Understanding the True Cost of Online Casino Bonuses

Casino Bonus Cost

Each online casino bonus seems better than the last and in a highly competitive environment, online casinos are continually inventing new ways to attract new players and keep existing players loyal to their casino. We've looked at the various online casino bonuses and whether or not taking advantages of bonuses is worthwhile in a previous article, but from what we've seen around the player forums, many people still don't understand the true cost of online casino bonuses and often end up angry and slating online casinos that in effect have really done nothing outside what is standard industry practice when it comes to bonus offers.

It is important to always bear in mind that no matter what type of bonus a casino is offering, whether it be a 100% or 200% match deposit bonus, 1 hour free play, or 100 free spins, as a player you will inevitably want to convert your bonus to real money within your player account, but this is the point where these types of bonuses will cost you.


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In order to cash out any bonus related money, you will have to comply with the casino's wagering requirements which generally dictate that the bonus or the bonus plus your deposit need to be wagered a specific number of times. This generally means that you will need to risk some of your own money, often equivalent to many times more than the bonus is actually worth in order to cashout part of your bonus or any winnings earned while using your bonus money.

While this is all stated in the fine print of the online casino's terms and conditions, it's not always as easy to understand as one might like. So let's take a look at how it all works and what accepting a bonus can end up costing you:

Calculating the Cost of a Bonus

When calculating the cost of a bonus there are three important factors to consider in order to understand how much a bonus will cost you. These include:

  • The wagering requirement
  • The wagering percentage that a certain game contributes towards fulfilling wagering requirements.
  • The house edge or advantage in a certain game

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The Wagering requirement

The wagering requirement (WR) is the number of times a bonus or deposit plus bonus total needs to be wagered before the bonus can be cashed out. Wagering requirements can differ from one bonus to another as well as from one casino to another but generally, they range between 20 and 40 times the bonus plus deposit, depending on where you play.

Percentage of Game Contribution

The wagering percentage that a certain game contributes to the overall wagering requirement differs from one game to another. This figure can be seen as a multiplier of the Wagering Requirement, for example, if you play a game that counts 50% towards the wagering requirement, you will need to wager twice as much on this game in order to fulfil the requirement.

Game contributions towards the WR are generally more complex on games like Blackjack, Baccarat and Roulette because casinos have different requirements for these games, which generally are only considered to contribute 50% or less to the wagering requirement. For example, Microgaming powered online casinos generally only count Blackjack as contributing 8% of the wagering requirement. So this means that if you choose to accept a bonus and play this table game, the wagering requirement will, in reality, be WAY higher than the originally stated 25x bonus plus deposit.

If however you are a slots enthusiast, these games usually contribute 100% towards the wagering requirement, so it's pretty straight forward.

House Edge/Advantage

The house edge or advantage refers to the percentage of total wagers taken that the casino expects to retain over the long term. This means that if a game has a 5% house edge, the casino will project an overall profit of 5% from that game over the long term.

Some games have lower house edges than others, ranging from 1% in Blackjack (when played according to solid basic blackjack strategy) to over 50% when placing wagers on the worst odds bets in games like Keno.

The house edge in a certain game will affect the amount of time that you'll need to play a game before you can show a profit.


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The Bonus Trap

Casinos are in business, because over time, they make a profit. If this weren't the case then they wouldn't exist. Yes, players still win big, but in the long run, casinos always come out on top. When it comes to bonuses, the trap comes in that the wagering requirement, game contribution percentages and house edge work together to ensure that your wagering is at a level where the projected loss is larger than the bonus amount.

If you gamble without a bonus, your projected loss, or rather the amount that you should be prepared to lose can be determined using the following calculation:

Projected loss = Amount wagered x House advantage

So, if you bet 1000 credits on a casino came with a 2% house edge, you should be prepared to lose 20 credits.

If you are gambling to cashout a bonus, the total you will need to wager will be determined by the wagering requirement and the game contribution percentage as follows:

Total wagered = (Deposit + Bonus Amount) x WR x (100 / Game Contribution %)

Therefore: Expected loss = ((Deposit + Bonus Amount) x WR x (100 / Game %)) x House advantage

Let's put this to work using a Blackjack example, imagining that you've accepted a 100% match bonus of 50 with 30x wagering requirement to play your favourite game of Blackjack which carries a house advantage of 0.5% or 0.005 and which contributes 10% to the total WR.

Expected loss = ((50+50) x 30 x (100 / 10)) x 0.005

So your expected loss is 150 credits. So the total that you have to wager in order to access your 50 credit bonus, is on average 3 times the bonus amount and will result in a 150 loss. Makes you think...doesn't it?

Not all bonuses are bad

As we mentioned previously, slots players benefit from online casino bonuses as they have a 100% game contribution and many casinos have wagering requirements as low as 20x. When playing slots, online casinos expect most players to break even, and these bonuses are given to allow new visitors to experience the casino for themselves, and if they are lucky, they might find themselves coming out ahead.

If however, you are a definite table games enthusiast, it is always important to review the game contribution of your favourite casino game before accepting a bonus. If a casino automatically credits you with a bonus upon deposit, you don't have to accept it and oftentimes you simply have to contact support and explain why you'd prefer not to accept it and they will have it removed from your account.


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