A common gripes from players is how online casinos handle bonuses. Marketing materials splash huge bonus amounts on their site and marketing materials, but the reality of withdrawing a bonus as cold, hard cash is often far from as simple.
If you think about it, it would be a strange marketing strategy for casinos to give hundreds of pounds to each player just to register and open an account?A casino aims to be a profitable business – and handing out hundreds of pounds of cash is an odd growth strategy.
The reality is that most casino bonuses are heavily restricted, almost always bound up in ‘wagering requirements’ that range from the difficult to the downright impossible. So, how should you deal with these terms and conditions to get the best result for you? By reading this guide, where we delve into the details of wagering requirements, and explain everything you need to consider when choosing a bonus.
What Are Wagering Requirements?
Wagering requirements (sometimes referred to as playthrough requirements) dictate a set number of times you need to gamble the bonus amount before you can access your bonus. Sometimes the wagering requirement applies just to the bonus amount, while other times it applies to the deposit + bonus. This distinction is key as it can make a big difference.
Example: Casumo’s welcome bonus offers 200% on the first deposit of up to £25. That gives players the opportunity to get a £50 bonus cash, but first they must meet the wagering requirements.
The terms and conditions state: “Bonuses carry a wagering requirement of twenty-five (25) times the total amount”, which means a player will have to wager 25 times the total of the deposit and bonus. In this case, that amounts to £75 (£25 deposit + £50 bonus) multiplied by 25, or £1,875.
To get a £50 bonus with NetBet’s 100% up to £200 offer you would have to deposit £50. The conditions also specify a 30x wagering requirement that’s inferior to the Casumo offer. But the T&Cs only require wagering of the bonus, so at 30 x £50, you would only have to wager £1,500.
In fairness these restrictions provide the layer of protection casinos need. Otherwise, this is a system that could be open to widespread abuse, and no company can hand out free money without getting value in return. It’s a well-documented practice across online casinos, and you’ll see it referenced in most decent casino reviews and write-ups. It’s also in the terms and conditions for any player to inspect, but of course, most people don’t bother to read them.
From a practical perspective, the wagering demands mean that bonuses can differ greatly in value. A £10 bonus might be better value than a £500 bonus if the wagering requirements are much lower. The former might allow you to actually withdraw your bonus and any associated winnings without having to gamble a huge amount (and potentially lose that amount) in order to unlock withdrawals.
While this is definitely above board, it does leave some players feeling a little aggrieved. The answer is to look beyond the marketing hype and get stuck into the terms and conditions, where you’ll find any applicable wagering requirements or other terms that could hold up your progress.
Wagering requirements are subject to wide variations, depending on the size of the bonus and the casino in question. It’s up to you to find out what the wagering requirements are, and whether you think they make sense and if you can meet them – we’ve seen requirements ranging from 3x up to some frighteningly high numbers.
What is a good wagering requirement?
What makes for a good wagering requirement has changed. Previously a x25 play-through requirement on the bonus was considered a good term. Recently though, with the industry raising the bar, and with some casinos such as Betway Casino demanding up x50 on the bonus, x30 or x35 could be considered ‘good’ wagering demands with x40 around the average.
Common casino bonus conditions
Every casino bonus offer will reference the terms and conditions. They don’t make for engrossing reading, so these terms and conditions are usually not heavily touted on the casino site. However, casinos are required by UK regulations to provide an explicit link between bonus marketing materials and the associated T&Cs.
As we’ve seen, the difference between bonus-only and deposit-plus-bonus play-through requirements can be huge. But that’s just one way that casinos try to hide the true value of their offers. Look out for these other restrictions:
Game Contributions – The main way casinos make bonuses more difficult to claim is by restricting you to playing high variance games, such as online slots. Games that allow the player to make low-risk bets, like odds-evens in roulette, usually only contribute a percentage of the value wagered to the overall play-through total.
In the case of Betfair casino’s ‘100% up to £400’ offer, slots, scratchcards and arcade games contribute 100% to the wagering requirements, roulette games contribute only 25%, while blackjack contributes just 10%. That means that if you bet £20 on a hand of blackjack, just £2 will count towards the playthrough requirements.
Playthrough Contribution by Game Type – Example Table
100% up to $100 (plus up to 200 Free Spins)
Time limits – Make sure to find out how long you have to fulfil the playthrough. The bigger the bonus, the better – but not if you only have seven days to meet the requirements.
Betting limits – One way casinos can make it difficult to meet wagering demands is by restricting how much you can bet at any one time. If you normally bet £10 on each spin of the roulette wheel, but you are limited to betting £5 to qualify for wagering requirements, it’s going to take twice as long to meet the total required.
Withdrawal Request – Another tricky term to be aware of, virtually all online casinos will void your bonus if you request a withdrawal before the bonus is played through
In many instances, the bonuses are optional, and depending on the terms it might even be in your interests to reject a certain bonus – especially if you’re just looking to play a couple of games, or you don’t envisage becoming a more regular player. Probably the quickest way to cancel a bonus is to contact customer support via the live chat facility and request that the bonus be cancelled.
Beware Impossible Wagering Requirements
Take this example, drawn from a well-known online casino. The welcome bonus is pitched at 100% of the first deposit, up to £250. So, you deposit the £250, receive your additional £250 bonus, and you’re good to go.
Except, look at the terms and conditions. The wagering requirement here is 30x, and that includes your original deposit. So you’re looking at spend 30 x £500 in order to claim any of the winnings from your bonus – £15,000. This is almost certainly impossible in casino gambling unless you truly are defying probabilities. The result is a lot of disgruntled players.
Wagering requirements aren’t a secret, protect yourself and read the terms and conditions first, before you’re drawn in by any bonus amount.
Are Times Changing?
Recently BGO Casino announced that it was scraping wagering requirements on bonuses citing both player feedback and the changing regulatory environment in the U.K. All bonuses on BGO will be in the form of real cash or wagerless free spins, with players not being required to play-through their bonus.
In citing player confusion over bonuses, BGO remarked how their customer support teams spent increasing time explaining the concept of wagering requirements and also referred to the recent joint investigation between the UK Competition and Markets Authority and the UK Gambling Commission into unfair bonus terms and conditions.
This is certainly a brave move by BGO with high bonus amounts and large wagering requirements being the bedrock of the online casino industry since its inception but will other casino sites follow suit?
UPDATE: The UK Gambling Commission has introduced a new code of conduct following the CMA probe. From now on players won’t be required to play multiple times before they can withdraw their own money; restrictions on game play must be made explicit to players and operators can’t rely on vague terms to confiscate players’ money
On our casino bonus page you’ll find our latest ranking of online casinos based on the quality of their bonus offers. You can find out more about how we make that judgement on the page itself, but rest assured, fair terms and conditions are top of our checklist.