added as bonus cash or credits and in order to withdraw you need to place stakes of a certain value. Often the bonus will be in a percentage form based on the value of your initial deposit, rather than in currency form based on your first bet.
For example, the offer might be a 200% bonus on your first deposit up to a maximum of £100. To make the most of such a promotion you would need to deposit £50 and would then get the full £100. However, before you can withdraw anything from your account you might have to withdraw four times the total of the bonus, or perhaps four times the value of the deposit and bonus combined.
An alternative welcome offer that works in a totally different way sees punters offered the chance to make a bet at vastly inflated odds. These are different from everyday odds boosts that we will detail when looking at promos for existing customers. A price will not be enhanced from 6/4 to 2/1 or similar, but perhaps from evens to 8/1, or 6/1 to 50/1. Alternatively, some sites have been known to let you choose which market the enhancement applies to, giving double or even triple odds on any market of your choice with your first bet.
Free Bet If First Bet Loses
Last of all, some online bookmakers may offer you a free bet up to a certain value, perhaps £10, £25 or even £50, but only if your initial bet loses. All things being equal, such offers are not as good as those that give you a free bet whether your first bet wins or loses, for obvious reasons. These can still be worth doing but we would suggest considering other, more generous promotions and bookmakers first.
Existing Customer Offers
Free bets when you join are all well and good but what about offers for loyal customers who already have betting accounts? In many ways, opting to use a bookie that will give you plenty of offers on a regular basis after the initial free bet makes sense. If you are going to be betting regularly, in the long run this will give you much more value than a bookie who simply gives you one decent promo to lure you in but then little else afterwards.
Betting offers for existing customers are usually less generous than the bonus you might claim when you first open your account. However, because you can claim them every month, week, or even day, they can bring far more value over time. Below you can see just some of the sorts of offers the best online bookies offer their current customers (not that this varies from bookie to bookie and over time and you should always check the exact terms and conditions of any promo before you claim it):
- Odds Boosts – Bookies will regularly enhance their odds on certain selections and if this happens on the horse, dog or team you wanted to bet on anyway, such prices are likely to be hard to beat.
- Free-to-Enter Games – Many bookies have games, prediction contests or scratchcard-style offerings that are free to play, available on a regular basis (often every day) and deliver free bets, bonuses and even cash.
- Free Bet Clubs – These offer regular free bets, often weekly, to customers who have made a certain number of paid bets over the previous week or month.
- Competitions – Many sites partner with sports teams or events, through sponsorship, and so often run competitions offering, for example, football shirts, or tickets to the races.
- Acca Insurance – Acca insurance gives you your stake back (either as a free bet or real money) if your accumulator narrowly misses out. This usually means one leg loses but the others win, with terms regarding minimum numbers of legs and/or odds usually applying.
- Early Payout – Some bookies offer early payout on certain matches or events under certain conditions. They might, for example, settle bets as a winner once a team goes two goals up, or pay the bet out based on the score after normal time and injury time.
- Money Back Offers – These promos are similar to acca insurance in that they give you your stake back on losing bets but the “trigger” is different. It might be if your horse finishes second to the favourite, the game of football sees a red card or your selected batsman (in cricket) is not the top runscorer but does make a century.
- Ad Hoc Freebies – Sometimes, just because they are nice (or, they have some spare cash in their marketing budget and want to get dormant customers betting again!), bookmakers will email you about a free bet, or even make them open to everyone via their website. In the case of the former, these may be totally free and simply allow you to make a bet without even adding funds to your account. In the case of the latter, they are more likely to be akin to the welcome offer, requiring a paid bet first, perhaps on a specific, often major, event.
- Extra Places Each Way – Some bookies offer extra each way places daily on a select race or races, whilst most of the best bookmakers do so for some of the biggest contests of the year. This promo is also great for golf fans, with each way paid down to as many as 10 places by some bookmakers for the majors and other key tournaments.
Are Free Bets Really Free?
We have talked a lot about free bets and already alluded to the fact that it is perhaps not wholly accurate to call them “free”. Some years ago entirely free bets were not all that uncommon. These were called no deposit free bets and pretty much did what they said on the tin: you didn’t need to deposit and were given a bet, 100% free.
Because none of your own money was added to the count the worst thing that could happen was your bet loses and you would have broken even. If your bet won, you got paid in full, earning the winnings from that free bet (though not getting to keep the free bet stake itself).
Early 2000s “RFBs”
These were never as widespread as the sort of offers we see today but became even rarer after about 2005. Now it is almost impossible to find a no deposit free bet. An alternative offer went by a name we are no longer even allowed to say (due to regulatory controls and rules set by the Advertising Standards Authority, or ASA). Imagine a word that begins with “R” and rhymes with disk, then add the word free – we’ll call them RFBs from now on.
With an RFB you had to make a deposit and place a bet with your own funds but if that bet lost you would get your stake back. The reason such bets became, in essence, banned, was because whilst some bookies refunded you as cash which you were entirely free to withdraw, others only gave you the stake back as a free bet, or possibly as cash but with a wagering requirement attached before a withdrawal was allowed. As such, to call these RFBs was something of a misnomer and now you are unlikely to see that term used.
Clearer Terminology: “Money Back as Free Bet”
Some sites do still offer this sort of welcome bonus though, but it is now marketed in a clearer, fairer way. Bookies may say, for example “Money back as cash” or “Money back as free bet” if your first bet loses. In the case of the former, a little like an old school no deposit free bet, it could well be reasonably claimed that this is “free”, even if there are some minor caveats attached.
Some may feel that this whole issue is a sign of the modern world and file it under some sort of all-encompassing “woke” umbrella. Our personal feeling is that whilst clear and fair advertising is essential, the regulators have perhaps gone just a little too far, or at least that would certainly be the case if the use of the term “free bet” was outlawed entirely. If a bookie markets their welcome offer as “Bet £20, Get a £20 Free Bet”, it should be clear to most customers what that means, even if the secondary bet is not technically free.
ASA on Gambling Advertising Terminology
After all, this is only really the same as a supermarket saying that toilet roll is “buy one, get one free”. Pedants might say the second pack is not free as you have to buy the first one but it is clear enough from the marketing what is required. When it comes to free bets, the ASA has a whole document committed to what advertisers can and can’t say when it comes to free bets and the like. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has worked with the ASA to try and make things as clear and fair as possible to both sides.
The ASA guidance states that:
The majority of complaints made to the ASA about terms and conditions in gambling advertising centre on the requirement for consumers to make a deposit to access their “free bet/bonus” or the number of times they must then wager their “free bet” and deposit money before they are allowed to withdraw any winnings.
Because of this they have been firm about how key terms and conditions of a promotion must be set out. Whilst bookies and marketeers can continue to use the term “free bets” and other similar phrases, more detail must be provided alongside this. Such information should be clear, simple to understand and readily available, and must tell customers what they will need to do in order to access the “free” bet and subsequently withdraw any winnings. They have also been firmer with what terms such as “money back” (“offers should be in cash, not bonuses”) and others actually mean.
All in all we would say that the current situation is broadly fair to both sides. Free bets might not, technically, be 100% free but perhaps there is no such thing as a free lunch? However, if a friend says, you buy this lunch and I’ll buy the next three, we’d still say that’s a deal worth taking!
Things You Need to Know When Claiming Free Bets
When it comes to claiming free bets and offers we have already stressed the importance of making sure you understand the terms and conditions of the deal. This is not to say that bookies are trying to catch you out, or that you need to pour over the small print and get your girlfriend’s cousin, who is a barrister, to read through it for you. This was never the case with the best betting sites anyway but given the tighter regulation of the UKGC and ASA it certainly isn’t nowadays.
That said, we would still recommend that you at least skim the main Ts and Cs, which are usually to be found alongside the main “headline” of any offer or ad, or should at least be within one click of that. This way you avoid wasting any of your time or money, or getting an unpleasant surprise down the line when, for example, you have perhaps not qualified for the free bet you thought you had because you did not meet the clearly outlined terms of the promo.
Important Terms & Clauses
Here we will define and outline some of the important terms and clauses you should expect to see and what you most need to be aware of.
New or Existing Customer
It is very important to be aware if an offer is only for new customers. If you already have an account and try to claim such a promotion the free bet or bonus will not be credited.
Check other eligibility criteria too – typically, you will need to be resident in the UK or Ireland.
Minimum & Maximum Deposit / Offer / Stake
In order to trigger a promo you might need to deposit at least £5, £10 or more, with the same applying to how much you might need to bet. Equally, there may be a maximum value with regards to the free bet, bonus or money back you can claim.
Some welcome offers, and even some promos for current customers, can only be accessed when the qualifying deposit is made by a certain method. More commonly, certain methods, often specific e-wallets, are excluded.
Bonus Code, Opt-In or Claim Procedure
Some free bets will be credited automatically once you have met the relevant deposit/bet terms. Others may require you to opt in, use a deposit or bonus code, or manually claim the offer, possibly before undertaking other steps, such as making your first deposit or even registering in full.
It is important to check what dates and time limits apply to any free bet. It may have expired, you may have to claim within a certain period after joining the site, or you may only have a certain number of days to use the free bet.
Minimum & Maximum Odds
The qualifying bet may have to be placed at odds of at least evens, or 1/5, or some other level, in order to earn any freebie. Equally minimum or even maximum odds may apply when you use the free bet or complete associated wagering.
The qualifying bet, or free bet, may only be eligible for a certain sport or market, or specific markets might be excluded. Alternatively, it might only be valid pre-match, in-play or on accas, BetBuilders or some other wager type.
Stake Not Returned
These days most free bet-style offers are “stake not returned”. This means that with a £10 free bet you only keep any winnings over and above that £10, not the £10 stake itself. As such a £10 free bet at 4/1 returns £40, not £50.
You are unlikely to see a standard free bet that is stake returned, meaning that £10 wager at 4/1 returns the full £50. However, if your free bet is credited as bonus funds, bet credits or something similar, it may effectively be stake returned, however, it will probably have wagering attached.
Also known as rollover requirements, this may apply to some free bets, meaning you must make a certain value of bets before you can withdraw funds. This is often expressed as the bonus and initial deposit (though sometimes just one or the other) times a certain value. For example, you might have to bet six times the deposit and bonus combined. This would mean with a 100% bonus worth £10 you would have to bet (£10+£10)x6 = £120 before being able to access your funds or withdraw.
When placing a free bet and sometimes even when placing your first bet in order to qualify for an offer, if the wager is void, you might miss out. Voids can happen for a whole host of reasons but avoiding certain markets (such as horse racing meetings or other events that have a very bad weather forecast hanging over them, or football goalscorer markets before the team is announced) can minimise the risk.