Gaming Bonus Offers Explained

”….boost your bankroll with the latest betting bonus offers – the simple way to increase your playing and practice time….but be aware of the catches….”

Why Accepting Bonuses Can Work For And Against You

If you’re new to the idea of playing games or betting online for cash, or if you’re a bit more experienced and want to get more from your money, you’re going to want to learn all about gambling bonus offers.

These bonuses get you extra cash on top of any deposit you make, with virtually every online betting site – casinos, poker rooms, sports-betting, or bingo – offering them to players. Occasionally you’ll also see similar bonus offers for real money skill games or sites that offer video gaming cash contests too.

There are several different types:

Note that all of these may or may not be subject to time limits on their use.

So you can see that getting and using a betting bonus is the one easy way to get extra ‘free’ money in your betting accounts that pretty much everyone wants to know about.

But are they right? What does a betting bonus give you? Is it the right option to take? Are there any catches? And if there are, why do they call it free money?

On this page we’ll look at those questions and others you might be asking yourself like ‘when I sign up to play online poker, or take in some casino games, or strike a bet on my favourite team on a sports-betting site…..what are the bonus options available to me? 

What Is A Betting Bonus?

Well, some of us might say it’s a bonus whenever we get a bet right!

But let’s not dwell on that.There are strategies spread throughout to hopefully increase our winning rate.

So the type we’re talking about here is the one which essentially gives you free money – either in the form of free/extra cash (normally for poker,casino,or sportsbetting) or free attempts to win (examples might be extra bingo cards or bonus spins on a slot machine). We’ll cover the different types of bonuses in depth in a minute or two.

You’ll find that betting bonuses are one of the most talked about subjects on many online gambling websites.  In fact,there are dozens of websites set up just to talk about the different types, some of them very good. They cater for the many people that are perpetually on the lookout for new offers – either from operators they already have accounts with or for new signups.

Why Do Bonuses Exist?

Quite simply, bonuses exist as a marketing ploy. They’re offered either to attract you to visit a betting operator, sign up as a new player or bettor, or encourage you to keep on playing rather than stop or look elsewhere. Occasionally an operator you y have an account with will give you some free betting cash out of the blue, but they’re not doing that out of the goodness of their heart. They believe it’ll encourage you to keep playing or betting with them, and they’re often right!   

Pros – The Benefits Of Using Bonus Offers

First, the good. Betting bonuses are essentially free money. In the vast majority of cases there are no reasons why you would not want to take one. They’ll:

  • Increase your bankroll, and consequently the number of bets you can have
  • Extend your playing time
  • Get you more chances of winning
  • Give you more opportunity to learn and practice

I won’t expand on these as they’re all fairly obvious benefits, but one area which isn’t so obvious is in the use of bonuses or free bets to enhance any no lose betting opportunities you may encounter.

There really are no strong reasons (bar one I can think of) why you wouldn’t want to take advantage of betting bonus offers, they provide free cash and work in your favour by increasing potential playing time and giving you a bigger starting bankroll.

Cons – The Drawbacks

Whenever something seems to be too good to be true, it often is. That’s something I’ve come to realise fully with a number of ‘this one just can’t lose’ horse-racing certainties at 33-1 and bigger!

The drawback with betting bonuses is that there is (in 99% of cases) a catch. Most often this is in the form of a rule which states you can’t withdraw any money until you have played through (wagered) your bonus and/or deposit multiple times. Often this is called a play-through rule, and overcoming it is known as ‘clearing a bonus’.

Added to this, some operators even make their bonuses non-cashable. Meaning you can’t ever cash out. This is rare though – the play through rule is almost always enough on its own to protect the operator’s profits.


What Is The Bonus Play Through Rule?

An example of this might be this offer – Deposit $50 and get a $100 Bonus Free. In this case – if you check the small print – you’ll most likely see that to withdraw any money you would have to bet 3 times the value of the bonus + deposit. ie make 3 x $150 = $450 worth of bets.

That’s great if you can hit winners consistently, but the catch is that most people can’t.

The bookie, casino, or poker room concerned know that they’re likely to come out on top.

Of course, it works great if your very first bet comes in and nets you $500. You then have plenty more possibilities of making bets with the rest of your bonus and coming out ahead at the end.

It’s not all bad though. There are some strategies which we’ll look at soon to get you the best chances of walking away with more than you started with. And remember this is an example. Play through requirements vary from bonus offer to bonus offer. You may find examples which tip the balance further your way.

Note also that in the case of free no deposit bonuses, there is normally a play-through requirement. But of course with these you haven’t actually deposited any of your money. They’re a good deal however you look at it. More on deposit bonuses further below.

The other one to be aware of which tends to apply specifically to casino betting is that some types of bets might be excluded from counting towards play-through. Blackjack is often a good example of this.

The house edge in Blackjack is low,which gives you a lot better chance of playing for an extended period. Those casinos don’t want to make it easy for you now, do they.

How To Clear A Bonus

This question has a simple answer, but a not so simple way of doing it. Basically you clear bonuses by playing (in the case of casinos, poker, or bingo) or betting (in the case of sportsbooks). The more you play or bet, the faster you meet the requirements for reaching the limit at which you’re able to cash out.

Types Of Bonus

We mentioned earlier that there are different types of bonus – 5 main ones in fact:.

The No Deposit Bonus

As it says on the tin, the no deposit bonus is one you’ll get without having to risk any of your own money. They can come in the form of free bets, free cash, spins on a slot, or no cost bingo cards.

They’re great for trying out and practicing the various ways to win money including casino games, poker variants, slots, bingo. Pretty much anything you can think of can be played with no deposit bonuses. They can also give you options for trying out the same types of games but with different operators -a good way to see how different gaming software operates.

As we saw a minute ago, play through requirements are normally attached.

Free Spins

Some Casinos offer free slots spins rather than hard cash. Often these will be from casino operators that focus on slots games, but you can find them sometimes when a ‘regular’ casino operator is promoting a brand new game.

You’ll normally find them offered as no deposit offers to encourage new signups, but occasionally as first deposit or reloads.

Platinum Play Casino is a good one for this.They’ve been running a free spins promotion for as long as I can remember, and have recently expanded it to make the offer into free credits to play on other casino games as well.

The First Deposit Bonus

Another obvious one. You get an additional amount of cash on top of your first deposit. Normally a percentage but with a limit on the amount.

An example would be – Get a 300% bonus on any deposit made up to $300. In this example, if you deposited the full limit of $300, you’d get 3 times that as a bonus ($900). You end up with a bank roll of $1200.

• Remember that play through requirements would almost certainly apply. You’d have to wager a number of times before you could withdraw.

• Sometimes the bonus is not released to you all in one go. There may be offers where it gets released in increments. This is often the case with poker bonuses. Effective use of poker strategy can help in these instances.

Time-Restricted Bonuses

Of all these different types, most often they are not time sensitive. You have the money in your account, and can place bets whenever you like within reason. There may be rules limiting this to a few weeks or months though.

But occasionally – mainly with free spins or credits – they work with a time restriction. An example:

‘Get 500 casino credits – play for 3 days – whatever you win you get as a first deposit bonus’

Of course this is just another way of giving you a first deposit offer. It can be fun though, you can end up with a big bankroll, and it works just as well as other examples from a playing time and practice perspective.

Reload Bonuses

Now it gets a little more complicated, but still simple to understand. You perform a ‘reload’ when you make further new deposits after the first one.

You’re ‘reloading’ your account with extra cash. Sometimes you can get extra bonuses for each reload. Sometimes at the same rate as the first, sometimes different. And it’s not normally indefinitely. There will be a finite number of times where the reload bonus applies.

VIP – Valued Member Bonuses

These are often great to receive, and can come surprisingly unexpectedly. If you’re a regular bettor or gamer, there are some operators who recognise your value. Similar to comps in a land based casino, you may suddenly get a mail saying ‘we have placed $10 in your account on us’ or ‘click here to get your free valued player bonus of €10’.

I’ve found that Bet365 are particularly good for this. I regularly get extra amounts added to my account, specifically for sports-betting. I’m not sure if they do the same for casino or poker games.

What Are Betting Bonus Codes?

Some betting operators issue codes that you need to enter to take up any of their bonus offers. You need to enter the code at the point of registration to ensure you do get the bonus amount.

As an example, a sportsbook may offer a $100 first deposit match bonus on it’s website, but might increase the amount if you enter the special code.

There are sometimes codes that make the bonus percentage larger, and other codes which make the release terms easier to cover.

The best way to find betting bonus codes is by using one of the specialised websites – some of these negotiate special deals with the betting operators that allows them to pass on enhanced bonuses to players that register through their sites.

It All Sounds Good, So When Is It Not A Good Idea To Take The Bonus?

We’ve seen that bonuses give you free money. We’ve seen that there are catches, but still no real reason why not to accept them.

But the play-through requirements can cause a problem in certain circumstances.The most obvious of these is where you are making a deposit in order to make one or a low number of specific bets on which you have high confidence of being successful.

Let’s take an example.

You strongly fancy England to win the World Cup. You don’t bet often, and you’ve noticed that England’s odds with Ladbrokes are much higher than with other bookies. You want to make the bet, and you’re getting a lot more value for your money with Ladbrokes.

They have a ‘deposit £20, get £20 free’ bonus promotion running. So you could have a £40 bet on England and double your returns (as long as the rules allow it).

Again, that sounds great. But supposing England do win. You can’t withdraw the winnings because of the play-through rules, and now you have to make a series of additional bets – with no guarantee of ending up in profit.

It’s all about balance and what you really want. Most people would still take the bonus in this example (myself included), and try to limit subsequent bets (or make them equally cleverly). It’s something to think about, though, and is a thought process you might want to consider with any type of betting, if only to rule it out.

What’s The Difference Between Bonuses And Promotions?

Bonuses are a form of promotion of course. We already covered the fact that the reason they exist is to attract Customers.

But the term ‘promotions’ in the betting industry really covers a much wider range of offers. These promotions can be in the form of special competition entries or prizes, holidays, free consumer goods, and many more.

Many betting operators also run VIP schemes – generally you’ll get VIP points added to your account as you bet (with different numbers of points added for when you bet on something new, or for how many times you play or wager). Points can be exchanged for awards or perks like

  • Tournament entries, goods etc.
  • Personal Customer Support
  • Exclusive bonuses
  • Exclusive invitations to sports events around the globe
  • Promotions that are limited to holders of a certain VIP level

Strategies For Successfully Managing Your Betting Bonus

Your main focus here should be on making as many successful bets as possible. Remember you’re main aim is to ‘clear’ the bonus. Obviously it depends on your chosen betting opportunity on how precisely you can do this.

• In bingo, it’s pretty much a matter of luck. You either win or you don’t.

• In poker, it could mean some very careful strategic play and only playing premium hands. Preserving your bankroll and looking for small profits over time.

• In the casino some games are excluded from counting towards play-through, but for whatever games are allowed you can try focusing on those that have the lowest house edge -Baccarat and Pai Gow are possibilities here.

• With sports-betting the same principles apply as if you were betting without a bonus. Careful study is the clue here, and having good all round knowledge about your chosen sport.

What Is Bonus Hunting or Whoring?

This could be classed as another strategy, but in fact is the art of taking many different bonuses at the same time or bouncing from one to the next. If you can clear bonuses successfully on a regular basis, you could in theory build up multiple bankrolls with a number of different betting operators.

If you want to go down this route, here are some tips that will contribute to success:

• Start off with high quality, well known betting sites.These will often be the larger ones.

• Go for those with no deposit offers thrown in. You can take advantage of these plus the deposit bonuses.

• Play small wagers wherever you can. You’re trying to avoid a big losing streak. If you play the averages it will give you a better chance of keeping going. Avoid increasing your stake after losses.

• Follow the strategies in the section above. Careful,focused play is the order of the day. Bonus hunting may not be for you if you’re a highly charged gambling type.

• Lastly, if you play and lose before you’ve cleared the bonus think carefully before making another deposit. There may always be another bigger and better offer around the corner.

More Resources

There are some great sites that have grown up over the years with a focus on gambling bonuses. These give some very strong information which you can trust.

There’s no catch with these, they are simply acting as either a bonus information resource (as is this page), or as intermediary sites between themselves and the operators to show you the best and latest offers available. They’ll get some affiliate income if you sign up through their links – but this has no effect on the amount of cash you receive.

One of the best I’ve come across is has a good bonus comparison facility.

Summary – What To Watch Out For

We’ve seen that betting bonuses are almost always worthwhile to take advantage of. There are many different types, and they vary from operator to operator. And there are some catches.

So what steps can you take to ensure you’re getting the most from these offers, and not making any costly mistakes?

The big one to watch for is to make sure you ALWAYS read the terms and conditions of a bonus before claiming it. It does not matter how reputable the bingo room, online casino, or sport-betting operator is that you’ve chosen, there might be some ridiculous terms that could mess your playing experience up. For a few minutes of your time reading the small print, you could avoid some future regrets.

Some other pointers include: 

  • Make sure you’re betting with a reputable company with a proven track record.
  • Check out the play through requirements. Be aware that if they’re high then you’re likely to never satisfy those requirements and be able to cash out. Anything over 25 times should ring some alarm bells.
  • Check the bonus terms thoroughly – with special focus on the games that count towards play through requirements.
  • The amount of time given to clear the bonus on play-through is reasonable.
  • There are no maximum withdrawal limits, and you can safely get out whatever cash you have actually earned for withdrawal.

Always remember though there’s a reason why bonuses exist, and that’s to attract new players and keep the ones that already play. Any operator providing betting opportunities makes money, and they want to make more. Unless the bonus is a no deposit one, they know you’re unlikely to walk away with more than you started with.

To make sure this happens (more often than not) there are bonus play through and cash out rules – meaning you’ll have to play through the bonus amount many times before you can withdraw.

With some careful attention to selecting the best offers – and by paying particular attention to any release rules – there are possibilities to use betting bonuses to help make longer term profits and avoid risking using your own cash as far as possible.

With cautious betting and focus on following the best strategies for your chosen game or betting opportunity, there are ways to clear bonus play-through requirements and end up with either a cash profit or your initial deposit intact.

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