Casino bonuses can seem very generous, as though they're literally money for nothing. But the reality is that casinos place certain restrictions on withdrawing your 'free' money.
These restrictions are known as playthrough or wagering requirements and you'll always find them hidden away in the bonus terms and conditions (we include all Ts & Cs on our casino-specific bonus pages)
The wagering / playthrough will be around 20 - 30x. In other words, the bonus has to be wagered that number of times (20 or 30) before it can be cashed.
So, for example, if a bonus of £300 has a 20x wagering / playthrough requirement, you must place a total of £6000 worth of bets (20 x 300) before you can withdraw the bonus.
This is simple enough. It gets complicated when a casino places different percentages on specific games. Put simply, the casino thinks that certain games are easier to place large numbers of bets on than others, so they make you place more bets on those games.
You'll find that games like Roulette and Blackjack (if they're available - some casinos ban them altogether from bonus play) will count a lot less than 100%.
The numbers vary from casino to casino but in general, Keno counts 100%, Roulette, Sic Bo and Pai Gow 50% and Blackjack and Baccarat 10%.
So if, for example, you wish to play just Sic Bo, your wagering / playthrough requirement on a £300 bonus with 20x basic requirement would be £12000 (300 * (100 / 50) * 20).
If your chosen game was Blackjack, it would be £60000 (300 * (100 / 10) * 20).
A player claims a bonus of £100 with a 20x wagering / playthrough requirement.
Using this bonus, he wagers £20 at Keno, £20 at Pai Gow, £30 at Sic Bo and £30 at Punto Banco.
The total contribution towards the wagering requirement is therefore:
100% of £20 (Keno) + 50% of £20 (Pai Gow) + 50% of £30 (Sic Bo) + 10% of £30 (PB)
i.e. £20 + £10 + £15 + £3 = £48 has been wagered towards the total playthrough requirements of £2000.
No casino wants to lose money - that's not the business they're in! So all bonuses, no matter how eye-catching the headline figure may be, are calculated with the finest margins to ensure that the casinos come out on top in the long run.
There are, though, short term fluctuations which mean that players can sometimes gain from using a bonus - why else would you take one out? But it's important to know what odds you're against when you choose to take a bonus to play your favourite game.
To help you, we've devised a simple formula that takes into account all the factors above and indicates how much you can expect to win or lose for any bonus on any game.
Hopefully, we've explained wagering / playthrough requirements to you now, so you know exactly what's required of should you decide to take up a sign-up bonus at a new casino (remember, you don't have to - you can just play without a bonus)
Our casino bonuses page gives you the latest offers at our recommended casinos. Each bonus has its own page where we give you the exact wagering / playthrough requirements on a game by game basis.