Any time an online casino offers you a bonus, it comes with conditions. One of the most common (and most commonly misunderstood) is the “wagering requirement.”
Here is our guide to wagering requirements: what they are, what to look out for, and what to avoid.
Wagering Requirement – what the heck is that?
Sometimes referred to as a “play-through” requirement, the wagering requirement is a condition attached to all online casino bonuses that requires a player to place a certain amount of wagers before withdrawing his bonus money, or any money earned by wagering with bonus funds.
These rules can seem really annoying if we’re honest, but it is important to remember that casino bonus offers are in place to encourage players to try out a new casino. If there was no requirement to ensure new players stuck around, there would be no point to them.
Also, when an online casino offers you a bonus, it is in effect offering you free money. Naturally, they will expect you to do something on your end. If online casinos were in the business of handing out free money with no strings attached, the entire industry would collapse pretty quickly.
The standard way wagering requirements are expressed is as a multiple, usually a multiple of a deposit and the bonus match provided by the casino.
For example, a wagering requirement listed as “40x” typically means that you are required to wager a sum worth 50 times your deposit and bonus before you make a withdrawal.
If you deposited £20 and received a 100% match from the online casino, this would mean you must wager £1,600 (£20 + £20 x 40) before making a cash withdrawal. By typical standards, this would be a fairly standard play-through requirement. Here’s our suggestions for finding better offers.
Bonus offers with the best wagering requirements
Unfortunately, figuring out which casino has the best bonus is much more complicated than simply looking to see who has the lowest wagering requirements.
Some bonus offers apply to the bonus only, and some apply to both the bonus and deposit. QueenVegas offer a 100% match first deposit bonus with a 60x wagering requirement, but this applies to the bonus only (sometimes expressed as 60x B). This would equate to a fairly low 30x if the requirement applied to the bonus and deposit combined.
Another factor is the bonus percentage itself. If your deposit is included in the wagering requirement, and the match is only 25%, you’ve tied up a lot of cash for a fairly low bonus. Likewise, a high-yield bonus match (over 100%), equates to a more player-friendly wagering requirement.
Grand Mondial Casino offer a staggering 275% match for their first deposit bonus – for £10 you get 150 spins on progressive jackpot slot Mega Moolah (a £37.50 value). The wagering requirement on your winnings is 60x, but if your £10 deposit nets you a multi-million pound jackpot that’s not going to be a huge problem to overcome.
There are a very few bonus offers out there with no wagering requirements. One of the very few is Instacasino, who offer what they call “Real Spins.” Any winnings from Real Spins can be cashed out immediately. Sign up to InstaCasino and deposit at least £10 and you’ll get 25 Real Spins (plus a 100% bonus match up to £100).
Getting out of bonus hell
Your matching deposit welcome bonus (and subsequent reload bonuses) are meant to be a fun way to get introduced to a new online casino, but things don’t always go to plan.
If you get caught out by some especially bad luck early into your bonus, or if you discover there’s a condition you weren’t aware of and really don’t fancy much, it’s nice to know there are some casinos that will let you exit your bonus offer.
100% matching bonus up to £250
Flexi Bonus - cancel any time
100% matching bonus up to £250
Freedom Bonus - cancel any time
This is pretty rare, of course, but such offers do exist. One of the few is from Betway Casino. Perhaps best known for sports betting, Betway do provide a full range of online casino amenities, including big-name slots, live casino, plus a “vegas” version (which looks pretty much like the casino offering, but has cooler branding and graphics).
That’s a pretty attractive offer, but it’s what Betway call the “flexibonus” concept that makes it really stand out.
If at any time while you are meeting your wagering requirements you decide you want out, you can cancel your bonus.
You will lose your bonus funds (naturally) but not all of your winnings. While your bonus is in play with Betway they apply a “bonus to cash ratio” (BCR) to all wagers. If you have 50% bonus funds and 50% cash in your account (as would be typical), all wagers come equally from your bonus and cash. Incredibly, all wins are then allocated in the same way – half go back to your bonus funds, and half back to your cash account. This means if you make a substantial win on a slot, you might find yourself sitting on a tidy sum of cash you’d like to withdraw immediately. If you are willing to cancel your bonus, Betway will let you do this.
You will have to search high and low to find another casino with a similar offer, with the exception of Hippodrome Casino. Unsurprisingly, the online presence of this iconic British casino brand is managed by Betway. The bonus terms are pretty much the same (except with “Freedom Bonus” instead of “Flexibonus”).
Another complication to be aware of is the contribution rate of each type of wager to a wagering requirement.
What this means is, online casinos will normally weight different types of wager differently, and if you’re not careful you may discover the wagers you’ve been making don’t actually count towards your play through target.
If you’re a heavy slots player, that’s good news. Most casinos will most slot games 100% towards your goal. Progressive jackpot games (with the exception of the Grand Mondial Casino offer mentioned above) and other high value slots can count less or not at all.
Live Casino is often weighted at 0% – in other words it doesn’t count at all. If you are a live casino lover, be sure to choose a welcome bonus offer especially designed for live casino (they do exist, but are less common).
There is too much variation in game contribution weighting levels to go into any more detail here, but the lesson is clear: if you heavily prefer one type of wagering, be sure you understand how that will count when playing with your bonus.
Other wagering requirement pitfalls
If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably think you’ve got a pretty good understanding of wagering requirements by now. In reality, this is just the beginning.
Online casinos have a habit of introducing more and more rules to their bonus terms and conditions, and sometimes this can lead to a nasty surprise if you’re not watching carefully.
It is fairly common for casinos to have a maximum bet limit with bonus funds. There are also limits on how much you can win overall with a bonus (not exactly relevant to this article, but certainly something to be aware of).
Again, there’s too much variety here to warn players about every type of restriction they might encounter, but here is a rule of thumb:
The more unusual a bonus offer appears, the more unusual the restrictions. This does not mean that unusual offers are bad – it can be quite the opposite – but it does mean it can be easier for you to be surprised. Although it can be boring, actually reading the full terms and conditions is recommended (and it does get easier the more often you read bonus terms and conditions – trust us!).
Some casino players treat bonus offer terms and conditions like a form of oppression. To be fair, some casino operators do seem to write them much more to their own advantage than to ensure fair play.
But most of the time, a welcome bonus offer is there to encourage you to explore and enjoy a new online casino. If that appeals to you, and you are gambling recreationally (and with an amount you can afford) then find a bonus you like and go for it.
Just be aware, a bonus offer is not free money with no strings attached. Find out what the strings are before you accept an amazing-looking offer.
This article is written for UK residents only. If you are reading this from Canada, please visit our sister website Canada Gambling.