Why use bonuses?
Some players don’t like bonuses because your money gets “tied in” with the WR (see below) and in most cases you can’t cash-out until that is completed. But I do like them for 3 main reasons:
Bonuses are 'cash' incentives offered by the casinos to entice new players (Sign-Up Bonus (SUB) or Welcome Bonus), and to encourage existing customers to re-deposit over and over again (Monthly or On-going Bonuses).
Wagering Requirements (WR)
Now obviously the casinos do not just hand out cash and let you walk off with it - you have to 'earn' it by meeting certain Wagering Requirements (WR). This involves Wagering a set amount of money on specified games. e.g. If you played 10 hands of BlackJack at $10 per hand, won half & lost half, your bank balance would be the same as when you started but you will have wagered $100.
Pay particular attention as to whether the WR is just deposit or bonus xN, or (deposit+bonus) xN.
For example, a typical good welcome bonus would be a 100% match on your deposit with a WR of Bx30, Cashable.
This means on a deposit of $100 you would to have to wager $3,000 on any games which count at 100% before you can cash-out the bonus money. (Many games count at lower %s).
The WR or 'Turnover' required can vary from as little as 15 times your Deposit+Bonus (as at Superior Casino); up to 60 or even more times D+B. I rarely, if ever, touch anything over (D+B)x20 as the chances of meeting WR with ANY money left are very slim.
It is very important that you fully understand what the WR is before claiming any bonuses, both in terms of how much you need to wager, and which games you are allowed to play. The casinos carefully set up the WR conditions so that in the majority of cases you should theoretically lose most or the entire bonus by the time you complete them. But remember, in any month if you play 3 casinos and break even (cash out your deposit), and at 3 other casinos you double your deposit, you're quids in!
Cashable, Flexible, Casumo, Safety-Net, Post-Wager, Sticky & Phantom
Always look very carefully to see what type of bonuses the casino is offering:
Cashable: Usually the best deal; the bonus credit is added to your account balance automatically on deposit, or shortly after you claim it. As soon as you complete the WR, the entire account balance is yours to keep.
Flexible: First introduced by most MG casinos, this bonus is a mixture of Cashable & Phantom.
The bonus funds are added to your account and are initially all phantom. As you wager, the bonus credits are converted into real cash reducing the amount of ‘phantom’ chips.
With some casinos you can cash-out at ANY time without having to complete the full WR, but most casinos require you to complete the full WR on sign-up bonuses.
If you do cash-out before finishing the wagering, any remaining bonus chips are removed from your account and lost forever. This is great because if you hit a good early streak or big slot win you are not committed to huge WR!
Casumo Bonus: I can’t think of a catchy name for this unique system – so I have named it after the only casino that (as far as I am aware) has it - Casumo Casino!
Unlike other casinos, when you wager with a bonus in play both real cash & bonus cash are bet at the same time. E.g. If you took a 100% bonus, each bet will be made up of 50% real cash & 50% bonus cash – and any wins you get are paid out in the same proportion. If you complete the full WR required, everything becomes cash you can withdraw. BUT, you can cash-out at ANY TIME before completing WR and just forfeit the bonus chips.
This means your own cash is never tied in to any WR.
So this system is great, even for players who don’t normally like to take bonuses: just deposit your normal amount and play your normal games, but at DOUBLE your normal stake. If you win you can cash-out anytime, losing the bonus chips which weren’t really yours to start with. If you make the WR, you really do get a BONUS!
Safety-Net: I had to add this new type of bonus after first discovering it at Leo Vegas in February 2014.
With this one the bonus funds are added to your account as with cashable. When you start playing, you use your deposited funds first; if you have a good win you can cash-out without doing the WR, but your bonus funds are forfeit.
Only if you lose your deposited amount do you start wagering with the bonus chips, and then you MUST finish the WR to convert your bonus chips and winnings from them into cashable real money.
Note: At some casinos the wagering with your deposit does count towards WR, at others it does not – please CAREFULLY check the bonus T&Cs at your chosen casino.
This type of bonus is VERY favourable for the players.
Post-Wager: These are also cashable, but the bonus is not added to your account until after you have met certain WR with your own deposited funds. Most of these bonuses are then instantly withdrawable, but some require further WR before all the funds are yours to keep. (This is a very rare type of bonus).
Sticky: I don't know any casinos which have this these days, these bonuses would stay in your account and could never be withdrawn. They were very good because you coukd withdraw any profits once you’d met the WR, and then continue to wager with the bonus chips, win & cash out more profit until they were all lost!
Phantom: So called because the entire bonus is removed from your account upon your first withdrawal request. These are normally high % bonuses with relatively low WR. Due to the format, many bonus players use them in an ‘all or nothing’ way – placing very high wagers to try to win a lot of profit off the bonus so they still have a significant sum after the bonus credits are removed on cashing out. The very big risk with that though is you are likely to get labeled as a ‘bonus abuser’ and have your winnings confiscated.
Note: Some players and casinos also call Phantom bonuses “Sticky” or “Sticky Type 2”
With all types (except Post-wager, of course), do not start wagering until after the bonus is credited to your account as these bets may not count towards fulfilling the WR (unless clearly stated in T&C’s). Also you are usually deemed to be playing with your deposited funds first, and the bonus last.
Also, never request a cash-out before you’ve finished WR (except with the flexible types), as this could lead to problems or being called a bonus abuser.
As from sometime around 2010 most casinos added betting limits to their Bonus T&Cs. This can be in the form of a percentage or a value amount. E.G. 30% of the original bonus amount taken, or $6.50/spin or deal.
ALWAYS check the T&Cs carefully for this, because if you break this rule you are very likely to lose all your bonus and winnings.
The casinos introduced this rule to combat what they call “Bonus Abuse”, where people who have no real interest in playing casino games use a small mathematical advantage to try to profit from the casinos. Typically they would place their entire balance on one even-money bet – if won, they then “grind out” the WR with very low risk tiny bets. This might sound crazy (it is to me!), but if repeated many times it can make small profits.
You need to understand what games you are not allowed to play in meeting the WR. This list will usually start with the low variance games Craps, Sic Bo, Baccarat & Roulette, on which it is possible to place large amounts of wagers with very little risk of losing very much. (e.g. betting equally on Red & Black on Roulette).
The next restricted games will be dependant on how generous the bonus is in terms of % and WR, and might typically be BlackJack, Video Poker, and some of the 'Table Poker' games.
The only games that are usually not restricted are Keno & Slot machines. Though most casinos do not allow play on the big progressive jackpot slot machines, slots with high RTP and slots where you collect "tokens" towards a bonus feature.
It’s equally important to check the bonus T&C's vary carefully for prohibited games.
These are games where even if you play just one hand during your bonus qualification, the casino will confiscate all your bonus & winnings. This is a common trick among the less reputable places (the worst rogues may steal your deposit too!). The difference between prohibited & restricted games is that you are allowed to play restricted games with your bonus, but any bets you place do not count towards meeting WR. But prohibited games you must never play if there is any bonus money in your account.
Falling short of WR
When you accept a bonus you are essentially entering into a contract with the casino, which commits you to completing the WR. Failure to do so leaves the casino open to confiscate all your bonus & winnings related to the bonus in question. For example, if you are only half way through the WR, have had a nice win & got your bank up to 10x your deposit, or are struggling with only half your deposit left, and decide you want to quit - in the vast majority of places you can't. (The only exception is if the bonus is the ‘flexible’ type).
This is a catch-all expression ALL casinos have written into their T&C's in one form or another. In most cases it is not 'black & white' but subject to ‘management discretion’. Being labeled as a 'Bonus Abuser' at a casino should be avoided as it will lead to you being refused any future bonuses at that casino, and at any other casinos in the same group. The reputable casinos will refund your deposit & tell you 'no more bonuses', the less reputable may withhold all your funds!
Among the most common reasons for being called an abuser are:-
Don’t want the bonus?
Some players prefer not to take bonuses because they don’t like being tied down with the WR which prevents them from withdrawing their funds. Most bonuses are automatically added to your account, so if you don’t want it, make sure you contact the casino to let them know and wait for their confirmation before depositing or wagering. If you are one of these people, you may want to consider using the ‘Flexible Bonus’ or ‘Safety Net Bonus’ types as described above and get the best of both worlds; a big bonus, but no or few restriction on when you withdraw!
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