Having once been a rare luxury in the betting world, free bet offers are now part and parcel of the online betting experience, and bookmakers around the world have incorporated bonuses and free bets into the business strategies in order to attract new members and keep their customers happy.
The drastically increased availability of free bet offers has led to a shift in the mindset of both bookmakers and gamblers alike.
For the bookie, there is a vital balancing act to be struck between establishing offers that are enticing enough to compete with thousands of other betting sites around the world.
For the humble punter, there is a world of choice and opportunity to explore that far outstrips the betting experience that for decades meant trudging around towns and cities, from betting shop to betting shop, in search of favourable odds.
Things have swung in the favour of betting enthusiasts, and it is worth keeping in mind that online betting sites will go to great lengths to win you business, and equally great lengths to keep you engaged and happy at their site.
Few online betting sites can rival the experience or the free bet offers of Betfair, which pairs a sportsbook offering with a betting exchange, and also offers its members casino and arcade options, with offers and free bets available across all its products, all year round.
How to find the best free bet offers
A simple web search will bring up a range of free bet offers that is likely to be almost too extensive to be useful, and it is valuable to spend time researching the type of offer that will best suit your style and system of betting, and the markets you're interested in.
One of the best ways to research free bet offers and be kept abreast of the latest promotions happening in the world of online betting is to get involved in betting forums and chat rooms, which can be found at a variety of online destinations.
Here, you will be able to swap strategies and betting stories with knowledgeable enthusiasts from around the world, and pick up tips on the kinds of offers that are available in different markets.
Few betting forums can compete with the Betfair Community, which has been a talking shop for some of the world's most successful sports betting enthusiasts for many years. Since the Betfair Betting Exchange revolutionised online sports betting back in 2000, keen gamblers have come to the Betfair Community pages to discuss all aspects of betting, across all different markets.
The Betfair Community not only serves as a great source of information and assistance, but it also has seen thousands of real-world friendships forged between people who have been brought together by their love of betting.
Another great way to keep ahead of the curve when it comes to knowing all about the latest free bet offers and promotions is to sign up for a monthly betting newsletter.
The Betfair In-Play newsletter is a great example of a reliable source of betting previews, in-depth strategy articles, betting tips, free bet offers, and news on exciting new products by the team of innovators behind the Betfair platform.
Different types of free bet offer
Most online betting sites make free bet offers to new members, as an incentive to sign up. However, not all betting sites are equal, and neither are all free bet offers!
Some betting sites will offer to match your first deposit, which gives you the advantage of a stake that is twice as big as it might have been, and the chance to win double your money if your bet comes good.
However, many players look for free bet offers that give them a few bites of the cherry at a new site, rather than a single matched deposit, as this gives them the chance to get their bearings at their new betting destination, and also to try out a few different products or markets and establish whether or not that particular site is going to be the one for them in the long term.
Betfair's introductory free bet offer gives players this chance, by following up each player's first bet of at least £10 with three further free bets of £10 each - a welcome bonus value of £30 in free bets.
Given the vast range of different products and markets available on Betfair, this welcome offer is ideally suited to new players who want to explore the site and get a real flavour for what it has to offer.
Free bet offers and their impact on the industry
The advent of free bet offers has had a wide-ranging impact on the betting industry, and the way that people view online gambling on the whole.
There is now an expectation that sites will offer free bets to new and existing members - a situation quite far removed from days gone by, when hard-nosed high street bookmakers would be pressed to offer their customers a smile, let alone a free bet!
This expectation of free bets and bonus offers has given online bookmakers a distinct challenge to keep their books balanced, and to ensure that they are attracting the type of player who is looking to engage in some real money bets and stand a chance of winning some big money in return.
There are, of course, players out there who are looking to take advantage of free bet offers without the intention of sticking around and enjoying the full experience of a new online betting site. Free bet opportunities have also been exploited through strategies such as matched betting, whereby bonus bets are used to bet both ways on certain markets in order to make a guaranteed profit.
But, while introductory free bet offers are a perk of modern day gambling, they are only the tip of the iceberg, and whether you are a brand new player or an experienced gambler looking for an exciting betting experience, the offers, products and promotions that appear when you stick around for a bit longer at a site like Betfair tend to be the ones that are worth waiting for.