Yep, that time of the year where we all tune in to watch betting promotions with the occasional rugby league break and predict when and how New South Wales will meet its demise is almost over. However, betting companies, or any companies for that matter, that are thinking of offering something as `free' might just want to pay attention to a recent Federal Court decision.

Late last year the Federal Court of Australia found that online betting giant Bet365 engaged in misleading and deceptive behaviour and made false representations regarding its promotions. As a result, last month the Court ordered Bet365's Australian and UK subsidiaries to pay penalties totalling $2.75 million.

It is important to note that gambling legislation varies between the States and Territories. Betting companies can't advertise free bets as a way to induce new customers to sign up in NSW, VIC, WA and SA. But looks like offering free bets to attract new customers in the other States and Territories might still get you in to trouble.

How? Well Bet365's scam offer went something like this:

  1. Step right up! Punters, come have a flutter! $200 worth of free bets! Easy money right? Nothing to lose, everything to gain!
  2. Don't worry ladies and gentlemen, you will get your free bets, just deposit $200 and it's yours!
  3. Good good. Your kindness is much obliged. Oh, forgot to mention, minor detail. Now you need to gamble that $200! Today is your lucky day!

See what they did there? To make matters worse, customers were required to gamble their deposit and bonus three times before being able to withdraw any money (yep, $1,200 folks). The Court obviously saw through this snake oil salesmanlike pitch.

The lesson for companies is that if you are going to offer something as free, you had better prominently disclose any conditions attached to that offer so customers are aware from the outset what they are in for. Or better yet, maybe offer something that is genuinely free. Perfect example, we hear the NRL are offering free blue wigs and free blue Tshirts in an attempt to get NSW fans to go to the now redundant State of Origin III. Maybe we can save them for next year?