Bonus terms and conditions
When claiming bonuses, it pays to read the fine print.
Have you ever claimed a bonus, but been unable to cash out? Ever wagered away on roulette for hours but found your bonus funds don’t appear? Perhaps you’ve tried to claim two bonuses using two different accounts and received a scary email from the casino management?
All of these headaches can be avoided if you read the terms and conditions attached to bonuses. These can usually be found on a casino’s bonus section or may be listed under the website’s general terms and conditions.
Almost every casino bonus will come with wagering requirements. These are conditions that must be met before you can cash out any funds won with bonus money.
Look at the example below …
- A match deposit bonus for 100% of your deposit up to £100 comes with wagering requirements of 20x in 30 days on your deposit + bonus (this is sometimes known as a play-through or rolling-over the bonus cash).
- If you go for the maximum bonus, you will have to wager 20 times £200 in a 30 day period.
- Therefore, you must spend at least £4,000 before withdrawing any money. If you fail to do so within 30 days, your bonus funds will be confiscated along with any winnings.
Remember, you may also have to deposit a minimum amount to qualify for a bonus in the first place.
Bets on different games will contribute different amounts to your wagering requirements, with some wagers counting 100% towards your requirements, others 50% and some not at all. Precise numbers vary across different casinos, but the figures listed below represent a rough industry average:
Roulette (Even bets)
Bonuses and wagering requirements explained – the mathematics
You may be wondering how bonuses and wagering requirements impact on profitability for the casino or player. This example will hopefully demonstrate:
A casino offers you a 100% up to £100 first deposit bonus. The wagering requirements are 20x the bonus + deposit, so you have to wager £4,000 before you can withdraw any money.
You play slot games which contribute 100% to the wagering requirements, and have a pay-out percentage of 96%.
You can now calculate the average amount the casino expects to make from you. This would be 100% (£4,000) minus 96% (£3,840) = £160.
This is MORE than the £100 the casino is giving away as a bonus. Therefore, this offer would represent negative expectation for you, the player. On average, you stand to lose £60 on this offer.
Here’s the formula for calculation (the same formula we use to rank bonuses!) 0.04 represents the house edge, 2 represents the 100% match, W represents the rollover amount, k represents the wagering amount and x represents the casino’s expected cash value:
(0.04-1/(2 x W))k = x
Let’s plug in the values:
(0.04-1/(2 x 20))4000 = £60
To get the player’s expected cash value, just add a ‘minus’ before x (-£60).
This bonus has an expected value (EV) of -0.015 for the player. This is because £60 is 1.5% of £4,000. You can read more about calculating EV here.
In this example, there is just one variable that impacts on profitability. There are several variables that you should look at when assessing the quality of a bonus, including:
- Match percentage
- Rollover (i.e. 20x)
- Wagering requirements on deposit, bonus or both
- Time limit
- Game weightings
A bonus that only rolls over the bonus funds has (at worst) zero expectation for the player and the casino, as you are not technically playing with your own cash. At best, you might event make a profit. However, casinos usually set tight time limits to prevent this from happening.
Merged and non-merged bonuses
A merged bonus is tied in with your deposit, whereas a non-merged bonus is not. A merged bonus means you cannot withdraw your original deposit, or any winnings made from it, until wagering requirements are met. if you do, you typically lose everything aside from your original deposit. A non-merged bonus means you can withdraw from your deposit and any winnings before WRs are met, although it is likely you will lose your bonus cash.
Bonuses are a ‘goodwill’ gesture
All this might seem like a lot of fine print to keep you from your cash. It is important to remember that casinos consider bonuses to be a ‘goodwill’ gesture and players are not supposed to profit from them. In fact, casinos will often come down hard on customers they suspect of exploiting bonuses for advantage play.
While some online players will tell you that it is possible to make a packet from exploiting bonus loopholes, you’re liable to get in trouble if you attempt this.
Casinos set a number of measures in place to prevent gamblers from abusing promotional offers:
- Most casinos only permit one bonus per household, not just one per account or device.
- You will only be allowed to have one bonus active at a time.
- You will be unable to withdraw any funds until wagering requirements for active bonuses have been completed.
- Some casinos actually separate bonus cash into a separate balance, called ‘bonus funds’.
- The vast majority of bonuses come with a time limit for completing bonus wagering requirements and will cancel any bonus cash plus winnings made with bonus cash after this time limit has elapsed.
- Some casinos also have a shorter time limit on inactivity, after which they will cancel active bonuses and confiscate funds.