For as long as there have been online casinos, there have been casino bonuses and the various internet casinos use them to tempt new players into trying their games – the hope being that you’ll stick around after you’ve claimed the bonus.
Over the years, casino bonuses have change quite significantly in terms of how they are offered. And whilst the glory days of sign up bonuses with no wagering requirements are long gone (pretty obvious why those didn’t last), there are still plenty of ‘free casino money’ offers to be had.
Of course, not all promotions are equal and two bonuses which look similar on the outside may in fact differ considerably when you start digging around the terms and conditions of the offer. Things to look out for specifically include wagering requirements, game restrictions, maximum & minimum bets and withdrawal limits.
In the table below we’ve compiled a list of some of the best online casino bonuses that are currently available on the web. To help you choose a bonus we’ve also included information about the wagering requirements and bonus type, as well as any notes that should be aware of.
Note: For comparison purposes all of the wagering requirements for the offers in the table have been converted to the same ‘x Bonus’ format. Some of the sites will list the WR as ‘x Bonus + Deposit’ in their terms, which is why the numbers may seem different at first glance.
For example, on a 100% match a ’20x bonus + deposit’ WR is the same as a ’40x bonus’ WR. And for a 200% match, a ’20x bonus + deposit’ WR would be equivalent to ’30x bonus’.
Casino Bonus FAQ
If you’re new to casino bonuses, you may be forgiven for thinking that the free casino money on offer is up for grabs without any kind of strings attached, and in the very early days of online gambling that was the case.
These days most bonuses come with some kind of terms and conditions which dicatate what you can and can’t do with the bonus, as well as how much you need to bet before you can withdraw the bonus. In this next section we’ll cover the most common questions that we get asked with regards to casino bonuses:
Q. WHAT ARE WAGERING REQUIREMENTS?
A. It is very rare to find a casino bonus that doesn’t have any wagering requirements (also less commonly known as ‘playthrough requirements’), although the amount you have to wager will different significantly from casino to casino. Put simply, a wagering requirement is the minimum amount you need to bet before you can withdraw the bonus and/or the winnings that you have generated from it.
Wagering requirements tend to come as a multiplier of the bonus (or the bonus plus the qualifying deposit) such as ’30x bonus’ or ’20x bonus + deposit’. For example, if you deposited £100 and received a £100 bonus with a WR of 20x the bonus, you would need to place a total of £2,000 (£100 x 20) in bets before withdrawing.
Having said this, some casinos will let you withdraw either your initial deposit or your winnings before you’ve completed the wagering requirements (known as an ‘early withdrawal’), but doing so would forfeit your bonus. You cannot, for example, deposit £100 to get a £100 bonus and then immediately withdraw your original £100 leacing just the bonus in your account.
The other important thing to bear in mind is that often casinos will either restrict certain games (such as blackjack) from play with the bonus, or will require a higher playthrough on those games. We go into this in more detail below.
Q. WHY DO CASINO BONUSES HAVE WAGERING REQUIREMENTS?
A. Whilst some online casinos can be very generous with their bonuses, their intention is to get you to try out their casino, not hand out a bunch of free money. Without wagering requirements players would be able to sign up, claim the bonus and then immediately withdraw it without every playing at the casino – clearly this isn’t what the casino intended and so wagering requirements were born.
Wagering requirements vary between casinos. Anything at or below 20x the value of the bonus is considered excellent, and gives you a strong chance of meeting the WR and walking away with part of the bonus intact. WR from 20x to 60x bonus fall into the ‘Good’ category, with anything above that being on the high side.
The figures stated in the table and examples above are all for slots, which generally have the lowest WR of any game in the casino – other games may have higher WR.
Q. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CASHABLE AND STICKY BONUSES?
A. In the table above we define a bonus as either being ‘Cashable’ or ‘Sticky’, this relates to what happens when you withraw the bonus. With a cashable bonus, when you withdraw you will receive the full balance including the value of the bonus – so if you deposited £100 and received a £100 bonus and made a withdrawal request for £300 (after meeting the WR) you would receive all £300.
Sticky bonuses, on the other hand, cannot be withdrawn and either remain in your casino account or are removed from your balance (sometimes referred to as a ‘Phantom Bonus’) when a withdrawal request is made. For example, if you deposited £100 and received a £100 bonus and made a withdrawal request for £300 (after meeting the WR) you would receive £200 with the £100 bonus either being removed or ‘stuck’ in your account.
It should be fairly obvious that cashable is the players bonus type of choice, but you’ll often find that sticky bonuses have a higher percentage match – giving you a bigger bonus for the same deposit, albiet one that cannot be withdrawn.
Q. WHAT IS A ‘POST-WAGER’ BONUS?
Sometimes you may see us refer to a bonus as ‘post-wager’ – this is where you receive the bonus after you have completed the wagering requirements, not before. By their very nature they are fully cashable and as soon as they’ve been credited to your account, they’re yours to do with as you please (including withdraw them).
Their are positives and negatives of this kind of bonus, and players tend to love them or hate them. On the one hand, you don’t receive the bonus upfront meaning you can’t actually play with it. You may also need to deposit multiple times to meet the WR as if you bust out before doing so, you don’t get the bonus (although most post-wager bonuses release in smaller chunks to help you get around this).
On the other hand, it means you’re not locked in to any kind of bonus deal – you’re effectively playing with cash and able to withdraw whenever you like. So if you hit a big win, there’s nothing stopping you from taking the money and running – think of it as a bonus for people who don’t like to play with bonuses. There’s also often no minimum deposit as it’s based on turnover, so a £10 deposit could, in theory, gain you a bonus ten times the size.
Q. WHAT IS A ‘RISK FREE’ BONUS?
You may also see us talk about risk free bonuses – these involve you depositing and playing with your own money, but with an ‘insurance’ policy in case you lose. With a true risk free offer you would receive any loses back as cash (up to the maximum), which is then available to withdraw – so in this case it’s very much like a no deposit bonus, except one where you’ve had to deposit to get it.
As well as the true risk free offers, some casino’s will run promotions that are really semi-risk free. This is where you deposit and play with your own money, as above, but if you lose you receive a bonus rather than the cash. In this scenario there will be conditions attached to the bonus (such as wagering requirements), meaning that it’s not strictly speaking risk free but you do get something back if you lose.
In both cases if you were to win with your deposit you would be free to withdraw the winnings as you would normally.
Q. WHY CAN’T I PLAY BLACKJACK/ROULETTE WITH THE BONUS?
A. If you want to play a game other than slots with your bonus, such as blackjack or roulette, you need to be a little more selective as some casinos do not permit play on such games when using a sign up bonus. Others will allow it, but add additional requirements – for example, if the WR for slots is 20x the bonus, the WR for roulette might be 50x.
The reason for this is that many games can be played in combination for a near guaranteed profit. For example, single deck blackjack has a house edge of 0.17% – meaning that for every £1 you wager, there is a theoretical gain to the casino of 0.17p. If you were allowed to play such a game with a WR of 20x the bonus, the casino would, on average, expect to make back £3.40 – giving the player a theoretical gain of £96.60.
Many players did just this, which led to the casinos becoming wise. Initially it was just blackjack that was banned, but then some shrewd players started to realise that roulette was also profitable if you bet in a certain way. From there is was a domino effect until many casinos switched to a ‘slots only’ model for WR.
Thankfully, there are plenty of casinos which do still let you play roulette etc.. with a bonus, you’re just going to have to accept a larger playthrough multiplier. So if you want to play a game other than slots with you bonus, make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully to confirm that the game you want to play is allowed.
We also have a number of tables for different games which list relevant bonuses, as well as wagering requirements and specific game exclusions:
Q. ARE THE WAGERING REQUIREMENTS REMOVED IF I LOSE THE BONUS?
A. This is a very important question, and one that is often overlooked. Most casinos (but not all) will zero out any wagering requirements if you lose your bonus and qualifying deposit – so if you deposit £100 for a £bonus and lose £200 before meeting the WR, the remaining playthrough requirement would be waived. Casinos which do not do this (ie: that apply the remaining WR to a subsequent deposit) are generally not worth playing at.
Having said this, it is important to ‘zero out’ your balance if you lose the bonus. Leaving even 1p in your account could mean that the WR is never removed from your account and will carry forward. Some casinos will automatically wipe the remaining WR if you get below £1, but just to be on the safe side it is generally good practice to always make sure your balance reaches £0.00.
Q. DO I NEED TO DEPOSIT TO CLAIM THE BONUS?
A. All of the welcome offers on this page are ‘deposit bonuses’, meaning that you need to put in some of your own money in order to be able to claim them. Most of the bonuses are awarded based on the value of your deposit – so for a 100% match, if you put in £10, you will receive a £10 bonus.
There are a number of bonuses which you can claim without risking any of your own money known as ‘no deposit bonuses‘ which we list on a separate page. Such bonuses tend to be lower value and come with more conditions attached, but can be a good place to start for a new player.
Q. CAN I CLAIM THE WELCOME BONUS MORE THAN ONCE?
A. Casino sign up bonuses (or welcome bonuses) can only be claimed when you first join the casino, and are usually connected to the first deposit you make at the casino. Some will have a series of bonuses for new players (eg: a bonus on your first, second and third bonus) but these can still only be claimed once each.
Most online casinos will have additional offers that are available to all players, but they tend to be a little lower value than the initial welcome bonuses. Some of the best offers for existing customers are given to those players who have achieved VIP status at the casino, so if you’re a frequent player why not get in touch with the VIP department to see if you qualify.
Q. SOMEBODY ELSE AT MY HOUSE IS ALREADY A PLAYER AT A CASINO, CAN I ALSO CLAIM THE WELCOME BONUS?
A. Multi-accounting, where a person signs up for more than one account at the same casino, is generally not allowed and casinos often place restrictions based on IP address, computer or street address in order to stop players signing up more than once.
Unfortunately this means that at many casinos only one person per household can have an account, even if there legitimately are multiple people living in the same house who want to sign up. So if your wife, husband, partner or house mate plays online, you may not be able to also have an account.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, however, and some casinos will allow it – the best practice is to contact customer support and ask.
Q. ARE THERE ANY OTHER COMMON TERMS OR RESTRICTIONS THAT I SHOULD BE AWARE OF
In addition to wagering requirements and game restrictions, there are also a number of other clauses placed in the terms and conditions which could cause an issue if you’re not familiar with them. Such clauses aren’t there to intentionally trip you up, but they are there to protect the casino and as such they will be enforced.
So have a good thorough read of the conditions of the promotion and keep an eye out for the following. If in doubt, ask customer support:
- Identification – Casinos licensed in the UK are required by law to identify their customers for money laundering purposes. This means that before you make a withdrawal you may have to provide identification documents.
- Maximum & Minimum Bets – Many casinos will have a maximum (or conversely a minimum) bet which you can place when playing with a bonus. This could be as a fixed amount (eg: £10) or as a percentage of your bonus or balance (eg: no more than 5%).
- Maximum & Minimum Cashout – Something we don’t like to see on a deposit bonus is a maximum cashout, but a number of casinos have them. They are usually as a multiplier of the bonus (eg: 10x) and can put a real damper on the thrill of a big win. If the bonus does have a max withdrawal clause attached, try to avoid super-high variance games.
- Play Patterns – It is widely known that betting big and then cutting your bet after a big win is one way to get an ‘upper hand’ against many types of casino bonus, as is playing a high variance game and switching to a low variance game following a sizeable win. For this reason these kinds of betting pattern are sometimes specifically mentioned as off limits in a promotions T&C’s.
- Betting Systems – Betting systems, such as Martingale, are generally a bad idea and best steered clear of as they always favour the casino in the end. Despite this, some paranoid casinos have banned specific betting systems from being used in conjunction with a bonus. Don’t ask us why, but they have – so that’s another reason to avoid such systems!