People always say the best things in life are free. But they must not be familiar with the world of sports betting promotions.
On Feb. 23, plaintiff Lachae Vickers filed a class action suit against Caesars Entertainment, claiming the gaming operator misled customers with marketing campaigns centered around “risk-free” bets that can actually be quite costly.
Vickers alleges that the advertising of Caesars’ “risk-free” bets are deceptive and can easily trick bettors into losing a lot of money.
As Vickers is a New Yorker, so the case will go through the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Vickers is looking to represent a nationwide class of Caesars Sportsbook users along with a subclass of NY sports betting customers.
Breaking down Caesars NY promotional offer
Caesars isn’t alone in offering promotions like the one this case focuses on. Many sportsbooks offer welcome bonuses to attract new users to their sportsbooks.
Similar verbiage used to describe these types of promos include “no sweat first bet” or “bet insurance.” The way it works at Caesars New York: After creating an account and making a deposit, you can wager up to $1,250 “risk-free.”
If your bet hits, you receive the cash winnings like normal. But if it loses, you’ll receive the full amount you wagered back in bonus bets, not cash. Bonus bets are not withdrawable for cash and can only be used to wager on more events found on Caesars Sportsbook. Also, you must use the bet credits within 14 days or they’ll expire.
Tying in lawsuit against Caesars Sportsbook
So it’s entirely possible you can lose your first wager, receive the bonus bets and lose those, too. Leaving you with no real cash once all is said and done. Which brings us back to the lawsuit.
In Vickers’ case, she wagered and lost $125 after signing up with Caesars. Here’s what Vickers had to say in the complaint:
“Such tantalizing offers have been effective at persuading plaintiff and other Americans to open and use betting accounts, but new users later learn a startling reality: even so called ‘free’ or ‘risk-free’ bets can result in the customer losing every dollar of a wager.”
Vickers seeks unspecified damages and injunctive relief, as well as claiming violations of New York’s General Business Law, including: negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation and fraudulent inducement, among other things.
Federal bill proposed to eliminate ‘predatory’ marketing
Sportsbooks advertisements haven’t just caught Vickers’ eye. Earlier this month, New York congressman Paul Tonko introduced the “Betting on Our Future Act.” If passed, it would be illegal for sportsbooks to advertise on TV, radio or the internet. This would limit sportsbook marketing to mailouts, print media or billboards.
Tonko said this act was inspired by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act that prohibited tobacco advertisements. Tonko believes the easy access to sports betting has led gaming operators to roll out “a variety of predatory tactics” to gain new customers.
Here’s what Tonko had to say about his proposal:
“Sports betting advertisements are out of control. Congress needs to reel in an industry with the power to inflict real, widespread harm on the American people.”
Not first NY sports betting issue for Caesars
When the online sports betting industry launched in January 2022, Caesars Sportsbook sprinted out of the gate with nearly $630 million in handle in less than a full month. During that time, Caesars racked up 500,000 new customers.
Yet customers experienced issues with the sportsbook. Among them: confusion surrounding Caesars’ promotional offer at the time. That said, it highlighted an area that sportsbooks should emphasize and bettors should understand: Read the fine print of any promotional offer.
While not specifically addressing the issue, Chris Holdren, co-president of Caesars, indicated that the sportsbook continues to adapt and help make the NY sports betting experience more understandable and enjoyable for customers.
“Opening weekend brought about massive numbers and we took in more than one million bets within the first 39 hours. Unfortunately, the demand was so great that we didn’t have the flawless performance right out of the gates that we would’ve liked. New Yorkers have shown us this state will operate on an unprecedented scale and we’ve made numerous updates every day since launch to improve the customer experience while also increasing our customer service capacity.”