Beginners’ Guide to Casino Bonuses

Author Thomas Wolf
January 23, 2021 8 min read

Let’s start by saying that online casinos are like any other business; all they want is for customers to return. 

So how do they ensure that? They offer something that they know will entice people to join and stay with them: casino bonuses! Real money online casinos and sportsbooks use bonuses and promotions to encourage people to become members. 

Bonuses are essentially a small reward given to players when they participate in special activities on the website. These activities include opening up an account, depositing money into the casino, and placing bets.

That’s why each casino offers different bonuses and has various features tailored to its website and players’ needs. 

Understanding Bonuses

If you’re newly registered to a casino or are interested in joining one, you must understand how the casino operates and what promotions they offer. As most casinos provide players with a welcome bonus, you should be aware of how the offer works and if it activates in conjunction with anything else.  

The worst thing that could happen is if you joined a casino and were under the impression that you’re supposed to receive a bonus, but didn’t understand how it works. This lack of information usually leads to players losing their money on a deposit or a bet, and in turn, the player loses interest in the casino itself. 

That’s why we’re going to outline a few tips for beginners interested in the online casino scene to understand the strategy behind bonuses and promotions. 

How it Works

Casinos generally provide offers in the form of deposit and no-deposit bonuses and free spins. For you to trigger these, however, there’s a snag: a wagering requirement. These are created by casinos to protect against players who’d collect funds already deposited and leave. 

Of course, this wouldn’t be ideal as casinos need to cover office rent, pay staff and license games, etc. So with the wagering requirement, players are obligated to place a minimum bet to trigger their bonus, ensuring the casino also gets its cut. 

Online Casino Vs Actual Casino 

Unlike regular casinos where you would sit behind a slot machine or around a table playing a game of cards, online casinos allow you the convenience of playing within the comfort of your own home.

Depending on the website, you can play using your web browser on your computer or mobile device. Some casinos even have a mobile app you can download.

Additionally, whereas a real casino would administer you with a complimentary meal or room upgrade, an online casino has to offer you something electronically accessible. This typically comes in the form of financial bonuses. As long as you meet your wagering requirement, the reward is there for the taking. 

Terms and Conditions

An essential part of becoming a member of an online casino is extensively going through its terms and conditions. This way, you won’t shoot yourself in the foot due to a misunderstanding. 

All casinos offering bonuses and promotions should have a section focused on bonus terms and conditions, highlighting any pros and cons. 

Occasionally, these terms seem complicated with their complex requirements and conditions for qualification. However, if you read through them thoroughly, you’ll see that they’ve improved a great deal compared to previous rules and are more user-friendly. This way, the casino can ensure customers are knowledgeable and secure. 

Types of Bonuses 

Welcome Bonus/deposit Bonus

This bonus happens after you’ve registered and made your first deposit and is then credited to your casino account. Online casino bonuses most often work in conjunction with the amount of money deposited and are matched as a percentage. For example, if you deposit £100, you’ll get 100% matched and returned to you. This could be in the form of actual funds or free spins. 

Welcome bonuses usually have restrictions on withdrawals, so make sure to read about them first. You have to wager a bet at the casino before you can withdraw the exact amount of the bonus given; this is where the wagering requirement comes into play. 

No-Deposit Bonus 

If you’re new to the gambling world, especially online, using your own money and investing it in something is always a risk and can be stressful. For that reason, some casinos provide new players with a risk-free option to play with no-deposit bonuses.

Although the amounts are far smaller than regular bonuses, they give players a feel of what it would be like to play with real funds. Bear in mind that the casino is giving away money for free, so these bonus’ wagering requirements are usually steep. 

Free Spins

This promo may be one of the most straightforward bonuses to understand. Free spins do not equate to money and usually apply only to slots. The casino awards them on their own or as part of a welcome bonus deal. 

You’ll receive x amount of free spins on selected slot games to wager at no extra cost to you. If you manage to win cash, you’ll be unable to withdraw it unless you fulfil the required conditions, as the winnings are considered the same as bonus credit received from a deposit bonus.

Other Bonuses and Features 


This bonus applies to the high rollers and old gamblers who regularly place bets and feed money into the casino. If you end up having a loss over a specific period, the casino will activate this bonus to return a fraction of the funds back that you lost. The amount returned is not large, and generally ranges between 5% to 30%.

Cashable Vs Non-Cashable

If you’ve met the wagering requirements and are allowed to keep the bonus money, you refer to the bonus as cashable or redeemable. These are highly valued but have small amounts. 

Alternatively, the money given to you by the casino that you cannot withdraw is known as non-cashable or phantom bonuses. Depending on the game strategy you prefer, these bonuses offer much value in spins and an increased chance of hitting the jackpot. 

Sticky Bonuses

Sticky bonuses are a type of non-cashable bonuses and are mostly for demo versions of games; this is because the bonus money is stuck in your account and you cannot withdraw it. No matter how often you wager or win, the money remains in your account and affords you the chance to play more. 

Free Play Bonuses 

Free play bonuses used to be quite popular, as they allowed you to familiarise yourself with an assortment of games and enjoy them without the risk of losing your cash. 

The way it works is the casino would provide you with a sum of money to play within a limited amount of time. During that time, you should try to make as much as you can, also with a set limit. When the time is up, the money carried over from the amount given to you can be played with as a regular bonus. 

For example, the casino gives you £500 to play with for an hour. If after that hour is finished, you’ve earned £750, you can use the remaining £250 as a regular casino bonus.

Vips and Casino Loyalty

Each casino offers customised and exclusive bonuses to its long-time and VIP members. These may include exciting deals, higher withdrawal limits, tickets to actual events such as sports and concerts, as well as private tournaments. 

Playthrough Requirements 

To receive the bonus offered, you first need to complete multiple playthrough requirements before you can be eligible for it. These are cash and bonus, or only a bonus.

  • Cash and bonus – this means that the money deposited and the bonus on offer are required to go through the same amount of playthrough time before you can process a withdrawal. When you’ve met this requirement, the casino will provide you with a cash-out option. 
  • Only bonus – this playthrough requirement is only assigned to the bonus and does not require a cash deposit. You can withdraw the cash deposited immediately after a win.

Tip: See our lists for bonuses with low wagering requirement and no wagering requirement bonuses.


Licensing is one of the more crucial things we need you to consider when joining a specific casino. As a first-timer, you might not be aware of online gambling licenses and how they can prevent you from being scammed. 

All online facilities should be licensed and regulated, furnishing players with the knowledge that the website can be trusted and isn’t a scam to get their money. Please be vigilant and don’t fall for any site that boasts incredible bonuses but doesn’t have credible licensing. 

Customer Protection

When you sign up with any online casino, first establish which security firm or encryption it uses to secure its database. This way, you can prevent your personal information such as identity or card details from being lost to a cyber attack.

Is it Worth It?

Like many other industries, online casinos have evolved from where it used to be to where it is now; and where bonuses are concerned, it is not necessarily a good thing. 

As players became smarter, casinos had to counteract the amount of money it lost to said players. Casinos began to increase wagering requirements and limit the number of games customers could play when claiming a bonus. This has led to a steady decline in the interest of casino bonuses. 

To save itself from long-term losses brought on by gamblers who would abuse bonuses, casinos restricted low-house edge games from bonus play. They became drastically strict when it came to rescinding someone’s claim to a bonus. 

The lack of appeal is generated by the fact that casino bonuses trap players. Players deposit their money, attempt to claim their reward and then are slammed by a wagering requirement that makes withdrawing in the short term futile if you do win. Also, it can leave you with little likelihood that you’ll win in the long term. 


Bonuses could be an exciting way to have an edge if you foresee yourself having a long term relationship with an online casino. They provide you with cashback, free spins, and other exciting features. 

However, if you’d prefer to stop playing and withdraw immediately after a big win, or want to be free to play any game you desire, then we recommend that you don’t claim a bonus. This way, you’re not forced to play for longer just to withdraw your funds, and you’re not limited to a few specific games.

Also, always try to identify casinos with good reputations and a track record of paying out to their clients. You can check out reviews and customer complaints on the casino website and decide if it’s worth joining or not.

Author Thomas Wolf


Thomas Wolf

384 articles

Thomas Wolf is our editor in chief. With an extensive background in online gambling (both working for casino operators and game studios) as well as an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, he's a proper authority on online casinos. When not running the day to day operations or reviewing new operators Thomas is a blackjack aficionado with some seriously big wins recorded at land-based casinos in both Las Vegas, Monaco and Macau.

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