Why Free Play Never Took off in Online Casinos

Casino Chip With Word Free on It With a Laptop and Casino Background

You’re eligible for different kinds of bonuses at many online casinos. Common offers include deposit bonuses, no deposit bonuses, free spins, and VIP rewards.

Most casinos offer all or some combination of these deals. That said, such bonuses are very common in the gaming world.

However, one deal that isn’t so prevalent these days is free play. It was available on a more-frequent basis around 10 years ago.

But it appears that the gaming world has largely rejected this type of offer. You can keep reading to find out more on free play along with why it’s not so desirable throughout the industry.

What Is Free Play?

Free play is online casino bonus that sees you receive a specific amount of money upfront. You must either gamble these funds within a given timeframe or place a minimum number of bets (e.g. 30).

You’re allowed to keep winnings from this offer. However, you must satisfy terms and conditions before withdrawing money.

The best thing about free play is that you don’t even need to deposit to qualify. Instead, you merely have to register for an account.

One common stipulation is that your winnings will be given in the form of a deposit bonus. If you win $200 through your free play, for example, then you may get a 100% match deposit bonus up to $200.

In this case, you must place a deposit and satisfy T&Cs on the offer before finally cashing out your winnings.

These offers commonly cap the amount of money that you can win. You might receive $1,000 in free play, for instance, but you can only win up to $100.

Now that I’ve covered the basics of free play bonuses, I’ll provide an example and tie everything together:

  • An online casino is offering $2,000 in free play.
  • You merely need to register for an account to qualify.
  • You successfully complete registration.
  • The $2k can only be used on slots, scratch cards, and video poker.
  • You have 1 hour to win as much as possible with the funds.
  • You must place at least 30 bets and win $50 more than the starting $2k.
  • A $20 minimum deposit is required before you can cash out.

Why Does Free Play Seem Attractive at First Glance?

Again, the main thing to love about free play is that it’s truly free. You don’t have to make a deposit like with many other deals just to participate.

The only cost is the time required to complete registration. You should merely need to spend a few moments filling out an account.

The amount of free play that you get also makes these offers enticing. But in many cases, you’ll receive between $500 and $2000 in funds.

As explained before, you’re not actually playing for the value of the original bonus. Instead, you can only collect winnings from the deal. Nevertheless, you might still be impressed by the sheer amount of money on paper.

Dice and Casino Chips on a Laptop Keyboard

One more good aspect about free play is that it presents an opportunity to try casino games with something on the line.

You likely want to test out a casino before depositing anyways. What better way to do so than with an opportunity to earn money on the side!?

From the casino’s perspective, they benefit from free play by drawing more prospective customers. Sure, they’re not getting depositing players immediately.

But they at least have a better chance at converting the signups into deposits at some later point. Assuming they include a deposit stipulation in their T&Cs, the casino will indeed draw depositing gamblers through these offers.

Biggest Downsides to Online Casino Free Play

If free play was so amazing, it would be more-popular than deposit bonuses. It’s not, though, due to the following drawbacks.

Confusing Offers

You may initially be stumped on how free play works. Are you playing for the original funds or something else?

Of course, much of this confusion can quickly be cleared up by checking out the T&Cs. However, you may still have trouble deciphering free play even after looking over the terms.

Free play only becomes more complex when winnings are given in the form of another bonus. Assuming you come across this stipulation, you may completely abandon any thought of spending more time with such offers.

Cap on Winnings

Upon receiving $1,000 or more in free play, you might envision using your large bankroll to generate big winnings.

Nothing is stopping you from accumulating lots of money through these deals. However, online casinos limit the amount that you can actually withdraw.

You’re typically only able to cash out between $50 and $200 from free play. While you’re unlikely to complain about such profits, you may be hoping for more.

Bonus that Pays a Bonus

Your goal with online casino bonuses is to earn free/extra money. With most offers, you have a chance to accomplish this goal.

Free play, in contrast, can be much more convoluted. Certain casinos “pay out” free play winnings in the form of a deposit bonus.

You not only have to survive the free play with winnings but also go through the gauntlet again with your new offer. Your odds of profiting from free play are slimmer when another bonus is involved.

Time Commitment

You can look at these deals in one of two ways:

  • An opportunity to simultaneously try casino games and win free money.
  • A barrier towards winning free funds.

Assuming you’re in a letter camp, then you have a pessimistic view towards free play. You’ll be frustrated by the time limits and minimum bet quotas attached these offers.

Disappointing Results

Going back to the point about being confused by free play, you may be disappointed with the results of these offers. You’ll especially feel this way if you don’t know about the capped winnings.

You should always read the T&Cs before going after any bonus deal so that you’re not blindsided by the results. However, you still can’t help but be disappointed if you waste time with free play and come away with nothing.

Casinos Sometimes Lose

So far, I’ve only discussed the downsides of free play from the gambler’s perspective. But casinos also play a role in why these deals are more prevalent.

Some gaming sites are hesitant to give out no deposit bonuses or free play. After all, they’re voluntarily offering gamblers a free chance to beat them.

No deposit bonuses are much more popular than free play these days. That said, gaming sites feel more confident in the former.

Where Is Free Play at Now in the Online Casino World?

You may have never seen free play offered at an internet casino. There’s a good reason for this too: not many operators feature this bonus.

The only online casinos that currently feature these deals are Microgaming sites. As one of the world’s largest game providers, Microgaming supplies many internet casinos. Nonetheless, their casinos still make up a small portion of the market.

Other developers have ignored the thought of using free play. Unlike Microgaming, they don’t see much value from these deals and/or have noticed that such offers aren’t very popular among players.

Casino Chips on a Laptop Keyboard

Free play has been around for over a decade. That said, I don’t see it becoming any more popular than it currently is today.

As long as Microgaming casinos keep featuring this offer, then free play will stick around in some capacity. But those who aren’t eligible to play at Microgaming sites may never even know that such deals exist.


Free play isn’t entirely bad. It gives you an opportunity to try games, make money, and earn profits without depositing.

Casinos also benefit by encouraging you to sign up at their sites. You’ll be more motivated to spend the extra minutes it takes to complete registration if free play is waiting.

This deal is better than nothing, especially when it doesn’t even require a deposit. But it hasn’t proven popular for some very good reasons.

First off, free play can be confusing. You must carefully read a casino’s T&Cs to make sure you know everything regarding these deals ahead of time.

Even when you read and understand the terms, you may walk away upon seeing the capped winnings and payout method (e.g. deposit bonus).

Not all gaming sites are thrilled with these offers either. They may fear losing money without getting anything in return and/or like the simplicity of no deposit bonuses better.

Long story short, free play isn’t too popular in the gaming industry today. Considering that it’s been available for years, it likely won’t see any resurgence in the future either.