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All About Online Casino Bonuses & Promotions (and How to Get Yours)

Offline casinos offer promotions. They run slots tournaments, progressive jackpots, room and meal comps, show tickets, and more. But their deals pale in comparison to what online casinos offer. At least in terms of cold hard cash.

This isn’t reason enough to play online. You should play online because it’s convenient and because you have hundreds of casino games at your fingertips, just a couple mouse clicks away.

But casino deals are a nice perk. But only when you know what you’re getting yourself into. Because casino bonuses and promotions aren’t free. There are terms you must fulfill – which you’ll need to complete before you’re allowed to cash out your winnings.

We explain this later in our guide, as well as list the most common deals casinos offer, and which ones are best for specific types of players.

So, you’ll want to pay attention to what we’ve got to say next. Because – if you play your cards right – you can get your hands on all sorts of deals you can use to pad your bankroll.

But before we get to that, let’s talk about why online casinos offer these deals in the first place.

Why Do Casinos Offer Promotions?

Casinos don’t say why they offer promotions. But here’s what we think:

To attract customers.

People like getting deals. They like free money, spins and cash back – especially if they were going to deposit and play anyway. So, the thought of depositing xxx and getting free money on top of that is appealing.

To compete with other online casinos.

Almost every online casino offers bonuses and promotions. Nowadays it’s almost the minimum barrier to entry to becoming an operator. Because if you were to take two casinos, nearly identical in every way – and, trust us, most casinos are the same – and one offered a bonus and the other one didn’t, which one would you join?

To encourage you to play more.

This works a couple different ways.

Say you have an account at Bovada. Maybe you haven’t played in 6 months. The casino will try to get you to deposit and play again by sending you an offer.

The most common offer sent to dormant accounts are called ‘reload’ bonuses. They’ll send you a real juicy offer to tempt you to whip out your plastic, deposit and start playing again.

Another way they encourage players to play more is by offering a VIP program. These come in all shapes and sizes. The most common is to give players points for real money wagers. You can save these points up to exchange for perks, or you can exchange them for cash back.

Either way, points give you incentive to continue playing – especially if you’re only a few points away from earning a prize or cash back.

To reward loyalty.

Repeat customers are the best. They’re the cheapest to market to and make money from. They’ve already gave you money once, so chances are they’ll be willing to do it again.

Casinos know this. Which is one of the reasons why they reward loyal customers.

Casinos will acknowledge them, make them feel good. They’ll give them exclusive deals. Make them feel as if they’re part of a special group. Anything that lets the player know the casino appreciates their business.

In turn, the player will spend more money with the casino. It’s a perpetuating cycle.

This can go hand-in-hand with a loyalty or VIP program. Though some casinos will have two different programs – one for the general public, and a private one for invites only.

Why Do You Want a Bonus?

Okay, so we looked at reasons why casinos offer bonuses and promotions. But there’s another question we want to answer.

Why would you want a bonus?

It goes beyond just wanting a deal. Or, it should. There are many reasons why you should consider taking a casino up on an offer.

Here are a few reasons why:

To offset losses

A deposit bonus or cash back can offset any losses you’ve had. Because, the truth is, most people WILL lose their money. But with a bonus or comp, you may not have to log off empty handed.

To play longer

Similar idea.

You’re all but guaranteed to lose your money. But at least with a bonus or cash back scheme you can prolong your stay. It’s a great feeling to run out of credits, only to realize you can play a little longer because you have some cash back coming your way.

To test a casino

Bonuses are a great way to test a casino. You can deposit a nominal amount and double up, or maybe get your hands on some free spins or cash, then take the casino for a test drive. The goal is to see if you like the casino’s software, games, support, and more.

Bonuses let you do that without having to front (all) the money yourself. It reduces your risk.

To pad your bankroll

Not everyone has $500, $1,000 or $10,000 to pad our casino account with. But you can get close thanks to finding some generous match bonuses.

For example, say you only have $250. If you can find a 100% match offer, you’ll have $500 to play with. A 200% match offer will give you $750.

If you happen to win, you can then cash out and take your bankroll to another casino to take advantage of another offer. Then rinse and repeat.

The bottom line?

There are many reasons why you should consider taking a deposit bonus or promotion. They help you play longer, make you feel like you’ve won something, or increase your starting bankroll.

That said, there are reasons why you should skip a bonus or promotion, too.

We’ll talk about these in a bit.

But first, let’s talk about the types of bonuses and promotions online casinos offer, as well as how they all work.

Types of Casino Bonuses

There are lots of different types of bonuses. Let’s look at the most common ones you’ll find online.

Welcome Bonus – These are reserved for first time players (brand new customers). The most common welcome bonuses are match bonuses. Sometimes these come in a package that also include free spins, cash, drawing, etc.

Match Bonus – With these offers, the casino is saying they will match so much of your deposit.

For example, say a casino is offering a 100% match bonus up to $500. If you deposit $250, the casino will give you $250, making your total bankroll $500. If you have more, you can deposit as much as $500 to get $500 free (for a total bankroll of $1,000).

Match percentages and max bonus amounts will vary from casino to casino.

Reload Bonus – These are for existing customers and are usually match bonuses. Often they’re smaller in size than a welcome bonus.

High Roller – Casinos don’t offer many ‘high roller’ bonuses. Not to the public anyway. They make these offers to customers who play for hundreds or thousands of dollars per round.

The largest bonuses you’ll see casinos make to the public is between $5,000 and $10,000, though you might find larger ones with some research.

The best way to find a high roller bonus is to chat with the casino before you deposit to see if they can accommodate your needs.

No Deposit – These are smaller bonuses the casino gives out without requiring you to make a deposit first. These are smaller bonuses, often $25 or less. You usually can’t cash them out, either, as they’re only for playing.

Game Bonuses – These are offers for specific games, like slots, blackjack or video poker. You don’t see specific offers too often, outside of maybe offers for slots/keno, blackjack or video poker. This used to be more common back in the day at Real Time Gaming casinos.

Banking Method Bonuses – This is a bonus some casinos offer for using a specific banking method. For example, you might earn an additional 10 or 20 percent match bonus – on top of the normal bonus – if you use Skrill or Neteller to fund your account.

Sticky Bonus – These are bonuses you can use only for playing. Once you clear the requirements you won’t be able to cash the bonus money out, though you can usually cash out any winnings you won with it.

Cash Back – Casinos will give you cash back for a couple different reasons. One reason is because they give you points for every dollar you wager. After you’ve collected so many points you can exchange them for cash back. Another is to give you a rebate on your losses. For example, the casino might give you a 10% or 20% rebate on a Monday for your losses the previous week.

Free Play – These offers are sort of like insurance. Take BetOnline.ag, for example. They have a $25 live dealer free play. Their offer is for you to make your first bet in their live dealer casino. If you win, you get nothing. But if your first bet loses, they’ll cover your losses up to $25.

That’s it. Those are the most common bonuses you’ll find online.

But that’s not all the offers online casinos have. They have other kinds of promotions too, which we’ll explore in the next section.

Types of Casino Promotions

Casinos offer so much more than just bonuses. We want to take a couple minutes and show you the most common types of non-bonus promotions casinos offer.

VIP – VIP promotions are probably the biggest offers outside of deposit bonuses. These vary drastically from one casino to the next. Some casinos’ VIP program will consist of nothing more than a points-to-cash back program. You earn points for every dollar you wager. Then you turn those points in for cash back.

On the other (extreme) end, casinos will have a multi-tier VIP program. The points you earn may be used for cash back, but they’re also used to determine what your VIP level, status or tier. You want to pay attention to this, because each level up will come with additional perks.

For example, some VIP perks may include:

  • One on one service
  • Exclusive bonuses
  • Points multipliers (earn player points faster)
  • Higher points to cash back conversion rate (earn cash back faster)
  • Junkets (paid trips)
  • Gifts
  • Birthday gifts/bonus
  • Higher table stakes
  • Free spins
  • Faster or expedited payouts
  • Free payouts
  • Free play offers
  • Cash back on losses
  • Free spins
  • Higher deposit limits

And more. It varies wildly from one casino to the next.

Refer-a-Friend – Some might say this is a ‘bonus’ too, but not every referral program works the same way. The general idea is that the casino will pay you for every depositing friend you send their way. They might give you a flat commission, or give you a percentage of your friend’s deposit. It just depends.

The best programs won’t limit you on how many friends you can send.

Free Spins – These are free slot spins. Some casinos offer this as a standalone promotion, and other times it’s attached to another offer – like a deposit bonus. Free spins will either be for a specific machine or which machine you want. You’ll know before you sign up.

Progressive Jackpots – This may not seem like a ‘promotion’ because progressive jackpots are part of a game. But casinos do advertise their progressive and encourage you to play their progressive machines.

Why wouldn’t they? The house edge on these games is huge. But on the flipside, if you hit one there’s a good chance you’ll never have to work another day in your life.

Slots Tournaments – Buy in for a flat fee – just like a poker tournament – and strive to spin your way to the highest score. The top x highest scores will earn a piece of the prize pool (divvied out like a poker tourney).

And that wraps up the most common casino promotions.

But there are many others, often one off deals you’ll only find at one casino or another. For example, 5Dimes has a promotion where some of their casino games have a lower house edge compared to games offered at other casinos. Or reversed commission pai gow poker. Or increased table stakes for specific games.

Or …or …you get the idea.

Important: Read the Fine Print Before Agreeing to a Promotion

Bonus Terms at Bovada

Is your spider-sense tingling yet?

If not, you should have it checked because it should be.

The people with tuned spider-senses or BS-meters will be wondering, what’s the catch? There’s no way the casino’s offering these deals for free.

And they’d be right. There is a catch. There’s always a catch.

Every bonus and promotion will have fine print you’re going to want to read. Because it’s going to tell you the terms you need to fulfill in order to have and (possibly) cash out the bonus.

Casinos have these rules to prevent players from signing up, getting the bonuses – because the casinos will deposit the funds immediately into your account – and then cashing it out.

Because it sort of defeats the purpose of attracting new customers when someone just takes the bonus and runs.

The Most Important Condition: The Rollover

The most important condition you want to be familiar with is the rollover or playthrough. This is a number the casino requires you wager your deposit, bonus or deposit and bonus before you’re allowed to cash out.

Confused? Here’s an example:

Say the casino rollover is 40x the bonus.

If you get a $1,000 bonus, the casino requires you to wager that 40 times – or $40,000 – before you can cash out or have the bonus turned into real money and placed in your account.

If it was 40x the deposit AND bonus, you’d have to wager $80,000.

And if you try to cash out before then?

Each casino’s different. Some just won’t let you. Others will void your winnings, which may include any winnings won before you even had the bonus.

Unfair? Maybe, but those are the terms and conditions you agreed to when you accepted the promotion.

Anyway, that’s the first thing you want to look for. You want to know how much money you need to wager to clear the bonus. This varies from casino to casino, and can be anywhere from 10x to 70x (or more).

Game Restrictions + Rollover Handicapping

The next thing you want to look for are game restrictions. Most casinos will prohibit certain games from being played to clear their offers. For example, the most common prohibited games are of the low edge variety –  blackjack, roulette, craps, pai gow poker and video poker.

Casinos don’t say why. But we have a few guesses.

Low house edge. Variance alone can cost casinos millions of dollars in the short. Because even without perfect strategy the house edge for most games is less than 5%. So, there’s no way the casino is going to give you a bonus ON TOP of that.

Coin flips. Some games, like roulette, offer even money bets on red/black or even/odd. These are coin flips. If you bet both sides, you’d win one bet and lose the other.

(Except for when the ball lands on 0 or 00.)

The problem for casinos is you could bet both sides, not lose any/much money, all the while clear a several hundred or several thousand-dollar bonus.

This is darn near free money. Casinos aren’t up for that.

So, most casinos will say you can’t play these games. Or, certain bets (like red/black or even/odd) are prohibited.

Other times the casino will merely handicap your wagers.

In other words, instead of saying you can’t play blackjack or jacks or better video poker, the casino will handicap each bet so it’s worth less than a slot bet (in terms of clearing a bonus).

For example, blackjack wagers are often worth 10% of a normal (slots) wager. So for every $1 you bet on blackjack, you’re only clearing $0.10 of your bonus.

Put another way – at 10% you have to wager 10x the normal playthrough. If the playthrough is 40x, your playthrough for playing blackjack is now 400x. That turns a $40,000 playthrough into a $400,000. Or, an $800,000 playthrough if you have to rollover both the deposit AND bonus.

Highway robbery, right?

Yup. But, once again, you agreed to the terms before you accepted the bonus. And this is why it’s so important to read the terms and conditions before you say yes to any offers that graces your inbox.

Because sometimes it will make sense to pass on those offers. Especially the offers that want you to spend 6-figures BEFORE you’ll be allowed to request a cash out.

How to Get a Bonus or Promotion

So, you’re interested in getting your grubby hands on a bonus. How do you do it?

That depends on the offer. Most are automatically applied to your account.

For example, take the welcome bonus. Almost always the casino is going to apply it to your account automatically when you make your first deposit. And the bonus funds will be available to use within a few hours, if not minutes.

Note: Delivery time DOES depend on the casino. The best way to find out how and when a casino delivers their bonus (or any other promo) is to read our casino reviews.

VIP programs and cash back incentives are automatic, too. Once you start making bets you’ll start generating points. Some casinos will exchange your points for cash automatically, while others will say you need to request exchanges manually.

But offers like reload deposit bonuses, you’ll usually have to ask for those when you make your deposit. One way to do that is to enter a bonus code for that specific offer. These are usually found on the casino’s promotion page, or it might be in an email they sent you.

Where to Find Promotions

Most promotions will be listed on the casino’s website. They’ll have them listed on their homepage, or on a dedicated promotions page.

These are usually their evergreen promotions. Their welcome bonuses, reload bonuses, cash back, VIP programs, etc.

Many casinos also send out offers by email. These will be exclusive, limited time offers, which is why it pays to stay subscribed to their newsletter. You’ll never know when you come across an offer you have to have.

And, sometimes, the casino will reach out to you individually – by email, private message or through your player account. This will especially be the case if you’re a high volume or frequent player. Their goal is to keep you happy, to keep you playing. The best online casinos are proactive in doing just that.

That’s about it.

Honestly, getting access to new promotions and having them tagged to your account is one of the easiest parts of gambling online.

Conclusion

Whew! We’re almost done with this behemoth of a guide.

Now you know just about everything there is about casino bonuses and the different promotions they run.

To summarize, we showed you:

  • Why casinos offer bonuses and promotions.
  • Why you should consider taking casinos up on their offers.
  • The types of bonuses and promotions casinos offer.
  • The importance of reading the fine print …and the most important terms and conditions to look for.
  • How to get your hands on a bonus, and where to find additional offers once you’re done with all the casino’s core promos.

Your next step?

Check out our FAQ section below. We answer the most common questions we receive about bonuses that we couldn’t fit into the guide above.

And after that?

Get your hands on a bonus or VIP program. A great place to find them is our casino reviews. And for those, we recommend starting with our list of best online casinos.

Casino Bonus FAQ

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions we receive about bonuses and promotions …and our answers.

What type of bonus should I look for?

That depends. I suggest focusing on the type of casino you want to join – with the games and banking methods you want – first.

Assuming you’ve done that, here’s what I suggest –

If you have lots of money, I recommend finding the largest bonus you’re willing to clear. For example, if you have $5,000 and have no problem wagering tens or hundreds of thousands, then try to find a 100+ percent (or larger) match bonus up to $5,000-$10,000.

However, if you’re on a budget, your best bet is to find the largest match percentage you can so you can get the most mileage out of your bankroll.

In other words, if you have $500, you COULD take a casino up on their 50% up to $500 or 100% up to $500 offer.

But I think a better approach is to find a 150%, 200% or 300% bonus. That way, you get $1.50, $2 or $3 for every $1 you deposit. Your money will go a lot further this way.

Do I have to have a bonus?

No.

Most casinos say you can turn down a bonus or request that you’re not given one. However, they all have different procedures for how to do this.

Some will let you check a box or in otherwise some way let them know you don’t want one when you make your deposit.

In other cases, you’ll need to message support and let them know you don’t want it. And you need to do this BEFORE you make your deposit. Otherwise you may get stuck with one.

If a casino doesn’t give you the option to say no to a bonus, I’d reconsider playing there.

How do I find the best bonus or promotion for me and the games I like to play?

There are a couple of different ways to find offers –

  • Read our reviews. You’ll find information about casinos’ evergreen offers, such as their referral programs, VIP programs and welcome packages.
  • Casino promo pages. You’ll find evergreen information + info about seasonal or limited time offers on a casino’s promotion page. Nearly every casino we’ve ever seen has one.
  • Casino email newsletter. Get the hottest and most recent offers sent directly to your inbox.

Casino offers – especially seasonal or time limited offers – change frequently. So, my recommendation is to do all 3 of these things.

If you do this for a couple different casinos you shouldn’t have any problem finding a few different offers for the specific games you like to play and that also fit your budget.

How do you know when an offer’s bad?

This is sort of subjective. Meaning, how do you define a ‘bad’ offer?

Most offers are legit if they’re coming from casinos that are above board. But they might not be worth your time.

In other words, think back to when we talked about casinos that handicap games to the point to where you may need to wager tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

…to clear a tiny $1,000 bonus.

Is that worth your time? I don’t think so. Especially when it’s keeping you from cashing out any winnings you may have in your account. Winnings you could lose while trying to clear your bonus.

But really, only you can decide if an offer like that is worth your time.

(Some review sites will say aggressive terms like that make them rogue or shady casinos. We’re not so sure. After all, they can make whatever terms they want. It’s their business.)

The bottom line – a truly bad offer, I think, comes from a bad casino who tries to force an offer on you or gives you a bonus with no intention of every paying you. That, to me, is the definition of a bad offer.

Do casinos screw players over on offers?

It’s possible. But usually only if you join a shady casino. And that will only happen if you get greedy – you join a shady casino knowing they’re shady, but you ignore that because of the big bonus they’re offering – or because you didn’t do your research beforehand.

Both situations are your fault because both situations are avoidable.

Can you ever beat the house between deposit bonuses and your winnings?

The simple answer – no. The casino would have no incentive to give out bonuses and perks if the players ended up ahead.

However, if you get lucky, play good and run good, depending on the game and bonus you might get close to break even, MAYBE squeak out a profit.

To have a chance at this I’d stick to games like blackjack or video poker where the house edge is low and you can use basic strategy.

How long until you get your bonus?

Most bonuses are automatic. Though it will depend on the offer and casino. Our reviews will tell you for sure. The casino website will tell you, too.

Can you withdraw your bonus? Can you withdraw money won from your bonus money?

Sometimes. It depends on the offer.

Usually the larger offers, like match or reload bonuses, are cashable bonuses. Which means you can use them for both playing and cashing out.

The other kind, non-cashable or play bonuses, are usually the smaller free play or no deposit offers. These are for playing only. You can’t cash these out. But you CAN cash out the money you win using this money once you fulfill any terms the casino may have.

Is there a min deposit? Is there a max deposit?

Most casinos will have a min deposit for their offers. However, this usually coincides with their min deposit amount.

The maximum depends on the bonus. For example, a 100% match up to $1,000 – the max bonus you can get is $1,000. You can deposit however much you want, but you won’t get any more (bonus) money than that.

Can mobile players get bonuses?

Yes. Some casinos offer exclusive bonuses to mobile players while others will let mobile players have whatever general offer they have going.

Sometimes you’ll find a casino, like BetOnline, that will offer a nominal amount for just trying their mobile casino. This type of offer is a free cash offer you get only when you make a bet via your mobile device and lose. These types of bets are more or less a type of insurance.

What’s bonus hunting?

This is an old-school strategy players used when offers were easier to clear.

The general idea is this –

Players would go from one casino to the next clearing deposit bonuses. They would approach it in such a way that they’d minimize their out of pocket costs and maximize how much they’d earn.

For example, say you started with a $250 bankroll. What you WOULDN’T want to do is find a 100% match up to $1,000 bonus because you can’t take advantage of the whole thing.

A much better idea would be to find a 200% up to $500 offer and clear that. Because you can take advantage of the whole thing.

Once you clear that, and assuming you have more money than what you started with, you’d take that bankroll to another casino where they have a slightly larger offer. Then clear that.

Then rinse and repeat.

The idea is you do this until you’ve turned your $250 bankroll into a $500, $1,000 or $5,000 bankroll. And because there are so many casinos out there, you could stay busy for a long time …and make a nice chunk of change while you’re at it.

But this strategy doesn’t work nowadays.

For one thing, deposit bonuses are much harder to clear. And for another, casinos look down on players who try to abuse or take advantage of the system.

So, there’s not much of a point in trying.