Wine glasses being poured with blurred casino backgroundAnyone that has ever spent any time in Las Vegas will have grown used to the idea of a cocktail waitress or waiter bringing them free drinks, in exchange for a tip or two. It can therefore feel massively disappointing when the same thing doesn’t happen when you go into a casino in Liverpool, Birmingham or Glasgow. Is this because it is against the law for free drinks to be served to customers in casinos in the United Kingdom, or is it due to some other reason? After all, such free drinks must cost the Vegas casinos money.

In the UK, the Gambling Commission is responsible for the rules and regulations that casinos and other betting establishments have to follow. These rules tend to be quite strict and the idea of giving people free alcohol as a ‘reward’ for gambling is definitely not something that the UKGC would allow. Of course, the truth about UK-based casinos is that they’re not really there to encourage tourists in the same was as casinos in Vegas are, so the need to keep people ‘sweet’ isn’t as prevalent, meaning that you’re unlikely to get free booze.

Alcoholic Drinks Aren’t Free

Casinos do plenty of things to encourage bettors to turn up in their droves and stake their own money on games that the gambling houses know will give them a profit in the long-term. The idea of ‘the House always wins’ isn’t some trite saying, it is a truth that is in place precisely because of the manner in which games are set up to ensure that the casino will make money when they look over a large number of people betting for a huge number of hours. This guaranteed win means that they’re happy to entice you in if they can.

If you’re a big bettor, often referred to as a ‘whale’ in casino parlance, then there’s a good chance that you’ll be showered with even more goodies than just your average punter. Even so, one of the things that you’re unlikely to be able to get in a UK casino is an alcoholic beverage. The United Kingdom Gambling Commission is hot on casinos not encouraging gambling in a way that might make people be less aware of what it is that they’re betting on. Consequently, being ‘lose’ thanks to liquor would fall into that category.

Non-Alcoholic Drinks Might Be

Soft drinks

Though the awarding of free alcoholic drinks to customers by casinos is not allowed, the same isn’t true of non-alcoholic beverages. Though this isn’t something that is advertised in any meaningful fashion, largely because it isn’t an actual rule, it is not unheard of for casinos in the UK to offer customers free drinks that lack an alcoholic kick. This could be the likes of a lemonade or coca-cola or a hot drink, such as tea or coffee. Often, casinos will do this as a promotion, so it’s always worth keeping your eye out to see what’s being offered.

Again, unless you are a particularly high-roller, you’re not going to be able to wander into a casino and just demand free drinks. Instead, it is something that will be offered to those that are placing bets, if it’s going to be offered at all. That is the key thing, with those that are not betting, and therefore not spending their money in the casino, unlikely to be given anything other than a haughty stare. If you want to get some free drinks, therefore, make sure that you offer the casino a sign that you’re giving them something in return.

Why Do They Do It?

An obvious question that some people might ask is why, exactly, casinos choose to give punters stuff for free. Though soft drinks aren’t going to cost British casinos all that much money, alcoholic ones are sure to be costly for the venues in Las Vegas. Yet it is an obvious way for them to keep customers happy whilst also keeping their costs down relatively low. If you’re a bettor who is getting stuff for free, regardless of whether the drink has any booze in it, you’re likely to keep betting for as long as the drinks keep coming.

Casinos are interested in one thing and one thing only: profit. The deals that such venues get for the drinks that they’re able to serve mean that they’re as good as free for them. As a result, the money that they make from people that place bets in order to get free stuff more than makes up for anything that might lose in giving them free stun in the first place. Even the things that cost casinos money, such as when clients are offered food for free, act as a loss-leader, so they know that it is worth the short-term pain for the long-term gain.

The 2005 Gambling Act

Judge gavel

In 2005, the British government introduced the Gambling Act to the country. In it were numerous different rules and regulations, up to and including what casinos could and could not do. One of the things on the list of no-nos was the ability to offer customers free alcoholic drinks in order to get them to bet for longer. It was also decided that casinos would not be allowed to offer punters free accommodation, with the Culture Secretary at the time, Tessa Jowell, confirming that the new rules would apply with the introduction of the Act.

Amongst the numerous people that were pleased with this were publicans, who had felt the pinch from casinos taking away a degree of their customers. The Gambling Commission, it was said, would come down hard on any casinos that decided to ignore the rules and regulations. The Director of the British Beer & Pub Association at the time, Martin Rawlings, said that he wasn’t surprised that casinos would be banned from giving away free alcohol, saying that it was ‘only fair’ and hoping for an increase in ‘clearness and clarity’ from the bill.