Gambling Bonuses and Rewards
One of the silent debates in online gaming is how much value the bonus and rewards programs bring to players and the casinos that offer these promotions. On the surface the casinos' need for promotion programs is obvious. There are thousands of licensed online casinos, most if not all of them offering games that are available through dozens or hundreds of casinos. The only competitive leverage a casino has to offer in these games is derived from enhancing the user interface or tweaking the theoretical return to player, which means reducing potential profit.
For players with limited bankrolls welcome bonuses and ongoing promotions are essentially offers of credit. Playing with the house's money has some appeal because you incur less risk as long as that money lasts and under the right conditions you may get to withdraw some money. It is very possible to make a profit on bonus and reward programs, but you have to decide if the extra effort required to achieve an uncertain outcome is worthwhile.
For casinos the reward programs offer a secondary value because they have more flexibility and control over the player experience, and reward programs are a proven customer retention strategy. But the rewards still come out of the casinos' revenues and some players resent the tight restrictions casinos impose on the rewards. You may reach a point in your own gaming experience where you eschew the welcome bonus (if you can) so you can withdraw your money as quickly as possible, depending on the terms and conditions the casino attaches to its signup promotions.
The size of your bankroll plays a very important part in your decision about which promotions to use, if you have a choice about that when you join a casino. The casinos impose wagering requirements as a prudent measure to protect their interest in extending credit to the players, but you the player need to understand how that affects you, especially if the welcome bonus is automatically deposited into your account. Some casinos leave the decision to participate in their promotions up to you but not all.
Best Gambling Sites for Bonuses & Rewards
Your preferred gaming style determines what kinds of welcome bonuses you pursue. The no deposit bonus is for people with a small bankroll. When you are ready to make significant deposits the matching bonus is a far more sensible choice. We prefer casinos that track bonus deposits separately from player deposits. Bonus programs that clearly distinguish between game options (e.g., "Table Games Bonus" versus "Slot Games Bonus") are better than bonus programs that lump everything into one category and then apply complicated terms through the wagering requirements.
We recommend these gaming sites because their bonus programs are clearly explained and they offer several options to choose from. Most players should be satisfied with these offers.
Why Gambling Sites Offer Bonuses
The typical gaming Website attracts your interest through its game offerings and its signup options. The demand for new players creates a lot of competition among the thousands of gaming sites available today. To be more competitive the best gambling websites offer the latest games and player perks, but the real competition begins before you ever become a member. As a savvy player you shop for the best offers and that is where the welcome bonuses come into play.
The best gambling sites attract your interest with generous welcome bonuses but they follow up with a variety of weekly or monthly bonuses and tournaments. The idea is simple marketing principles: to generate excitement and to stand out from the crowd.
There is a little bit more psychology at play behind the gambling site bonus system. The players are risking their own money when they make deposits. By offering bonuses and other rewards the gaming sites are taking on some risk as well. This makes the relationship more fair and balanced: both parties accept some risk.
The bonus offers are legitimate and they are the first step toward establishing a long term relationship with each player. If the gambling site operator is serious about doing business with you they will do everything possible to make your playing experience easy and enjoyable. And who doesn't appreciate free money?
Types of Bonus & Reward
There are two types of welcome bonuses and each has its strengths.
The no deposit bonus extends a small amount of credit, usually in the neighborhood of $25, to the new member. The gambling site is counting you having a fun experience and wanting to play more but they also hope that you at best break even on their bonus offer. That way they don't lose much money before you make your first serious deposit.
The match bonus doubles, triples, and on rare occasions quadruples your deposit by matching your deposit amount with credit. These offers naturally come with some conditions because the gambling sites only want to do business with you; they are wary of bonus scammers who try to take the money and run. For that reason you will almost always find a limit on welcome bonus deposits, which typically fall into the range of $500 to $1000.
After you have joined a gambling site and played through the welcome bonus there may be other bonuses offered on a daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal basis. These bonuses may consist of free money or chips but in most cases are similar to the welcome bonuses. A match bonus is always measured in terms of a percentage match but some bonus offers are carefully worded to give the impression of much higher percentages. These offers tend to come in the multi-deposit format and the percentage per deposit is added to the total running percentage count.
You might see an offer of 800% matching bonuses up to $2400 but when you look at the offer they require four deposits up to $600 each and they only give you credit for 200% on each deposit.
So the bonus is really only tripling your money (which is very generous) and not multiplying it by a factor of 8, which would be incredible. You could very well see such an offer but be assured it would come with ridiculous terms and conditions.
You'll also find that the gambling sites offer bonuses, including welcome bonuses, based on the type of wagers you prefer to make. These differentiated bonus offers are legitimate and usually player-friendly but the bonus amounts can vary substantially. That is because some types of wagers, such as sports wagers, tend to be less profitable for the gambling site operators than other types, such as slot game wagers. It's easier for you to compare bonus offers when they are broken out this way because the playthrough requirements are usually quite different for these differentiated groups of games.
The four most common types of differentiated bonuses are:
- Sports Betting Bonuses
- Casino Bonuses, covering slots and table games
- Poker Bonuses
- Bingo Bonuses, (covering bingo and other Class II games)
Claiming & Clearing Bonuses
Regardless of the type of bonus you collect, you have to earn it before you can claim any money you win by playing with the bonus. The earning process is called playthrough by some writers and gaming sites, but most often you'll see it described as a wagering requirement. The terms and conditions vary from site to site so we recommend that you always read the terms pages carefully no matter how tedious that may seem. Understanding what you agree to in advance ensures you don't embarrass yourself with an unnecessary complaint later.
Even so there are certain factors you'll find that are common across most if not all bonus offers.
- Most of the casinos we review now retain their bonus deposits.
- You can never withdraw the bonus itself from the gambling site, and many even track this money separately from your own deposits and winnings.
- What you can withdraw, in addition to the money you deposit, is what you win with either your own money or the bonus credit.
The playthrough or wagering requirement works on the following principle. For every dollar in bonus credit you accept you must make X times wagers. But there is a tricky part to this in some offers. The trick is that you only get dollar for dollar credit on your wagers on slot games. If you accept a $100 bonus credit on "casino games" you may be required to make 30 times that $100 bonus in wagers. If you only play slot games you usually receive 100% credit for each dollar wagered. If you play table games, however, you typically receive less than 100% credit. We have seen some wagering requirements that only award 10% credit for blackjack wagers.
The wagering requirement is a necessary part of the bargain. If you agree to a 30X or 40X playthrough that multiplier is applied to both your deposit (if you made one) and the bonus amount. This may seem like a large amount of money but it's usually a reasonable amount. Let's use slot gaming as an example. Suppose you accept a $500 bonus with a 40X playthrough wagering requirement. That means you have deposited $500, the gaming site has credited you with an additional $500, and you must make $40,000 in wagers before you can withdraw your winnings.
If you make a withdrawal before you have completed the $40,000 in wagers you void the bonus offer and the casino will usually deduct the full amount of the bonus credit from your player account. If you lose $300 of the $500 bonus and then seek to withdraw money, you will forfeit $300 out of your own deposit. So it's usually in your best interest to complete the wagering requirement.
When playing slot games you want to look for games that offer a high theoretical return to player. This is an estimate of how much of the money wagered by players over a long period of time will be paid back to the players. The casino keeps the rest. We have seen a few games that advertise a 98% RTP although you're more likely going to see 94% to 96% on most online slot games. If you cannot find the theoretical return to player in the game's help screen look for a different game to play.
A slot game is easy to play. You set the wager or bet amount and click SPIN. If you feel lucky you can set up an automatic spin schedule; most games now offer automated spin cycles. But let's assume you click the SPIN button yourself. An average player clicks SPIN about once every ten seconds. You'll therefore click 6 times per minute and 360 times per hour. If you limit your bets to modest amounts (and you should) of $5 you will wager a total of $1800 per hour.
While the theoretical return to player does not guarantee you will receive back 94% to 98% of that $1800, it does work out that way on average over many hours of play. This is why you should play modest wagers, so that your money lasts longer. But let's assume you retain about 80% of your wagers each hour. There are several ways to estimate how much of your $1000 you have actually spent. For simplicity's sake we'll assume you only spent about $500 (the bonus money) and that at the end of the hour you have $400 bonus money left.
At this rate you'll have to play for about 22 and half hours. During that time you will come out ahead on some hours. You could very well complete your wagering requirement without having to play any of your own money. This is all determined randomly and we cannot make any promises. You could also lose your entire deposit. But assuming you get through that first 22 to 23 hours of play time, you have completed the wagering requirement and you'll be free to withdraw your remaining deposit and winnings.
If you play table games you'll have to adjust your wagers according to your skill and knowledge of the game because when you receive less than 100% credit per dollar wagered you have to make more wagers.
The worst percentage credit we have seen is about 10%, which would mean you would have to make $400,000 in wagers in eligible table games to complete your wagering requirement. We recommend you play modestly on the slot games to earn your welcome bonus.
Of course, special welcome bonuses for other types of games require that you play only those games to meet your wagering requirements. Be very sure of which games you play when you are earning a welcome bonus or other promotion.