Do You REALLY Understand those Online Casino Bonuses?

By Lu Ann Wall
Published on September 13, 2017

Reviewing online casinos has required me to look through a lot of online casino websites. And, I do mean, a lot!  A year ago, I didn’t even realize how many were out there but, day after day, I’m introduced to new ones.

Most of it is pretty straightforward to me. I’ve lived in Las Vegas for several years and got used to the lingo with slot progressives, linked machines, RTPs, table limits, comps, you name it.

I have a stack of player rewards cards and a few that were probably used a bit too much. But, I understood those bonus programs and quickly learned how to use them to my benefit.

I’ve treated friends to dinner, received free hotel nights, and have even picked up a few bottles of wine along the way.

I certainly know that hotel rooms and other similar comps won’t factor into the equation when you take your betting from in person to online, but I’m not a stranger to bonus cash, and that’s certainly feasible, isn’t it?

In a casino, I put my card in my favorite video poker machine and, lo and behold; there’s $20 in free play that I can use. Yes, I do have to put in a little bit of money, but only enough to cover the first bet as then the free cash takes over from there.

Once it’s gone, I can take any credits I’ve earned and cash out or use it to keep playing. In the interest of full disclosure, I always kept playing.

So, I’m thinking that online casinos probably award even more bonus cash because they can’t provide you with all of those little ongoing perks that keep you coming back through their doors time and again. But, they still want you returning to their site and not taking your money elsewhere.

I think the first offer I saw through an internet casino was a 100% deposit match up to $100. Wow! I’m not a big player, so I was going to deposit $40 but, hey, that $40 is now $80, right?


Wrong. I just got my first introduction to the wonderful world of online casino bonuses. The world where you need to read the fine print, as playing that $40 in bonus money and then trying to cash out just isn’t an option. You have a rollover to meet.

A Rollover?

A rollover to me was something you’d teach your pet, not something that you had to do to claim some cash.

So, I wanted just to share a little bit of information on some things I’ve picked up along the way that may help you to understand further these deposit match bonuses that have the spotlight on nearly every casino’s homepage.

Whether you’re a new player in the game or you just haven’t taken the time to understand the intricacies of these types of rewards, you may find this beneficial. Even more experienced players run into problems figuring out what they need to do to comply with the bonus requirements and, ultimately, reap some benefit from the reward.

If you look through some player forums and you see disgruntled players talking about being cheated or a casino being unfair, more than 50% of the time, you can be sure that the issues revolve around a bonus they accepted.

The Online Casino Bonus Cliff Notes

In the simplest of explanations, here’s how an online casino bonus works when it’s in conjunction with a deposit:

Welcome bonuses are typically tied into a deposit that needs to be made. It provides the player with some percentage match.

If it’s a 100% match and you deposit $100, you get $100 in bonus play.

There’s a limit to what the casino will provide, so you’ll see these offers listed somewhere along the lines of:

100% match up to $200

You’ll know up front the percentage you get and the cap on the amount.

Next, you’ll need to know the rollover, otherwise known as a play through or wagering requirement. This is a key piece of information as it could affect your decision whether to accept the offer or decline it and strictly play on a cash basis only.

The rollover is either going to apply to the bonus amount you receive or to the combination of the bonus plus your deposit. That was another thing that threw me. Why you would be required to play your own money a certain amount of times just doesn’t make any sense. But, I digress.

Let’s use a 30 times rollover as an example, and we’ll go back to the “deposit $100 to get $100” bonus scenario and look at some numbers.

  • Your deposit = $100
  • Your bonus = $100
  • Rollover = 30 times

Bonus-only rollover: If the rollover applies to the bonus amount only, you’ll simply multiply it at 30 x $100 = $3,000, meaning you need to do a minimum of $3,000 in betting to be able to cash out anything.

Bonus plus deposit rollover: If the rollover applies to the bonus plus deposit combined, you’re now looking at 30 x $200 = $6,000 and a doubling of your wagering requirement.

The contribution rate

We’ve already done some math, but we’re not done yet.

Note that I said, “you need to do a minimum of $3,000 in betting…” I chose those words purposefully because here’s yet another exciting twist.

All games don’t provide you with the full contribution to meeting your betting requirement. Let me say that a different way.

If you play slot games, most of those will allow 100% of your betting to go toward meeting the rollover. If you have to meet a requirement of $3,000 in wagering, then $3,000 in slot bets will do the trick.

For the most part…

Some of the newer slots or progressive jackpot versions may come in at a lower percentage or may not even contribute at all.

If we start factoring in video poker or table games, we have an entirely different scenario. I’m a video poker player so, it would take me a lot longer to meet any wagering requirement. And, when I say a lot, I mean a lot.

It all depends on the casino, but it’s not uncommon for table games or video poker to provide at just a 5% or 10% contribution rate.

Let’s be generous and say that those games come in at 10% and we have to meet $3,000 in wagering. The math is almost scary. That’s $30,000 in betting!

Now, let me make it slightly less frightening. You may be thinking you have to put $30,000 in a machine or toward buying chips, but that’s not the case. It’s betting.

Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose, but if you’re playing a game and losing every time, you’d better stop immediately, because there should be some back and forth anyway.

On a game like video poker, you can play for quite awhile. You may win 30 credits and then go down 20, or win 20 and lose 20. In any case, you’re getting some credits coming back to you. You’re not just betting credit after credit with no return. But, still, $30,000 in betting is pretty hefty.

Let me summarize what we have so far to make things easier to eyeball here.

The main things you need to look at when deciding whether or not to accept a bonus:

  • What is the percentage amount?
  • How much will the casino match? (i.e. up to $200?, $300?)
  • What is the rollover amount? Is it 30 times? 50 times?
  • Does the rollover apply to the bonus alone or the bonus-deposit combo?
  • What games contribute to meeting the wagering requirements?

Betting Limits

You probably thought I was finished with the wrap-up, but there’s one more thing to factor into the bonus reward compliance picture, and that’s the betting limit imposed by the casino.

When you’re in the process of meeting a wagering requirement, there’s a limit to how much you can bet. So, it’s not typically feasible to make something like a $50 bet at one time to get the rollover out of the way quickly. Instead, the casino usually restricts you to something like $5 per bet maximum.

Knowledge Is Power

It may seem a little crazy to put such an emphasis on learning all of the little ins and outs of a casino bonus but, if you’re going to accept one, you want it to impact your bottom line positively rather than take all of your credits away. I’d much rather cash out than transfer in, any day!

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