If there is a single aspect of a promotional bonus offered by a casino, that is most frequently misunderstood or is confusing for players, then it is the issue of a wagering requirement.
That's important because almost every casino bonus that you will find online nowadays will have at least some form of wagering requirement attached to it, or any winnings you can land attributable from it.
So to help try and clarify the situation in the minds of players, who may not fully understand what a wagering requirement is, how it works, what it means in terms of how much you would need to spend and whether it applies to any subsequent deposits or transactions you may make, then hopefully this article will help you clarify a few issues.
It always makes sense to start at the beginning, so let's first define exactly what a wagering requirement is and how it is usually expressed by an online casino.
What is a wagering requirement and why is it needed?
A wagering requirement is simply a condition that an online casino will place on a bonus which prevents a player utilizing a bonus offer that benefits them, and then after winning some money on the bonus, then withdraws that cash immediately.
Instead, a player has to wager a stated amount (which is usually either the size of the bonus received, or the size of the players deposit, plus the bonus) a stated number of times at the casino, before they are allowed to withdraw any cash attributable to it.
The size of the wagering requirement is stated as a multiple of the bonus (or the deposit plus the bonus) and can range from smaller wagering requirements of 1x to 10x the stated amount, up to larger wagering requirements of up to 60x the stated amount.
As to the question of why wagering requirements are needed, it is simply to protect the casino from users being able exploit the benefits of an introductory offer or other promotion, making themselves a profit and then withdrawing it, putting the casino out of pocket.
For example, if a player could freely withdraw any winnings from, say a bonus offer of 25 Free Spins at a casino, let's say that the average player played their 25 Free Spins and won $50. If thousands of players logged into the site, played 25 Free Spins and won fifty, or so, dollars, then withdrew it, then the casino would very quickly go out of business.
After all, why would you turn down the chance to pocket a free $50 at the casinos expense?
Of course, such a move would mean a casino would go bankrupt in double-quick time, or more likely, would mean that casinos did not offer any such bonuses to players. Now casino's do not want to do that because bonus deals are what attract many players to sign up, so by adding a wagering requirement to the terms and conditions of the offer, they protect themselves from this happening.
I've signed up to a bonus offer and it says that my wagering requirement is 30x my bonus. What does that actually mean?
Here is how a typical wagering requirement of 30x your bonus works. Let's say you make a deposit of $20 and for that you receive a bonus of $40 in bonus cash. A 200% Matched Deposit bonus if you are interested in these kinds of offers.
Now what this means is that once you have spent through your $20 deposit and start wagering your $40 bonus cash, you need to wager 30x this stated amount before you can withdraw any monies that you earn from it. So in this example, this is a simple calculation. $40 x 30 is $1,200.
This means that before you withdraw any money from your bonus cash earned with your deposit, you must make bets of at least $1,200 using this money (or money won from it) in order to lift the wagering requirement.
Now in this scenario two things can happen. First, and most likely, you will run out of bonus funds before you reach the wagering requirement limit. In this case, that is fine, you will use up your bonus and won't be able to withdraw any cash. But the benefit to you is that you got many more chances to win more cash thanks to the deposit bonus you earned.
In rarer circumstances, you can find that you manage to win enough money from your initial deposit to complete the wagering requirements of your bonus. When you do, any money left in your bonus account once the requirement is met, is transferred into your cash balance and this means you are now free to withdraw that amount of money.
What other things do I need to look out for regarding a wagering requirement?
There are a couple of other things that you need to look out for when you take up a promotional offer that has a wagering requirement and I would advise you to ascertain these before you accept the promotional offer as they can have quite an impact on your chances of actually being able to complete the wagering requirement of your offer.
The first of these is how long you will have to complete the wagering requirement of your bonus. This does vary from offer to offer and from casino to casino. Some offers, you may have just a short period of time, say up to a month, in order to complete the wagering requirement in full. Others may see you have much longer periods (3 months or more, as a general rule of thumb).
If your bonus expires without you reaching the wagering requirement for your offer, then you will lose those bonus funds in your account (note, your cash balance will not be affected) upon expiry. So it is therefore wise to at least use all your bonus funds if you can, even if you don't meet the wagering requirement.
Due to the fact that different casino games offer players different chances of success (due to the varying house edge in these games), casinos will often state any games that only contribute a certain percentage of your wager towards your wagering requirement, and in some cases, some casino games, especially those with a very low house edge, may be disqualified from contributing to your wagering requirement at all.
In general, slot games tend to see every cent you play on the contribute towards your wagering requirement, but if you play a game that has, say a 20% contribution set (such as a hand of blackjack) then this means if you wager $10 on a hand of blackjack, then only $2 of that wager contributes towards your wagering requirement.
Some casinos won't let you play games with bonus funds that do not contribute to your wagering requirement, so you should bare that in mind when you start to play.
You can often find what percentage of your bet contributes to your wagering requirement for the games on offer at a casino by consulting the terms and conditions of the bonus offer.
Some casinos also apply Maximum Withdrawal limits on any bonus offer that has a wagering requirement and these could potentially be prohibitive, especially if your bonus play to meet your wagering requirement results in a large win.
For example, if you have a wagering requirement of 30x your $40 bonus, plus a maximum bonus withdrawal limit of $200, this means that if you win, say $2,000 playing through your wagering requirement, and after spending $300 to do precisely that, you are left with $1,700, the maximum bonus withdrawal limit means you can only withdraw $200 of that.
Although these maximum withdrawal limits are not really a concern for very small stakes players, for those that bet larger sums, they can be problematic if you hit a big win, so it is worth checking them out before you accept any offer.
It may seem a trivial matter, but it can make a big difference to your chances of actually lifting any wagering requirements, if your offer is based solely on the bonus amount you received, or your deposit and your bonus.
For example, if Casinos A and B. both have a new player bonus matched deposit offer of 100% with a wagering requirement of 30x, but Casino A's is based on the bonus amount only, and Casino B is based on the deposit and the bonus, then there will be a marked difference in how much you need to wager in order to lift the bonus.
Let's say a player deposits $100 in both Casino A and Casino B to access both offers, how much do they need to spend to lift their wagering requirement at each casino?
At Casino A, which calculates on the bonus only, this is $100 x 30, which is $3,000.
At Casino B however, which calculates on the bonus AND the deposit, this is $200 x 30, which is $6,000. As you can see, your chances of meeting your wagering requirement are much improved at Casino A.
Although it may seem that wagering requirements are there to penalize players, they are a necessary part of any offer a casino makes as without them, the casino could not financially sustain any of the offers they presently do.
That's why we like a casino that is clear with the terms and wagering requirements, such as the Red Stag's Welcome Offer. You can see who can claim it, what are the requirements and there's a link to open a separate page with full bonus terms. Well done!