Look Out – Some Casino Bonuses Come with a Catch!
Online casinos fight with each other to attract new players. They offer some very attractive bonuses and deals for new players. Some of these are very generous, unfortunately, many of them contain catches and clauses buried deep in the fine print. These can easily turn a seemingly good offer into a bonus which is almost impossible to clear.
This page shows you what to look out for. Once you know what to look out for in terms of catches and clauses, you’ll be able to spot the bad deals a mile away!
I have divided this up into several sections. First the play-through requirement and why you have to know which type you are dealing with as well as the actual percentage. After that game-weightings are covered, followed by excluded games and behaviours. Finally, what happens to your bonus cash when you withdraw from your casino is covered.
I’m assuming you have already gone through my basic online casino safety checks before checking the bonus. The deal can be incredible, if the casino won’t pay, then there is no point in taking it.
Catches in Casino Bonuses #1 – Play-Through Requirements
All casino bonuses require you to play through the bonus amount a number of times, usually 20 or more. This simply protects the casinos from people depositing, taking the bonus and withdrawing it again. The total is counted as the amount you bet.
The biggest trap to look out for is whether this play-through is only your deposit amount, or whether it is your deposit + the bonus. If both the deposit and bonus is included, this doubles the amount of money you’ll need to bet before your bonus is considered ‘cleared’.
One casino could be offering a ‘generous’ 20x bonus – however this would require more play if it was a bonus + deposit deal, compared with a rival casino which offered 30x, and only counted the bonus amount.
Keep in mind that play-through can get very high for deposit + bonus play-through deals when you have a 200% or 300% bonus on offer.
Many casinos will make these deals a lot more manageable by offering you the bonus money upfront to play with. Even if you do bust out before you get the full benefit of the deal, you will have had a lot more play for your money at these casinos. The bonus terms and conditions will usually show you what to expect.
Catches in Casino Bonuses #2 – Game Weightings
Not all games are equal when it comes to clearing your casino bonuses. In fact, some games may have no value at all!
What casinos do is ‘weight’ the different casino games, depending on their house edge and how easy clearing the bonuses would be by playing them. This was a reaction to the early days of online casinos when people used to meet the play-through by betting on both red and black of Roulette and then never return to the casino. Things are a lot better run these days, and you will not be able to clear bonuses this way.
Typically casinos offer 25% for table games like Poker and Blackjack. This can differ significantly, with some offering just 10% or only 2%. Taking the 25% example, this effectively makes your play-through 100x for a 25x deal.
Some casinos will not count Roulette at all. Others will weight the low risk bets differently (often as zero), though will allow single number bets to contribute as long as you do not cover more than a specific percentage of the table in any one spin.
Typically the higher variance games like slots contribute the full 100% to clearance. Again, check the terms and conditions of your bonus deal, you’ll normally find a table which includes the game weightings.
Catches in Casino Bonuses #3 – Excluded Games and Behaviours
Many casinos go one further than excluded games, and have games which you cannot play at all while you are clearing the bonus. These are listed in the fine print, along with wording to the effect of ‘your bonus may be voided’ if you play them.
Casinos which use these terms will invoke them for anyone who tries to withdraw money gained through the bonus offer. Since many players will simply use this cash to play the games, they might never find this out. If you win big and missed this in the terms, then your chances of being paid are close to zero.
I prefer to avoid casinos with this kind of term.
A more common term involves wording about ‘Bonus Abuse’. This is aimed at the kind of person who takes casino bonuses simply to make money. This was common 10 years ago, though is very difficult to do now. This kind of term simply protects casinos against someone exposing a positive expectation way to take advantage of them, and 1000’s of players using this. If you try and clear your bonus through betting on red and black on roulette or player and banker in Baccarat, then you could easily get caught by this type of clause. If you are simply playing for entertainment and taking advantage of the bonus offer, then you’ll have very little to worry about.
Catches in Casino Bonuses #4 – What Happens when you Cash Out?
Careful with that cash-out! This is the single most problematic area when dealing with casino bonuses. Different casinos do things very differently. Here are the key questions to ask:
- Can I cash out the bonus, or just my winnings?
- Will the bonus money disappear, or can I continue to play with it?
- What happens to the remaining bonus if I cash out before it is finished?
It is pretty rare to find casinos which let you cash out the bonus amount as well as the winnings these days. The second question is more important. I like to see a casino which will allow you to keep the bonus cash and continue to play with it when you cash out. Many will simply take this away. You’ll need to balance this with the play-through requirement and weightings to determine the very best deal.
If you cash out before you have finished, you’ll often lose the bonus cash. What it is worth checking is whether you will also lose any winnings which came from it. In many cases, it may be better to continue to play-through those winnings (even if this is more risky) than to cash out before it is finished. Of course, this is down to the personal situation of the player – it should be repeated often that you should never gamble with money you cannot afford to lose.
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