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Australian Authorities Taking Bet365 to Court Over Misleading Bonus Ads

Online gaming website bet365.com has been put under the microscope by Australia’s government organization that “promotes competition and fair trade in markets.” Originally brought to light by the Sydney Morning Herald and igamingbusiness.com, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced on Thursday, August 14th that it has initiated legal action against three Bet365 Group companies, alleging that the companies have run afoul of the law for being misleading about new player deposit bonuses and free-bet promotions.

The ACCC believes that Bet365 makes the terms and conditions of the bonuses difficult to find while at the same time advertising what appears to be “up to $200 in bets without limitation or restriction.” The example the ACCC gives is from the casino page of bet365.com. The first promotion shown in a scrolling ad box in the middle of the page reads, “FANTASTIC $200 INITIAL DEPOSIT BONUS,” with the phrase, “Terms and Conditions Apply” directly underneath.

The ACCC says, “…Bet 365 has changed its website since the ACCC contacted it about its concerns,” but we do not know when Bet365 was contacted. A June 25th snapshot of the site obtained from web.archive.org shows the same ad displayed.

The press release goes on to state:

These conditions included that:

• Consumers must first risk their own deposit to receive a ‘free bet’ or ‘deposit bonus’, so that consumers would only receive a $200 ‘free bet’ or ‘deposit bonus’ if they paid and gambled $200 of their own money first;
• In order to be eligible for the offers, consumers must have gambled three times the value of their deposit and bonus within 90 days before being able to withdraw any winnings. As a result, a consumer who made an initial deposit of $200 and received $200 in bets was required to then gamble $1,200 before being able to withdraw any money;
• To meet the ‘free bet’ or ‘deposit bonus’ terms and conditions, consumers were required to bet at odds of no less than 1.5, meaning that they were required to bet on higher risk transactions.

The ACCC is essentially saying that it feels potential Bet365 customers are easily duped into depositing for the bonus without first reading up on the playthrough requirements.

While I personally feel that it is the responsibility of grown adults to take it upon themselves to understand how a deposit bonus works, especially when the ad clearly says “Terms and Conditions Apply,” the ACCC does have a point. Upon clicking on the bonus offer as displayed on the casino page, a pop-up window opens to start the account creation process. Nowhere in these initial steps are the actual terms of the bonus shown (I did not actually continue on through to create an account). A prospective customer can, however, navigate to the “Promotions” tab on the casino, scroll down to and click on the “Opening Bonus” promo, and then click on “View Terms and Conditions” to read up on everything. While any experienced online gambler will spend the time to find the bonus, that sort of treasure hunt may be a bit much for a player new to these types of sites.

Not all games are created equal when it comes to clearing the playthrough requirements, either. There is a laundry list of different games laid out in the terms and conditions, detailing how much each type of game counts towards the wagering requirement. Keno and most slots games count 100 percent, but blackjack, one of the best games historically for clearing bonuses, contributes just 10 percent. That means that if a player wagers $100 on blackjack, it only counts as $10 for bonus clearing purposes.

Similarly, the poker page of Bet365 advertises a “€1,000 New Player Bonus” with the same “Terms and Conditions Apply” tag below. Again, it looks like one needs to click on the “Promotions” tab to find a link for the terms. Most of the terms of the poker bonus are fairly well explained; though there is added discussion of “Merit Points,” there is a link to an explanation of the point system. The part of the poker bonus terms that is confusing and vague is where it states, “No minimal risk wagering is allowed to contribute towards any part of this promotion, including bonus wagering requirements or the accumulation of any points. Players deemed to be using minimal risk wagering tactics to redeem their bonuses or cash prizes risk having their bonuses, cash prizes and any subsequent winnings removed.”  Bet365-anonymous

This “minimal risk wagering” clause is also on the casino bonus page and is not explained at all.

In the press release, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said, “The Consumer Law also requires that any conditions, limitations or restrictions should be made clear to the consumer before the purchase rather after a consumer has been unfairly enticed into a transaction.”

The ACCC is seeking monetary penalties, corrections to Bet365’s advertising, and a compliance program, amongst other things, in the court action. The first hearings will take place on October 10th.

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