Online casino bonuses are supposed to be a highlight of your gaming experience. These offers provide the chance to earn extra money on the side of your play.
Many bonuses are legitimate deals that give you a fair opportunity to win. Unfortunately, some offers are terrible for a few reasons.
You want to avoid any bad bonus deals, because they can end up costing you lots of money. That said, keep reading as I discuss seven signs to look out for when looking into online casino bonuses.
1 – High Wagering Requirements
Wagering requirements (a.k.a. playthrough) refer to what must be wagered to release a bonus. This is the most important term behind any bonus, since it plays a large role in your chances of profiting from an offer.
Playthrough is expressed as a multiple of the bonus. Once you satisfy wagering requirements and meet other terms and conditions, you’ll be able to cash out the funds.
Here’s how it works:
- A casino is offering a 100% match bonus worth up to $100.
- You deposit $50, thus qualifying for a $50 bonus.
- Playthrough is 40x.
- 50 x 40 = $2,000 must be wagered
40x wager requirements are an industry standard for 100% match bonuses. Of course, casinos can offer a better or worse deal by adjusting the playthrough.
The problem with higher wagering requirements is that they increase your chances of losing money when releasing a bonus.
Here’s a comparison between two bonuses to explain.
- You qualify for a $100 bonus
- Playthrough is 40x
- 100 x 40 = $4,000 must be wagered
- You play a game with a 4% house edge
- 4,000 x 0.04 = $160 theoretical loss
- 160 – 100 = $60 total theoretical loss
- You qualify for a $100 bonus.
- Playthrough is 45x.
- 100 x 50 = $5,000 must be wagered.
- You play a game with a 4% house edge.
- 5,000 x 0.04 = $200 theoretical loss
- 200 – 100 = $100 total theoretical loss
Both offers will see you lose money in the long run, which is common among any casino bonus. But the second online casino bonus is definitely worse due to its higher wagering requirements.
2 – Unfair Terms and Conditions
Playthrough isn’t the only term that must be satisfied before you receive bonus funds. You also have to meet a number of other terms and conditions before collecting the money.
Here are some terms and conditions worth noting:
- You must claim the bonus within the specified timeframe (e.g. 7 days).
- You need to meet playthrough within the specified timeframe (e.g. 60 days).
- Certain games offer reduced contributions for wagering requirements (discussed later).
- Neteller and Skrill deposits don’t qualify for bonuses.
- Specific countries are banned for bonus abuse.
- You can only earn the welcome bonus once.
Most real money gambling sites are fairly reasonable with their conditions. However, some bad apples abuse players’ trust by featuring unfair terms.
For example, a casino may only give you seven days to meet wagering requirements. Contrast this to many other sites, which offer 30 days or more.
You may have difficulty defining what is and isn’t a fair term in the beginning. But as you begin to read terms and conditions at multiple casinos, you start developing a feel for what’s fair.
3 – Large Number of Game Restrictions
Online casinos place restrictions on certain games with regard to meeting playthrough. Most often, these restrictions involve games that feature high return to player (RTP).
Restrictions normally come in the form of reducing playthrough contributions, or entirely excluding a game from meeting wagering requirements. In the latter case, you become ineligible for an offer when playing one of the excluded games.
Imposing restrictions on games isn’t nefarious in itself. Casinos don’t want to lose money to the average player by offering an overly favorable deal. Furthermore, they’re businesses that operate with the intention of making a profit.
Here’s an example to explain why gaming sites impose restrictions:
- You qualify for a $50 bonus.
- Wagering requirements are 40x.
- 50 x 40 = $2,000 must be wagered
- You play a game with 99.5% RTP.
- 2,000 x 0.005 = $10 theoretical loss
- 50 – 10 = $40 net win
Casinos would lose a lot of money if they allowed every game with high RTP to unlock bonuses. Therefore, restricting a few games with RTP around 98%, or so, isn’t inherently evil.
The problem, though, is when gaming sites present a laundry list of game restrictions. You’re forced to play games with lower RTP in these cases, thus, greatly reducing your chances of profiting from a deal.
The casino will almost always hold a long-term advantage when it comes to bonuses. But you should at least be able to play casino games that offer a decent chance of winning money.
4 – Unclear Terms and Conditions
Casinos should never try to trick you with their terms and conditions. Instead, conditions pages should clearly lay out what is and isn’t acceptable when satisfying wagering requirements.
Some crooked casinos, however, will purposely make their terms difficult to read. In doing such, they can merely point to one of their vague terms as a reason not to pay a bonus.
A good rule of thumb is to never go for an offer with undecipherable terms and conditions. If you can’t understand at least one term, then you should avoid the deal altogether.
5 – Low Match Percentages
The match percentage on bonuses determines how much money you’re eligible to earn based on your deposit amount. If you deposit $100 under a 150% match deal, then you’re eligible for a $150 bonus.
A 150% match is rare for a deal with fair wagering requirements (e.g. 40x). However, you at least want to find offers that have 100% match percentages.
Some gaming sites get around this by offering multi-deposit welcome bonuses. With these deals, you receive multiple bonuses on your first several deposits.
Here’s an example:
- First deposit is eligible for a 100% match bonus worth up to $300.
- Second deposit is eligible for a 75% match bonus worth up to $300.
- Third deposit is eligible for a 50% match bonus worth up to $300.
You can see that this offer starts off well with a 100% match on the first deposit. But it devolves from here with match percentages going as low as 50%.
You’re better off chasing a large single deposit bonus with a 100% match than you are a multi-deposit offer with 75% and 50% matches.
The other time when weak match percentages are acceptable is reload bonuses. The industry standard on these offers is usually between a 75% and 100% match.
You shouldn’t, however, settle for anything less than a 100% match on a welcome bonus. These deals are meant to woo you and should offer a fair amount of money based on your deposit size.
6 – Casino Is Slow to Pay
Some gaming sites have difficulties with paying players in a timely manner. Oftentimes, they can’t pay on time because they’re financially insolvent.
Not surprisingly, the same sites are bad about paying bonuses within a reasonable timeframe. They’ll make every excuse in the book to avoid honoring a bonus that you’ve legitimately earned.
Requesting ID is commonplace in the gaming industry, because casinos want to confirm your identity before sending money. But requesting multiple forms of ID and rejecting them because the “pictures are fuzzy” is ridiculous.
You shouldn’t have to show any more than a photo ID and utility bill to prove your identity. Nevertheless, some casinos will continue rejecting your identification documents for bogus reasons.
You want to avoid any casino that has a problem paying out on time, period. A failure to pay bonuses is just another reason to avoid such sites.
7 – History of Complaints Regarding a Casino
One more red flag regarding a bonus deal is when the casino itself is mired in complaints. You can find such complaints in forums and through casino reviews.
Such resources will fill you in on which gaming site have unreasonable bonus conditions, unclear terms, poor customer service, and trouble paying on time.
Knowing these problems ahead of time can help you avoid wasting your time and money on a rogue casino. You can also use reviews and forums to find good gaming sites and start earning bonuses right away.
The idea behind a bonus is to reward you for depositing. Unfortunately, sketchy casinos use bonuses to trick you into depositing, only to screw you over later.
These sites have unfair terms and conditions that make it difficult, or even nearly impossible, to earn a bonus. Therefore, you always want to read the fine print behind a bonus before pursuing it.
The most common bad term is high wagering requirements. Unreasonable playthrough makes it far more likely that you’ll lose money when satisfying wagering requirements.
Some casinos may offer a broad range of unfair terms. This scenario is an immediate red flag, so stay away.
You should consider the overall quality of an online casino, too. Any site that has had multiple problems isn’t worth considering for bonus deals or in any other capacity.
Most gaming sites realize the value in fair bonus offers and retaining customers. Some don’t, though, which is why you need to be careful.