There’s a good chance you’ve heard of casino bonus codes. They’ve been around since the start of online gambling.
If you’re an online gaming vet, then you’ve probably entered your fair share of codes in exchange for welcome bonuses, reload bonuses and free cash offers.
And if you’re an online marketer, then you’ve probably used bonus codes to offer exclusive deals and track your marketing campaigns.
But if you’re neither? That’s okay – we’re going to talk about bonus codes at length in this guide.
Because even though they’re not as popular as they used to be 7-15 years ago, casinos still use them. So, it’s a good idea to know what they are, how they work and how to use them – regardless if you’re a player or marketer – or both.
This guide will be helpful to you both.
What are Bonus Codes? What are Bonus Codes for?
Bonus codes serve multiple purposes.
To claim different promotions.
For marketing these promotions.
To track individual marketing campaigns.
Casinos create bonus codes to coincide with the individual promotions they run.
How Players Use Bonus Codes
Players get these codes from the casino’s website or from one of the partners the casino works with. Then they enter the code at some when they make their deposit.
This is only one example. Each casino does this differently. They may also call their bonus code something else.
For example, a bonus code might be referred to as a:
And so on. But – most times – they all do the same thing. The player enters the code to get a specific deal the casino or partner (usually called an ‘affiliate’ or ‘publisher’) offered them.
How Casinos Use Bonus Codes
Casinos and affiliates use codes to promote and track different offers. For example, a casino might have 7 different offers they’re currently promoting. So, there offers might look something like this:
Welcome Bonus: 100% match up to $500. Use bonus code: WelBon500
Reload Bonus: 50% match up to $300. Use bonus code: ReBon300
$100,000 New Player Freeroll. Use bonus code: Free100k
And so on.
The player would enter the code of the offer they want. They could deposit and enter as many codes as they want (unless the casino says otherwise). The only stipulation is they’d need to complete every offer they requested, in the order they request them.
The casino could then look at their tracking data to see which codes are entered most often. This would give them a better idea of:
Which marketing campaigns (creatives, messaging, etc.) are performing (the best).
Which offers resonate most with their customers.
The casino could use this data to create better campaigns and more exciting offers.
How Affiliates Use Bonus Codes
Casinos also give bonus codes to their affiliates.
Affiliates are partners who receive a commission in exchange for every lead or real money customer they send to the casino. They’re also called publishers.
Affiliates use bonus codes for a variety of reasons.
To promote exclusive offers not available elsewhere.
To build and promote their brand.
To track their affiliate campaigns.
More specifically, an affiliate (and, to an extent, the casino) will use codes to track and figure out:
What offers (bonuses, VIP, cash back, freerolls, etc.) are working best? Which offers are leading to more signups? Which promotions are leading to more real money customers?
What banner or ad placements are working better? Are you getting more customers through a text link or banner? Are more customers coming through a header banner, sidebar banner, in-content banner or footer banner?
What marketing medium is working better? Are you getting more signups through SEO? Social media? SEM? PPC? PPV? Direct buys?
The affiliate collects all this data. They use it to create better offers for their visitors and to create more effective marketing campaigns.
It sounds like affiliates use this information the same way casinos do. That’s because they do. They both have a similar goal – to find and attract more customers. But the ways they do it, and the mediums they use to accomplish those goals, are often different.
Now, for players, this marketing information doesn’t look too useful on the surface …at least until you realize you can search for these special codes so you can get the absolute best casino deals.
What are we saying exactly?
That it pays to do your research once you know which casinos you want to join. That with a little due diligence you could find an exclusive offer worth hundreds or thousands more than the promos offered by nearly everyone else.
But before you get too excited, realize this is less effective nowadays.
Bonus codes used to be so popular every affiliate had them posted on their website. The more players they sent, and the higher quality of customer they sent, the more unique and exclusive deals the casino gave them to promote.
It used to make sense to do a ton of research before joining a casino. More so than going direct to the casino.
But today? Not so much.
Bonus codes are still used today. Players still post them on their websites.
But you’re not going to find as many exclusive deals. Codes nowadays are primarily used for tracking purposes, or for players to use to get specific offers at specific times.
For example, you might have to enter a code to get a welcome bonus which is only good when you first sign up. Then you’ll have another that’s good only on a player’s second deposit. Then a code for your third deposit, and so on.
These codes are usually listed on the casino’s website.
And that’s even if you need a code. In many cases the bonus is applied to your account automatically once you’re signed up, or when you make your deposit.
Because promotions are given automatically these days, it’s a good idea to read our page about casino deposit bonuses and how they work. Casino promotions come with lots of terms. While you’re fulfilling those terms, you’re NOT allowed to cash out. For this reason, and many others, lots of players choose to turn down the casino’s offer. But you often need to do this BEFORE you make your first deposit.
**But each casino does things differently, which is why you should read our bonus page to fully understand how it all works.
But even though bonus codes aren’t as popular or used as often, it’s still a good idea to know what they are and how they work. They’re still used for tracking and tagging players to affiliates and the deals they offer.
And if the player isn’t tagged to the right affiliate, they might not get the deal they thought they were when they first signed up.
Player Tracking & Ethics
One of the reasons why casinos use bonus codes is for tracking. But not just tracking promotions or marketing campaigns…
…but also tracking player referrals to affiliates.
Online casinos use a variety of marketing creatives (banners), URLs (text-links), bonus codes and so on, to track referrals. But each casino uses different tracking technology.
This creates confusion for nearly everyone involved because no one is 100% sure what a player needs to do to be tagged to a specific affiliate partner, thus the specific deal they’re offering.
Not only is this important to the affiliate, because they get paid only when a player is tagged to them (and eventually makes a deposit), but also for the player because they’ll only get a specific deal if they’re tagged to the right person.
The most common way players are tracked and tagged to affiliates (or even tracked internally for casinos) is through a URL (text link).
The text link casinos use will be the same for every affiliate EXCEPT for a small portion of the URL that has a unique code, number or ID specific to each affiliate. That’s how casinos can distinguish where new customers come from.
This is usually the way customers are tagged. But sometimes casinos use codes to also track signups.
Yes I can confirm that if a player were to click on your tracking link and then enter a promotional code (although very few affiliates have promotional codes) – the player will be tracked to the affiliate with the promotional code. This acts as a final ’click’ with cookies, and will be accredited with the player. I hope that makes sense.
But sometimes codes have nothing to do with cookies or tracking – only the URL does. Any code the casino has is strictly for promotions.
And sometimes none of that matters because a player may have been cookied on another affiliate site long before they clicked on the link/offer that led them to signing up.
This can lead to a player not getting the offer they thought they were signing up for.
Clearing Cookies + A Word About Ethics
Several years ago, it was common to hear complaints from players (and affiliates) that they didn’t get the deal they thought they signed up for.
Odds were good it was because they were cookied when they clicked ‘Affiliate A’s’ link (for whatever reason, maybe research), but they didn’t sign up. They didn’t join the casino until they clicked ‘Affiliate B’s’ link because he had a better deal.
And, as you might imagine, this leads to confusion and anger. Affiliates aren’t getting paid for referrals, and the players aren’t getting the deals they thought they signed up for.
The bottom line – it helps to know what cookies are.
Cookies are information or tags websites place on your computer when you interact with their website.
It depends on the offer, but sometimes the first cookie you’re tagged with is the one that sticks. Other times – like with bonus codes – they can be overridden.
This probably sounds confusing.
And that’s because it is.
It’s confusing for both marketers and players because each casino does this differently, and if you don’t do things the right way, in the right order, both the player and affiliate miss out on what was promised.
That’s why affiliates started asking players to clear these cookies before clicking their links.
Clearing cookies is different for each browser. But the general idea is to go into your browser history and find the option that lets you clear cookies and other site data.
If you’re not sure where to look, just look for your browser history and go through your options. Chances are you’ll find several options for clearing your browser history / data.
When you do that, you’re free and clear of any cookies you were tagged with. Which means that whatever link you click next – whatever offer you want – will be the one that sticks.
Now a Word About Ethics
There’s a lot of arguing about the ethics of asking customers to clear their cookies before they click on any links.
More so several years ago than today.
A few years ago, almost every bonus or review website would have a page that explained how to clear your cookies. That way they could make sure the player was tagged to them instead of any affiliate or website they may have previously interacted with.
Here’s why some people have a problem with this:
For one thing, they feel like affiliates who ask customers to clear their cookies is merely piggybacking off someone’s marketing or the casino brand.
Someone is doing all the hard work – doing the research, publishing the review, creating marketing campaigns, etc. – only for someone to come in and steal their (potential) customer away.
That affiliate doesn’t deserve the signup because they didn’t do any of the work or provide any of the value.
That makes sense.
However, on the other side – the affiliates for clearing cookies says they may have been the first to attract the customer OR they did a better job convincing them to join. It’s ALSO possible they have an offer the player actually wants, which is the most important thing of all.
Then you have the affiliates who make the point that affiliates targeting bonus code seekers aren’t adding ANY value at all, whether they’re the first or last contact.
Here’s one quote from a gambling affiliate veteran. He mentions poker, but this still applies to the casino side of things too:
The negative for me is probably different than for most. I find myself getting worked up more than I should over what other sites do. Personally I find it disturbing sites that SEO “Poker Site XYZ Bonus Code” because I feel these search terms add no value to the poker rooms and are only scalping other affiliates referred players.
Someone else responded with:
Absolutely true and in fact I would bet a lot of these affiliates are probably taking away players from legitimate affiliates on certain sites where bonus codes override affiliate cookies.
Confusing, right? Scary, too, because – as a player – you don’t know what to click on or what to do to make sure the right affiliate is credited, let alone how to get the deal you have your eyes on.
The best thing affiliates can do is clarify with each casino they work with how their tracking works. Then create their marketing campaigns with that in mind, even IF it means asking players to clear their cookies.
For players, since you have no idea what URL or bonus code will do the trick, the best thing you can do is look out for your own best interest. Go after the deal you want most, even if it means you need to clear your cookies first.
That way everyone will win …most times, anyway.
For Players: Random Important Things to Know About Bonus Codes
Here are some important things players should know about bonus codes that didn’t quite fit anywhere else:
Make sure you understand the offer you’re signing up for. A bonus code is still for a deposit bonus, which comes with terms you agree to and need to fulfill.
Many (if not most) bonus codes are not needed. Any deal the casino’s offering will most likely be given to you automatically. If you need a code, they’ll say so. Otherwise don’t sweat it much.
The best way to enter the code, if possible, is to copy and paste it. That way you don’t make any mistakes.
Don’t worry about capitalization. It doesn’t affect the code at all.
Some bonus codes expire. One way to find the most current offers is to search “casino name bonus code 2016”. Just replace casino name with the casino and the year with the most current year. You might also try searching for a specific month.
Bonus codes, for whatever reason, are often associated with ‘no deposit bonuses’ in the search engine results. They’re not the same thing. A no deposit bonus is a nominal cash offer the casino gives you without asking you to make a deposit first. Sometimes you may need a code for this, and other times you won’t. But these are two totally different things.
And …that’s it.
That’s all there is to casino bonus codes.
If you found some of this confusing, or uninteresting, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
Because the truth is that bonus codes just aren’t used much anymore. Many websites and casinos still post them, but primarily to track their promotions, or so you can make sure you get the specific deal you want.
And I’d guess that’s because casinos have made things simpler. Most of them only have a few offers, which players can only get at a certain point in the customer lifecycle – like first deposit offer, second deposit offer, third deposit offer, and so on. So, there’s little need for a code outside of tracking.
That said, it’s good to know how all this stuff works. You never know when you might need to use one for marketing or claiming an offer.