A few years ago, we had listings for scores of UK bingo sites with no deposit bonus offers – including almost all Cozy bingo sites, several Virtue Fusion and many Dragonfish. Now, not only are there just a handful of no deposit offers left, but they are mostly slot spin offers rather than bingo bonus.
This has happened because of a taxation change that took effect back in August 2017. Previously, wagering done with a bonus was not included in the Point of Consumption tax applied to all cash wagers. Prior to the change, if a player was given a bonus and ended up not winning anything with it there was no cost to the operator. Now, the operator has to pay tax on the bonus whether the player wins or loses.
The change affected no deposit bonus offers particularly badly because normally only about 5% of players who took one of these offers up would go on to make a deposit, so in most cases the operator would be paying the tax but getting nothing in return.
Instead of offering a no deposit bonus, some operators run newbie rooms with free bingo games (usually paying out bingo bonus) which can be accessed for a few days following registration. We believe that it’s cheaper for them to do this as the tax is only applied to the winnings and also it tends to reward committed rather than casual players as they have to be in the bingo room at the time of the game to claim the free tickets.
Unfortunately, not only is the rate of Point of Consumption Tax going up in April from 15% to 21% (which is bound to have a negative effect on the size of bonus offers) another change is due to take effect in May 2019 which throws a further spanner in the works – for newbie free bingo as well as for no deposit bingo. The UK Gambling Commission is making this change for three reasons:
- To prevent under 18s being able to gamble
- To prevent self excluded players from being able to gamble
- To ensure that players are able to withdraw funds at will
That’s why they are doing it – but WHAT are they actually doing? Basically, much more robust age checks are now going to have to be carried out up front instead of the operator having a grace period of 72 hours to it during which time the player could gamble, much more robust ID checks also have to be done up front to ensure that no further checks are required when a player wants to withdraw winnings (as has caused some players problems in the past), and all this applies to free versions of gambling games as well as pay to play.
So from 7th May, age and ID verification is going to have to be completed BEFORE you can
- Play any real money games (with cash or otherwise)
- Play any free to play or demo versions of any gambling games
If you’ve lived at the same address for years, are on the electoral roll and have a well established credit history you may not notice much of a difference when you join new bingo sites; you’ll probably have to register a valid credit or debit card with them to take up any no deposit or free bingo offers but this is already a common requirement. If you don’t fulfil those criteria, expect to have to submit documents such as utility bills or a copy of your passport as part of the account opening process even if you don’t make a deposit – and until the process is complete, you won’t be able to play any games on site at all.
We expect the combination of the higher rate of taxation with the need to undergo all those checks before being allowed to play to kill off all or almost all of the remaining no deposit welcome offers at slot sites as well as at bingo sites. There’s not much point in an operator having that type of offer if players have to undergo exactly the same verification and vetting process as they would have to if they made a deposit.
Newbie free bingo, on the other hand, is likely to be given more publicity – as a way for players to win extra bonus or cash after making a first deposit. It is to be hoped that operators will start the clock on the free bingo room for new players from the day the age and ID verification is completed and not from the date of registration!