Casino bonuses are a powerful marketing tool for any gaming enterprise, whether on land or online. They help attract new customers by offering low- or no-risk ways to try their games, and reward existing patrons for their loyalty. However, they wouldn’t be very effective if people simply took the money without playing at all. As a result, casino bonuses always have some sort of rules and regulations attached to them. These restrictions are intended to protect both the player and casino but can be confusing and frustrating to anyone not prepared for them. Your best bet is to learn the ins and outs of these bonuses and the best strategy for taking full advantage of these offers!
Casino Bonuses Explained
Types of Online Casino Bonuses
The online gaming industry is still relatively new, and competition is fierce. Casinos are always looking for new ways to stand out in the crowd and attract new patrons. At the same time, they must appease experienced gamblers, many of whom learned to play in land-based casinos and expect certain mechanics to remain the same. For these reasons, the specifics of casino bonuses can vary greatly, but their core structure will usually place them in one of these categories:
- Variable Match Bonuses
These are cash bonuses based on whatever amount of your own money that you deposit. They usually have a minimum amount your deposit must meet, and a maximum amount they will award — after that maximum is reached, increasing your deposit will not increase the bonus. They can come in a few different variations:Match Bonuses – these bonuses match your deposit dollar for dollar. For example, a $100 Match Bonus means you will receive $100 from the casino once you deposit the same amount of your own money.Percentage Bonuses – these cash bonuses correspond to whatever amount you deposit. For example, a 50% Match Bonus would give you $50 if you deposited $100, while a 200% Match Bonus would give you $200 on a $100 deposit.
- Fixed Amount Bonuses – these cash bonuses give a flat reward amount for a flat deposit amount, i.e.: “$50 for a $25 deposit”. These usually have higher deposit requirements than other match bonuses, and don’t reward anything addition if you deposit more.
- No-Deposit Bonuses – No deposit bonuses are the most desired bonuses, as they don’t require any deposit from the player. They’re a great way to try out online gaming without risking any of your own money, but they also usually have the most complex and restrictive fine print.
- Cashback Bonuses – Cashback bonuses don’t offer you anything up front, but reward you based on your play. Also called win-back or second chance bonuses, they’ll guarantee to return a portion of your losses in the even that you have some bad luck.
- Free Spins Bonuses – Free spins bonuses are specifically for slot players and are in the form of spins instead of money. They sometimes (but not always) require a deposit from the player and may also have restrictions on withdrawing any winnings.
- Package/Prolonged Bonuses – these bonuses come in different formats or require different steps. One example would be an offer containing a no-deposit bonus, a match bonus, and a free spin bonus. Another example would be an offer composed of multiple match bonuses rewarded daily for a week, but only if the player makes a deposit each day. Usually these bonuses require players to fulfill the requirements of every step in order to receive any of the rewards.
Qualifying for Casino Bonuses
The adage ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ applies perfectly to casino bonuses. Gaming sites aren’t giving away money out of pure generosity. Rather, every gaming offer was designed and built with purpose and a goal — there’s an origin story behind each casino bonus. When you understand why certain bonuses are on the market, you’ll have an easier time finding one that’s right for you.
Casino bonuses target either new or existing players. Here are some common campaign drivers for either type:
- Welcome Offers – strictly for new players, welcome bonuses are meant to increase new signups on a site. It doesn’t matter whether players are new to online gaming in general, just that they’re new to that specific casino’s site.
- Refer-a-Friend Offers – these are rewarded to players who encourage others to use the site. They may receive a bonus when a friend signs up, or when they play a certain amount, and the other person usually receives a bonus as well. The friend usually needs to use a certain code or link when creating their account to give them credit for the referral.
- Site Exclusives/Referrals – these are the same as refer-a-friend offers, but instead of a player referring a friend, it’s a website or company. For example, a webpage may promote a certain gaming site and offer you a bonus if you use their link or code to sign up for an account with that casino.
- Reload/Top-up Bonuses – these are the follow up to a welcome bonus, as they reward you for subsequent deposits. These are usually percentage-match rather than full-match bonuses, and may diminish over time (i.e.: 50% match for your second deposit, 25% for your third, etc.).
- Loyalty Bonuses – these bonuses are for existing players and reward them for their continued play. They may come in the form of a publicly promoted bonus that only existing players can claim, or as a tailored bonus based on someone’s past play and sent to them via email.
- Wagering Bonuses – these bonuses are rewarded to anyone who fulfills certain wagering requirements, such as playing a certain number of spins on a game or betting a specific amount within a certain amount of time.
- VIP/High Roller Bonuses – these are very valuable offers made for the highest bettors of a casino. These types of players may automatically trigger these bonuses by reaching the highest level of the loyalty program, or they may need to be handpicked by a casino, in which case their bonus may be tailored specifically for them.
- Feature- or Game-Specific Offers – these offers are meant to promote a certain game or feature. They can be used to highlight a new game, such a recently-released slot machine, or to attract players to try an existing game, such as a bonus to entice slot players to try blackjack.
The Fine Print of Casino Bonuses
We’ve now reviewed, here at the wizard casino, the different types of casino bonuses and how they benefit the player. We’ve also explored the purposes and objectives behind these offers and how they benefit the casino. It’s obvious that casino bonuses are a win-win situation for both sides… but only if both sides play fairly.
To ensure fairness, every casino bonus has a strict set of rules which are laid out in the Terms and Conditions (usually called T&Cs for short). These basically create a contract between the customer and casino and are necessary to protect both parties. They prevent players from immediately cashing out their casino bonus without playing while ensuring that anything won during play will be honored.
Before accepting any casino bonus, it’s important to review these T&Cs carefully. If you use any part of a bonus — a penny, a free spin, etc. — your account is automatically bound by these regulations, which could also affect any real money that you’ve deposited.
The requirements of each casino bonus usually fall in two main areas: wager requirements and withdrawal rules. These can be summarized as the type and amount of gambling you must complete, and the type and amount of withdrawals you can do afterwards. There are a few additional things you should know about each type of restriction though.
- Summary: Wager requirements outline how much you need to play to gain or keep a bonus. They are usually a multiple of the bonus itself — for example, if a $50 bonus has a 10x wagering requirement, the amount that must be played is $500 ($50 x 10). Alternatively, the multiple may apply to more than just the bonus, for example a match bonus with a wagering requirement on the bonus and your matching deposit.
- Game Weightings: Your bets on certain games may not fully count toward the wagering requirements. With slot machines, you’ll usually get full credit for every wager (but at the same certain machines may be excluded completely). As for other games like roulette or table games, only a portion of your bets may count. For example, blackjack has a lower house edge, so every dollar wagered may only count as ten cents or less toward any wagering requirement.
- Time Limits: You’ll usually have a certain time span in which to meet a wagering requirement, such as 30 days. Be sure to check for these as they’re easy to forget.
- Summary: These outline the amount and frequency that you can withdraw money afterward fulfilling an offer’s wagering requirements. They usually define whether a bonus is cashable or non-cashable.
- Cashable Bonuses: These are bonuses that you can withdraw as real money after you meet all the associated wagering requirements.
- Non-Cashable Bonuses: Also called ‘Sticky Bonuses’, these only count as money on the casino’s website. They can be wagered and used to win real money, but they cannot be withdrawn as such themselves. Any winnings they generate, and any money deposited as part of their match requirement, can still be withdrawn.
- Withdrawal Maximums: These are limits on the amount of money you can withdraw after using a bonus and are usually applied to no-deposit and/or cashable bonuses. For example, a casino may offer a $10 no-deposit bonus to new players and allow them to withdraw any winnings up to $100. That restriction means that any amount above $100 won while using bonus money will be forfeited.
Finding the Best Online Casino Bonuses for You
So now you understand the different types of casino bonuses and their purposes, plus a whole heap of technical information about their fine print. But the one thing you’re probably still wondering is: how does this all apply to me?
Well that’s the good news! Now that you have all this information, you can use it to handpick the best casino bonus for you!
Most people will review the options and evaluate each offer based on the dollar amount they see — period. However, you now know not to make a mistake like that! Bonuses offering a huge dollar amount also tend to come with T&C’s that you couldn’t possibly meet, and you’ll probably get no reward from it (and might even lose some of your own cash!) Instead, the best method is to figure out how you want to play, and then find a casino bonus that matches it. That way, you’re not playing and spending just to chase some freebie; instead, you’re being rewarded for something you’d do anyway! This will also help you with future offers, as casinos base their loyalty bonuses on patrons’ past play.
To find a casino bonus that’s well-suited, think about your own wants and habits in these areas:
- Game Preferences – the type of game you prefer to play, such as slots, table games, etc. Slots work best for most wagering requirements, but if you’d rather play other games, you’ll want to ensure your bets will count towards any wagering requirements.
- Timeline – how frequently and for what duration you want to play. Will you be logging on for an hour every day while taking public transit to work, or only for a few minutes on your one day off? You’ll want to pick a casino bonus with a time limit or expiry date that works with your schedule.
- Budget – the amount of your own money you can contribute. Remember: even if you somehow found a casino bonus offering a million dollars, it would be useless to you if it was a match bonus. Most of the larger offers you’ll see online are match bonuses — you need to risk more of your own money to get higher rewards like that. Therefore, it’s important to know your own limits from the start.
- Withdrawal Preferences – how and when you want to withdraw money. Are you content to leave your winnings in your account for a while, possibly only using them for future play, or do you want to pull out everything you can as soon as you win it? Your preference here should influence which casino bonus you choose.
- Main Attraction – essentially: what is the biggest incentive to you. This is the most personal area, and the one with the biggest range of answers, as everybody is drawn to different benefits. Do you enjoy perks like free spins, or is a dollar value most enticing? Do you want to try things out for free and only wager your own money once you get the hang of things, or go all in at the beginning with a big initial deposit? Do you want to stick with one, or a few, types of gaming, or is your goal to learn and explore new and different games? Is the benefit of a no-deposit bonus that doesn’t risk any of your own money worth if, if it meant accepting its withdrawal maximum and forfeiting any potential big wins? There must be some perk that interests you more than others — figuring it out will help you achieve it!
The real ‘free’ casino bonuses
Consider your personal preferences as well as the information you gained on how casinos design their bonuses. You know that their goal is to attract a certain type of player and give them a great experience that makes them want to play again. If you pinpoint your own player type and motivations, you can then choose a casino bonus that’s practically tailor-made for your enjoyment!
Even better, rather than trying to take advantage of a site or abuse an offer, you’re making the system work for you in a legitimate way that also satisfies the casino! This allows you play without fear of ‘getting caught’, and ensures you’ll receive ongoing casino bonuses for playing just as you would anyway — and those are the real ‘free’ casino bonuses!