The prospect of getting a huge bonus is perhaps one of the most compelling reasons why people play at online casinos. With bonus offers often totaling hundreds of dollars, the chance to get some of it is too tempting to resist.
No-deposit bonuses are even more irresistible to online casino players. As the term suggest, no-deposit bonuses essentially give you playable money in your account with no deposit required. For players that want to play casinos without having to risk any of their own money, no-deposit bonuses seem like a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, there are many factors that could get in the way of enjoying no-deposit bonuses. Shady casino websites are among the most common obstacles, and restrictive legislation may also dash players’ hopes of getting bonus cash for free.
Most every gambling jurisdiction in the world has been subject to increasingly stringent regulation at some point. The issues affecting online gamblers in the United Kingdom and Australia are well known, and even US players haven’t been spared. In these and other parts of the world, restrictive gambling regulations have not only limited casino options; they have also affected the ability to benefit from no-deposit bonuses.
That being said, there is still a glimmer of hope to be found. Despite government restrictions, there are still places where players from the UK, the US, Australia, and elsewhere can avail of no-deposit bonuses.
The UK is perhaps one of the most hotly-contested arenas for online gambling as far as legislation is concerned. Several online casinos have ceased accepting players from the UK, which has severely restricted the no-deposit bonuses options available to the local market.
The primary responsibility for regulating the gambling industry in the UK has fallen on the Gambling Commission, which is under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Most areas of the industry are covered by the Gambling Act 2005, an Act of Parliament that effectively updated the previous gambling laws in the United Kingdom. Apart from instituting mechanisms intended to protect children and vulnerable adults, the Act also served to regulate Internet gaming for the first time.
In 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into the practices of some online casinos. This was intended to bring to light bonus policies that were deemed unfair or misleading to the public. The CMA also questioned breaches of consumer protection law committed by some online casinos.
The investigation stemmed from complaints filed with the CMA and the UK Gambling Commission, which involved restrictions that effectively prevented players from claiming payouts. Five online gambling operators were initially investigated, and three subsequently committed to modifying their bonus promotion offers.
Measures such as these obviously work out to the advantage of players. Even so, they do little to dispel that fact that UK players currently have much fewer options in no-deposit bonuses available. There are still some casinos that accept players from the UK, and some bonus left to be had. If the trend towards more restrictive regulation continues however, more and more players will have no choice but to turn to black market operators.
Things are somewhat different in the United States. Although the federal government has stopped short of declaring online gambling legal, a few states have explicitly allowed online gambling for its residents. At present, online gambling is allowed in New Jersey, Delaware, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. If you live in any one of these states, you could very well avail of the no-deposit bonuses offered by approved online casinos.
The situation isn’t quite as clear-cut in states wherein online gambling is still illegal. Although there is no hindrance to signing up at an online casino and claiming a no-deposit bonus, you might run into a snag when you actually try to deposit money or withdraw your winnings. And since most casinos require you to deposit money before you are able to withdraw your bonuses and winnings, you might not be able to benefit from the no-deposit bonus at all.
At the root of the problem is the UIGEA or the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Passed in 2006, it effectively banned the processing of payment and withdrawal transactions with online casinos. So although US players could still play at certain online casinos, the inability to make deposits or to withdraw their funds made gambling for money pointless, if not totally impossible.
There are some loopholes to this scenario depending on how you look at it. Because no online casinos actually have a US-issued gambling license, it could be argued that they aren’t subject to US laws. Some could therefore take this to mean that the restrictions regarding payment and deposit processing do not apply.
There are also security factors to consider. If an offshore online casino refuses to honor a no-deposit bonus offer, there is nothing that the US government or law enforcement authorities can do about it. There are international watchdog sites such as Casinomeister and Affiliate Guard Dog that can blacklist casinos of course, but you pretty much assume all the risk.
To put it another way: US players do have several options for getting no-deposit bonuses. It’s a little riskier to be sure, and you might have to jump through some legal hoops, but they are out there.
Australia is another gambling market that has been on the receiving end of harsh gambling legislation. In 2001, the parliament passed the IGA or Interactive Gambling Act, which was supposedly intended to protect citizens from the hazards of gambling.
Interestingly enough, the law has done little to prevent Australians from gambling at online casinos or from claiming no-deposit bonuses. This is because the law only prohibits the advertising of real money gambling to Australian citizens, and forbids them from playing at online casinos that will accept them.
In a bizarre twist to Australian gambling legislation, the IGA does allow Australian gambling operators to offer their services to players in other countries. Furthermore, sports betting and lotteries can also be advertised by licensed local operators.
Of course, just because Aussies can play at online casinos doesn’t mean that they can get bonuses easily–or at all. As in the US, the focus seems to be more on discouraging players from gambling, rather than on forbidding them from playing outright.
Australian citizens that sign up at an online casino may therefore find themselves with very limited options for making deposits and withdrawals. Payment portals such as POLi, Neteller, and Skrill have since ceased offering their services to Australian players, and a few more may follow suit.
Despite all this, Australians still have a number of options for claiming no-deposit bonuses. A number of casinos continue to accept Australian players, and some banking and payment methods may still be used.
Players from Scandinavian countries such as Sweden have it good compared to players from the UK, US, and Australia. The past few years have seen the opening of the gambling market in these jurisdictions, with players enjoying new options for no-deposit bonuses.
In fact, it may be said that these countries have the most progressive laws as far as online gambling is concerned. Swedish citizens can actually gamble in online casinos that operate outside Sweden with no legal restrictions whatsoever. This means that it is much easier to claim no-deposit bonuses from these countries than from any other country in the world.
There are some restrictions, of course. Swedish online gambling firms are prohibited from offering casino games to local residents. If a Swedish citizen opts to play in an offshore online casino, the Swedish Gambling Authority simply does not have jurisdiction over such operators.
Of course, you could always count on governments to mess with a good thing, and the Swedish government is no exception. In the works is a proposed bill that will both institute a new gambling license and close down operators that do not have that license. The impending bill–which may take effect in 2019–may also prevent online casinos from offering bonuses, apart from first deposit bonus offers. When this comes to pass, Swedish players may find themselves with fewer no-deposit bonuses than they have currently.
Interestingly enough, Canada was one of the first countries to implement laws regulating its online gambling industry. As far back as the early 1990s, when online gambling was still in its infancy, the Canadian government took the bold step of allowing each province to implement its own gambling laws. As a result, Canada is one of the few places in the world where gamblers can enjoy their favorite pastime with absolutely no worry about running afoul of the law.
This has had a massive impact on the availability and quality of bonus offers, as you can imagine. The bonuses available to Canadian players are the envy of many in the online gambling industry, and multi-tier deposit bonuses are quite common. There is also a wide range of no-deposit bonuses available to Canadian players, which seems like a good enough reason for US players to pull up their roots and head north!
What it all means
As you can see, the trend towards increasingly restrictive gambling regulations has only made it more challenging for players to find casinos with no-deposit bonuses to play in. More annoyances than insurmountable obstacles, these laws effectively require players to take a more creative approach in order to get their bonuses. Some sites have popped up to fill the gap and help reduce the burden.
It is also worth noting that many governments lack the financial and logistical capabilities to implement these laws in a consistent and sustainable manner. Most countries simply do not have the funds or the manpower to go after every single operator that is in violation, much less every single gambler that wishes to play online.
Black market options continue to exist as well. And with governments effectively unable to enforce their regulations on offshore operators, players will always have no-deposit bonuses offers to choose from.