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The world of online casino bonus offers can be a minefield. If you are new to online casinos, you’ll likely miss key aspects of what makes a good, and more importantly, a bad offer.
At Gambling.com we have a team of experts that spends time reviewing, assessing and then rating every casino bonus that’s currently online. We’ve got over 50 years combined experience and we are proud to say that we are one of, if not the, best in the business when it comes to guides on casino bonuses.
We’ve been able to create a process that allows us to work out which casino bonuses are worth having and which are worth avoiding. Our review process is not only extensive, but exhaustive as well.
Each online casino review starts with an overall look at the site itself. We want to make sure that the casino is safe and that, as a player, you’re able to get your money both in and out with ease.
We then move onto the bones of the casino. What makes the casino tick? What features and games are available? Only once we are happy with all of these factors do we then move on to bonus review.
We break down each bonus into the following areas:
Let’s start at the top of the list with the type of bonus.
A casino bonus can come in several variations. The most common is what is known as a deposit match. This is where the casino will match your deposit up to a certain percentage.
For example, a common offer is a 100% deposit match based on a player’s first deposit. This will also include a limit for both the maximum and the minimum a player must deposit to claim a bonus.
For example, a bonus is worth up to $100. With a 100% match, a $100 deposit would get an additional $100 in bonus money, creating a player balance of $200.
Generally, the higher the better here. We like casinos to offer as much money as possible, however, the deposit match is also a key area that we look at. A bonus that is worth $500 may look good, but if it’s a 10% deposit match, it means that the player would need to deposit $5,000 to trigger the full amount.
Other bonuses that are available include the likes of free spins and no deposit bonuses. These are usually lower value offers as they are easier to clear for the player.
The amount of bonus money offered is the next step in the process for us. As we have suggested, the higher the better, providing that the deposit match is fair. A lot of bonuses are around the $100 mark, but they do fluctuate.
Once the bonus has been identified, we then move onto the wagering requirements. This is a set of rules that are in place to prevent people from simply signing up, claiming the bonus cash and then leaving.
Wagering requirements are a bit of a minefield, and this is where our expertise comes in handy. Our team can pick through the bonus terms and conditions to find out exactly what you need to do to get your hands on the bonus money.
This is an area that can make or break a casino bonus. We’ve seen countless offers with thousands of “free” dollars on the table, only to have unrealistic wagering requirements make the whole offer pointless.
One thing that we will note here is that casinos are a lot more transparent about these terms than they ever used to be. You can find this info yourself, but we take the legwork out this for you and tell you what you need to know.
Just a few of the areas that we look at here include turnover requirements, deposit options, time to clear and game availability.
Game accessibility is the games that you can access and still clear your bonus. This is another important area that many players and even other reviews overlook.
What you will find is that some casino games are limited or even prohibited from clearing a bonus. Table games are often a good example of this, with many restricted in the amount that you wager contributing towards clearing the bonus.
Many players have taken casino bonuses with new accounts, set away playing their favorite game and then later realize that none of it contributed to clearing the bonus.
We make sure that you pick the right bonus for the games that you want to play. We also highlight the contribution that each game has for each bonus.
Following this, we are now looking at any additional products or offers that might be linked. This could be additional free spins, cash prizes, extended happy hours and even VIP treatment.
Basically, what makes this product even more lucrative than it already was?
The final part of our review process is working out if the bonus offers value for the money or if there are better alternatives. As we have stated, the biggest bonuses are not always the best value.
If you’ve no chance of claiming a $1,000 bonus or a good chance of claiming a $50 bonus, then for that player, the $50 bonus would offer better value. Only after we’ve worked through the full criteria of our review can we determine this.
We’ve outlined what our goals are for each bonus, but there are several things that you can look at to work out if a casino bonus offers value to you.
One thing that we want to stress from the start is that not all bonuses are equal and while one might suit one player, it might not another. Before choosing a bonus, we encourage players to try to work out what might be feasible in terms of numbers that they could clear. A good starting point is knowing how much you might wager over a certain period of time.
If you are new to online casinos, then this is going to be tough. Our advice to you would be to start small with just about every section that we talk about below. Get what bonus you can, see how they work and then move onto a new online casino bonus when you’re armed with more info.
To make things easier for you, we’ve created a step-by-step guide on claiming casino bonuses.
To kick things off, you’re going to need to choose your offer or at least the type of offer that you want to take. Most of the promotions you see will be deposit matches, meaning you get a bonus based on the amount of money that you deposit.
Bear in mind that the money you get from the bonus is just that: bonus money. This is not cash that can be withdrawn. At least, at this point, it’s not.
It’s also possible to take casinos up other offers that include a no deposit bonus or even free cash. These are not as common in today’s market, but not extinct.
You should treat these offers as a “try before you buy” promotion. The casino is giving you cash to come and play its games, but what you often find is that getting that money out is very tricky. Write this off as free money to try a new place, rather than a get-rich-quick scheme.
You’ve found an offer that you like and now it’s time to see how feasible it is. The wagering requirement is the amount that the casino expects you to play to change your cash from bonus money to real money.
This will be represented as a multiplication of the amount that you deposit or the bonus you get. The higher the number is here, the harder it will be to clear. As a general rule, any wagering requirement of 35x or lower is deemed to be pretty good. Any higher should be avoided.
A key point to note here is whether the casino wants you to wager your deposit, your bonus, or both. It’s a common oversight that a lot of players make, looking simply for the figure instead of the terms that come with it.
Let’s run a quick example.
The offer is a 100% match up to $100. You deposit $100 and claim the full bonus, giving you $200 total. Assuming the wagering requirement for the offer is 30x your bonus, this would mean you need to wager $3,000 to clear it. Now, if the requirement was 30x your bonus and your deposit, all of a sudden you need to wager $6,000 to clear the bonus.
It’s an easy thing to miss but makes a massive difference in choosing a casino bonus.
You now need to be looking at how long you get to clear the bonus. This is the amount of time that you have to hit the wagering requirement (above) before the bonus will expire.
We want this to be as long as possible, for obvious reasons, but anywhere around the 30-day mark is standard. Some hover around 14 days, which is manageable. Lower than that and you want to be looking elsewhere.
You need to be careful with time restrictions. Some casinos will remove the bonus after your time is up, but some will remove the bonus and any winnings from the bonus money as well.
This ties in with both the offer and wagering section as certain timeframes will suit certain players. It helps to have a rough idea of how much you plan to play over a given period to allow you to make the best possible decision for a timeframe.
Additional offers are pretty common with bonuses, and free spins are about as common as they come. This is where the casino gives you a set amount of free spins to use on what is usually a predetermined online slot games within the casino.
These are a lucrative addition to the bonus package. We like them because more often than not, they come with no wagering requirements. This means that whatever you win, you keep as cash.
You do need to be careful with some offers as they may move winnings into your bonus balance. This will mean that you have to wager these winnings along with any bonus amount you’ve initially triggered from the signup bonus.
Obviously, the more the better here, but make sure you check the terms to see how they work before signing up.
It’s very common for certain payment methods to not be eligible to claim these types of offers. They usually come in the form of e-wallets such as PayPal and pre-paid cards.
There is a valid reason behind this. It’s because these payment methods can be used anonymously. This makes it very hard for the casino to track who has claimed and who has not. This then makes it highly exploitable.
Make sure that you check to see if the payment method you want to use is eligible to claim the bonus.
If you follow this process, then you’re going to be a great position to work out what the bonus entails and whether you’re able to clear it or not. This may seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth it and will save you both time and money in the long run.
Before we move on, we just wanted to quickly talk about why casinos offer bonuses and how they come up with them.
The reason as to why they offer them is nothing more than to lure people to use their casino over the next one. Let’s be honest, a lot of online casinos are very similar these days. In fact, some are identical, so it’s hard for a brand to stand out.
The bonus is one of those areas that they have full control over. It allows the casino to tailor an offer that they think will attract players, but also make it so that the player needs to put a little work in to get it.
As we’ve already stated, there is not one offer that is necessarily better than the other, but there are most definitely really bad offers. We will help you avoid the bad bonuses and give you all the info you need to decide which is best for you.
Prepare to have you mind blown by the staggering range of casino bonuses that are on offer right now. Strap in!
Here’s the process of claiming a casino offer. Please bear in mind here that each casino is different, and each bonus is different. However, there are several core similarities that we can work with here which should allow you some guidance.
You will need to open an account with the casino. This is a pretty straightforward process, however, it’s worth noting that as part of this process you are now required to verify your account as well.
Verification will mean that you have to prove both ID and address. This can be done by scanning or photographing documents such as passports, driving licenses and utility bills, to name just a few.
Once you are signed up it’s now time to see which bonus you want to claim.
Most casinos will only have one, but some have multiple and it’s highly likely if there is more than one, that you can only claim one. New online casinos are worth watching out for too as they can offer very strong bonuses to get new customers.
You should have done your research into the bonus before claiming, but it’s worth going over T’s and C’s again just to make sure. Finally, check if there is any bonus code needed as you can’t always enter these at a later date.
It’s now time to trigger your bonus funds, and if you’re claiming a deposit bonus, this will be based on your first deposit more often than not. Once you’ve made the minimum deposit the bonus should now be in your bonus account, which is usually separate from your main balance.
If you don’t see the bonus at this stage, do not play any games. It’s worth checking to make sure that you’ve ticked all the boxes to be eligible for the offer, and if so, contact customer support for more help. If you do play before the bonus has been triggered, then you may not be able to claim at a later date.
The hard work starts now. You need to meet the terms for the bonus and start clearing it as fast as you can. You should already have a plan of action about your process to best clear the bonus, so it’s now time to start implementing that.
Most casinos will allow you to track the progress of your bonus funds from your account. They aren’t always real-time, so make sure you take this into account.
The tracker will allow you to see how much of your bonus needs clearing and how long you have. You should be able to work out the amount you need to play from these two variables and the bonus wagering requirement for the bonus.
The majority of bonuses are pretty straightforward once you know what you are looking for. However, there are a couple of points that we wanted to highlight that we see lots of players miss.
The first one is that of the eligibility of different games. It’s very rare to get a bonus where all games can be played and then contribute towards clearing that bonus.
Most bonuses that we see will have a limited number of games attached. You can play any game for example at an online slots site, but the bets that you make won’t always contribute to clearing the bonus.
Another point to note is the contribution from each of these games. Rarely are all games equal, and some of them vary massively. For most general deposit bonuses, slots will usually contribute 100% towards clearing the bonus. It’s not uncommon to see table games such as blackjack, roulette and craps contribute much lower than this, somewhere around the 5% to 20% mark.
Just to break that down a little: A 100% contribution means that for every $1 wagered, $1 will contribute to clearing the bonus; a 20% contribution will mean that for every $5 wagered, $1 will contribute to clearing the bonus.
Finally, you need to be aware of the max bet to clear a bonus. Most offers put limits on the max single bet that will contribute to clearing the bonus.
For example, a casino bonus offer might have a cap of $5 per bet to clear. Any bets made over this mark will not count towards clearing.
Another caveat from this is that some bonuses will take the max bet if you go over and some will not count the bet at all. So, if the cap is $5 and you place a bet of $10, then some casinos will take the $5 from the $10 bet as part of the wagering and some will discount the entire $10 bet.
Returning players are not eligible for new player promotions. However, they may be eligible for online casino offers such as reload bonuses or even free spins winnings as part of the casino's promotion package.
A wagering requirement is an amount that you need to wager through to turn your casino bonus funds into cash. This will be a multiple of either the deposit, the bonus or both.
A non-matched deposit bonus will give you a fixed reward rather than a bonus. A non-matched bonus offer might include cash, free spins or prizes, such as gadgets, tech, holidays and even cars.
VIP and loyalty programs are designed to reward players for consistent play at the casino. The more hands you play the more points you earn. You can then turn these points into rewards such as cash, bonuses, free spins and a range of products. As you increase your VIP rating the rate you earn these points will increase. You will also open doors to other benefits such as concierge services, dedicated bonuses, an accounts manager and invitations to VIP events, as a small example.
Deposit match bonuses are usually regarded as the best type of bonuses. However, you need to find one that has a high bonus and low wagering req for it to be considered the “best."
Usually, you’re only able to claim a single bonus at one time. If there is more than one welcome bonus to choose from, you can only pick a single promo.
You can only cash out bonus bet winnings once you have met the wagering requirement for that bonus. This will be a set multiple of the bonus you have claimed from the casino.
Playthrough is a term used to reference the amount that you need to play before you can cash a bonus out. It is also known as wagering requirements or turnover for many bonuses.
Yes, pretty much all bonuses are now eligible on mobile devices. You may also find that some bonus is mobile-specific, meaning you can only claim and clear them on mobile. It’s worth noting that some casinos do not have their full catalog of games on their mobile casino platform compared to their online platform. This may limit the games that you can use to clear the bonus.
Not necessarily. The range of offers will vary from established brands to new casinos. You do get the odd new casino that will offer a very limited large casino bonus, but they often come with pretty poor wagering requirements, so they aren’t all that lucrative.
No. Pretty much all casino bonuses will have certain payment methods that you cannot use to claim a bonus. Common ones include things like e-wallets, Bitcoin and pre-paid cards. The reason behind this is that these payment methods can all be used anonymously, meaning there are no verification processes needed. This means that manipulating offers and even claiming multiple offers through the same payment method is a lot easier
"More than 30 years working in online gaming and sports journalism. I hope to explain the growing US online casino market to help those new to internet gambling have a better understanding."