Wagering Requirements: The Dark Side of Casino Bonuses

Wagering Requirements have been getting a lot of attention lately, and it’s not just because BGO decided to do away with them. These requirements state that if a player has received a deposit bonus, then they can’t take that money or any winnings derived from it out of their online account until they have placed bets of a certain size. They may win some and lose some along the way, but until the ‘wagering requirement’ has been met, money can’t be withdrawn. Sometimes this can even apply to the initial deposit that gained the bonus in the first place.

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Gambling companies have been under investigation by the UK Competition and Markets Authority and the Gambling Commission. Neither they nor the consumers with whom they consulted are happy. The UK CMA stated that they were concerned about “terms preventing players from withdrawing any money they have deposited in their account unless they have wagered its value through in full once, or several times”. Since then, companies have been falling over themselves to ensure that players understand these restrictions, which include wagering requirements.

The fact is, players need to do the maths. If a deposit bonus offers to double your money and you put €10 into your player account, then you have €20 to play with. A 40X wagering requirement on the bonus means that you need to wager a total of €400 (40 x €10 bonus) in order to withdraw any winnings from using the bonus.

All this is fairly straightforward. However, things can get tricky with larger deposits or higher wagering requirements. It’s all a question of scale. If you deposit €100, instead of €10, on a 40x wagering requirement, then you have to play through a much more significant €4,000 (40 x €100). Because our brains are hardwired to deal with small numbers, most people will look at the 40x part, which hasn’t changed, and be blind to the €3,600 difference between them.

Not all bets are equal

Furthermore, not all bets are equal. With games such as slots, 100% of the bets you place will count towards the wagering requirement. But games with a lower margin for the house are sometimes ineligible or restricted to contributing only a percentage of your stake. Bets on Roulette for instance usually only count 25% towards wagering requirements, and Blackjack often only counts 10%. There are also online casinos that restrict the way the money can be spent by placing a maximum bet size limitation on any wagers made using the bonus – they can’t have punters making a huge bet and clearing the wagering requirement in one go. Some might win big and it would defeat the requirement’s main purpose.

The issue isn’t only a financial one. Wagering limits encourage players to make multiple small bets, which is pretty reassuring. However, the value to the company isn’t just in getting new customers; it’s getting customers who are loyal. By the time you’ve played through your wagering requirement, the site is familiar to you, you are comfortable with their system and less likely to look for better deals elsewhere. The more time you spend playing, the more likely you are to keep coming back for more. This also has implications for fostering problem gambling, which is one of the reasons the investigators are taking the issue so seriously.

If you get lucky and have a big win, then you could find yourself with winnings that you want to cash out, but that won’t change the fact that you will still have to spend €100s or even €1000s at the site to fulfil your wagering requirement. We’ve looked at examples of €10 and €100 with a fairly standard 40x requirement, however, many sites offer deposit bonuses look incredibly generous, but come with 50x or even 80x wagering requirements attached to them.

The only way for the companies to avoid prosecution by the UK CMA and other consumer protection organisations is to make sure that everyone understands exactly what the wagering requirements mean in financial terms. Some online casinos have opted to make explanations pop up next to all offers. This can be off-putting for new players deciding whether to sign up.

The good news is that the gaming companies have two other options. They can make sure that wagering requirements are much more generous, such as 2x or 4x the bonus, or, as BGO recently decided, simply do away with them altogether.

Finding fair deals

Not every online casino is cranked up on wagering requirements. There are still a lot of casinos offering free spins and bonuses without tying customers to ridiculous multiples.

There are also websites such as NoWagering.com, which are dedicated to sharing information on wager-free spins  and other promotions with low wagering requirements.

Players can still vote with their feet, and if demand shifts to offers with the lowest wagering requirements then operators will have no choice but to jump on the bandwagon.