Examine the details of any online casino or bingo bonus offer and you will almost certainly come across a ‘wagering requirement.’ These can also be referred to as a ‘play through’ requirement, but whatever it is called, it is one of the most important parts of any bonus to understand. It is also one of the most confusing and easily misunderstood. Even an experienced online gambler can be tripped up by the different ways a wagering requirement is explained and implemented. Here’s the Bonus Bulldog guide for understanding what a wagering requirement really means:
What is a wagering requirement?
A wagering requirement is a condition attached to nearly all bonuses that requires a player to wager a certain amount before making any cash withdrawal from winnings made with the bonus. It is a simple concept in theory, but the reality can get confusing.
Typically the wagering requirement is a multiple of between 20-100 times the amount of a starting amount. Sometimes the wagering requirement applies just to the bonus itself, but typically any deposit made to qualify for the bonus is covered as well. Wagering requirements are normally expressed as a number followed by an ‘x,’ which indicates the multiple that has to be met. For example, when an operator refers to a wagering requirement of ’35x’ they mean the wagering requirement is thirty-five times the starting amount.
This amount needed to clear a wagering requirement is normally set at the start. A 35x wagering requirement for £100 would mean you must wager a total of £3,500 before you can withdraw any cash winnings won using the original £100. If you win £10,000 on your first spin after collecting your bonus (and after the wagering requirement has been set at £3,500) you’ll need to keep spinning until you’ve wagered a total of £3,500. For most casinos, even if you win big right after collecting your bonus, the target remains the same no matter how much you win.
Wagering requirement qualification variations
It is fairly typical for operators to vary how much bets from different activities count towards your wagering requirement. If you are playing straightforward slots or bingo, you may not notice this as most casinos count slots wagers 100% towards your wagering requirement. If you prefer live casino action or jackpot slots, however, choose your bonus wisely. You may find your favourite action counts as little as 5% – or even 0% – of what standard slots count towards your wagering bonus.
Nearly every operator varies how much different activities count towards wagering requirements, and there is no set pattern. As a rule live casino games count for less than standard online slots. For example, if you bet £100 on standard slots, for most online casinos the entire £100 would count towards your wagering requirement. If you wagered £100 on live roulette, it would not be unusual for your wagers to count as little as £5 towards your wagering requirement.
While we must stress that every bonus offer needs to be checked on a case-by-case basis, any quality operator should have one or more games that counts 100% towards wagering requirements. These are the activities the bonus is really meant to cater towards. Operators are not trying to catch you out with the varying percentages so much as encouraging you to use your bonus on the games intended. In ‘The Fine Print’ section of any Bonus Bulldog bonus review we try to mention any unusual rules about what games count towards wagering requirements. Also be sure to check the terms and conditions for any bonus with the operator before claiming.
Per wager amount limits
Many wagering requirements for casinos also include a maximum amount that can be wagered in any one spin. Typically players are limited to whatever the minimum house bet per spin is. This can vary, however, so do check carefully.
Exceeding the wagering limit is not advisable. Any winnings from these bets can sometimes result in confiscation.
Do free spins have wagering requirements?
Besides a matching deposit bonus, many bonuses (especially welcome offers) include free spins. What may not be immediately obvious is most casinos count any winnings from free spins as bonus money. These winnings therefore have wagering requirements just like a deposit bonus. Sometimes the wagering requirement for winnings from free spins is the same as for a deposit bonus, but it is not uncommon for it to be more (especially winnings from no deposit free spins).
The careful bonus hunter will find some free spin offers have no wagering requirements, so look out for these. Perhaps the most well known are ‘RealSpins’ from Instacasino. ComeOn! also stands out as a casino that has no wagering requirement for free spins winnings. Win with a RealSpin and you can cash out whenever you want without wagering requirements.
Deposit & bonus, or just bonus wagering requirements
Now this is where things get a bit tricky, but it is important so read carefully.
Matching deposit bonuses can sound very similar from casino to casino, but there is an important difference that is not always made clear. Some casinos ‘mix’ the deposit and the deposit bonus together and apply a wagering requirement to both. Some keep them separate and apply the wagering requirement to just the bonus. They way this is explained by operators is not always straightforward. Make sure you have a good understanding any casino’s policy before accepting a bonus offer.
The most obvious way this difference can cause confusion is the headline wagering requirement number. If casino A has a 100% matching deposit bonus with a 30x wagering requirement on both the deposit and bonus, this is not necessarily as attractive as Casino B offering a 100% matching deposit bonus with a 60x wagering requirement on just the bonus funds. You can never compare bonus offers just by looking at the wagering requirement number. You have to dig deeper to understand them properly.
‘Tied bonus’ wagering requirements and ‘escape clauses’
This is another area that can get pretty confusing. Bear with us, it’s important.
A majority of casinos will show your bonus funds in a tally that is separate from your cash funds, but while you are under a bonus wagering requirements there can be little difference between the two. Typically a casino will automatically take wagers from both your cash and bonus funds balance as you go along. Once you start the bonus, there is no way to escape from the wagering requirement for both bonus and deposit.
A very few casinos (All British Casino and 21 Casino being the most notable exceptions) do things differently. All wagers initially come from cash deposit funds and wager amounts are only taken from the bonus funds once the cash deposit funds are at zero. At first this may sound like a disadvantage – your bonus is for all intents and purposes locked up until you’ve run out of cash. There is a major advantage, however. If you have a good run with your cash and it no longer suits you to be bound by the wagering requirements of your bonus, both All British Casino and 21 Casino allow you to ‘escape’ from your bonus. You can simply cancel your bonus (including forgoing the bonus funds, of course) and keep your winnings from your cash wagers all to yourself.
In many respects the ‘untied’ bonus is the fairest type, but it is also much more unusual. In fact, it is so unusual we had to make the terms ‘tied’ and ‘untied’ up, so please do not expect a casino you speak to to be familiar with them!
Time limited wagering requirements
Most bonuses have some sort of time limit to meet any wagering requirements. For the casual player these should not be a problem, but look out for any especially short time limits. Especially when combined with low wagering amount limits, these can catch the unwary player out. The nightmare scenario would be having to play through a very large bonus with very low wagering limits in a very short time – make sure you avoid this!
The good news is any reputable online casino or bingo operator will be setting time limits to prevent bonus abuse, not catch out well-meaning recreational gamblers. Just make sure you are making your deposit with a casino you can trust. Again, if we spot any unusually short wagering requirements in the terms and conditions we will do our best to list them in the ‘The Fine Print’ section of the Bonus Bulldog bonus review.
Conclusion: understand your wagering requirements
It is important to remember that casino and bingo bonuses are almost exclusively designed for the recreational gambler. If your main goal in playing slots or bingo is to have fun, then it is unlikely you will have any problems with a wagering requirement. When you have a bad run, bonus funds or free spins enable you to play for longer than your deposit would by itself. If you hit a big jackpot (we can all dream!) then being required to play slots for a while longer before you can cash out will not likely seem like a huge problem.
For more moderate wins it is possible to discover that your bonus and wagering requirement are no longer an advantage. In these situations an ‘untied bonus’ would possibly be preferable.
However regular a gambler you are, though, be sure to pay attention closely to not only to the headline figures of any wagering requirement, but the meanings behind these figures as well. Choose wisely, and you will maximise your fun and minimise your frustration.