Slots Free Play Bonuses: Whatever Happened to Them?

Slot Machine Background

Several different types of slots bonuses are available throughout the online gaming world. You can enjoy no deposit, deposit, and reload bonuses. You’ll also find free spins at many of the top US online casinos, too.

However, free play is a slots bonus that seems to have disappeared. This offer used to be more abundant in the 2000s.

What happened to free play? And can you still find it? The following guide answers this question while discussing the basics of free play and why it’s not as common nowadays.

What Is a Free Play Bonus?

Free play is an eye-catching offer that can be worth thousands of dollars. It also usually features a huge match percentage on your deposit.

For example, an online casino might match your deposit with 400% in free play. They may also provide up to $2,000 in free play or more.

The bonus itself is sticky, meaning that it cannot be withdrawn. Instead, you simply use the free play to generate winnings.

The goal is to win more money than you start with. After all, the free play funds will disappear as soon as you cash out (a.k.a. phantom bonus).

Free play also comes with a time limit. For instance, you might have 60 minutes to wager your bonus before the funds vanish.

Here’s an example that explains more on how these deals work:

  • An online casino offers free play worth a 400% match on your deposit up to $2,000.
  • You deposit $200 and, thus, qualify for $800 in free play.
  • You’ll have $1,000 in total funds ($200 + $800).
  • The casino provides 30 minutes to use the bonus.
  • You have $1,100 after gambling for 30 minutes.
  • Your total winnings from the bonus are $100 (1,100 – 800 – 200 = 100).

Like any bonuses, these offers are subject to terms and conditions. Most notably, you’ll need to meet rollover requirements before cashing out winnings.

Furthermore, free play winnings are often capped. You normally can’t win more than $200 through these deals. Nevertheless, they’re nice bonuses that are fun to play with due to the large amount of starting cash.

These Slots Bonuses Used to Be More Abundant

You won’t see many free play deals available anymore. As mentioned at the outset, these bonuses are pretty rare today.

Gambling sites used to provide free play more often up until around a decade ago. You could visit online casinos back then and commonly see these deals plastered across the homepage.

Of course, free play hasn’t completely disappeared from the gaming scene. Some mobile casinos still feature these deals. You just won’t see them as often as in the past. Most online casinos these days opt for traditional deposit bonuses.

A deposit bonus is similar to free play in that it matches a percentage of your deposit amount. For example, you might be able to go for a 100% match bonus worth up to $500.

Deposit bonuses don’t look as impressive on the surface, but they do let you withdraw the actual bonus after meeting certain terms and conditions. If you deposit $500 under the deal above, then you’ll be able to cash out $500.

Slot Machine Floor Inside Casino, Hand Holding Out Wallet

Reasons Why Free Play Slots Bonuses Are Rare

Again, mobile gaming sites have largely gravitated away from free play. Here are the main reasons why they’ve transitioned to other types of bonuses.

Free Play Is Difficult to Understand

One big reason why online casinos favor deposit bonuses today is because they’re easier to understand. You place a deposit and can earn a matching bonus after satisfying terms.

In contrast, free play is more deceptive. When a new online gambler sees a 400% match bonus worth up to $1,000, they may think that they’re eligible to earn up to $1k.

Unfortunately, the reality is much different. Free play only delivers winnings from the bonus. Furthermore, these winnings are limited to a large extent.

Some Players Get Angry Over the Confusion

If you’ve read up to this point, then you likely understand the basics of free play. Additionally, you won’t be confused on what you stand to gain from them.

On the other hand, gamblers that don’t get how these deals work may be irate when realizing that they can’t cash out the full bonus. The same players might even send a nasty email or live chat message to the casino.

Gaming sites don’t like dealing with such problems on a consistent basis. Getting rid of free play bonuses is a good way to end these headaches too.

Winnings Are Capped

The prospect of a bonus worth $1,000, $2,000, or more is exciting. It’s fun to wager this large amount of money within a short timeframe, especially since you have nothing to lose with the bonus funds.

At the end of the day, though, you can only turn these huge deals into so much money. Oftentimes, winnings are limited to $200 or less.

You can still benefit from these offers with a relatively small deposit. But you can’t look forward to earning deposit bonuses worth $500 or more.

Most Online Casinos Would Rather Provide Straightforward Bonuses

As covered before, the easiest way for real money online casinos to avoid the headaches associated with free play is to offer the simpler deposit bonuses.

Many players are well-versed with deposit offers. They understand that they’ll be withdrawing the entire bonus after meeting the conditions. Slots

Free play feels like a relic today. It was difficult for many gamblers to understand back in the 2000s. It’s even more confusing today when considering that it isn’t as widely available.

Some mobile casinos continue to provide these deals. However, fewer and fewer gaming sites offer free play as time goes on.

Should You Still Go for Free Play Slots Bonuses When They’re Available?

Just because gaming sites have experienced problems with free play, it doesn’t mean that these deals are completely worthless. In fact, you can actually benefit more with free play over standard deposit bonuses in some cases.

This is especially true when you’re looking to get more bonus cash out of a small deposit. Here’s an example on how you can take advantage of such situations:

  • A mobile casino features a 500% match in free play worth up to $2,500.
  • Winnings are capped at $200.
  • You deposit $50.
  • 50 x 5.0 = $250 in free play
  • You go on a hot streak and reach the maximum winnings.
  • 200 / 50 = 4
  • With $200 in winnings, you’ve now earned 4x your deposit amount.
The key here involves focusing on deals with large match percentages. The bigger the match, the more funds you’ll receive in the beginning.

Of course, you’ll experience times where you don’t win anything from these deals. Other times, though, you will benefit quite a bit from free play—especially if you’re a low roller who doesn’t have many funds to risk.

Free Play vs. No Deposit Slots Bonuses

Some gamblers use the terms free play and no deposit interchangeably, and some make a distinction between the two.

The gamblers that differentiate the two types of bonus call a free bonus that you can cash out after clearing it a “no deposit” bonus, and one that you can’t cash out a “free play” bonus.

It all depends on how you look at it and use the terms. In most ways, no deposit bonuses and free play bonuses are the same. For more information on how no deposit bonuses work, you can check out our in depth post where we break everything down.


Free play hasn’t quite been put out to pasture yet. You can still find these deals in some capacity today.

If you do find a free play deal, the big question becomes whether you should take advantage of it in the first place. The answer all depends upon what kind of bankroll you’re dealing with.

As a mid-to-high roller, you should consider deposit bonuses above all. Some of these offers are worth $500 or more.

Free play, meanwhile, usually only allows you to win up to $100 or $200. However, the big match percentages can help you turn a small deposit into larger winnings. That said, you should seriously consider free play as a low roller.