Casino bonuses have been around as long as there have been, well, casinos. It is the most prevalent retention tool operators use to entice new players to sign-up or to tempt existing customers to make their next deposit on their site. However, as we say there is no such thing as a free lunch and just slapping extra cash onto a players’ deposit would mean the players make a profit before they even touch a game.
An easy way to explain it is the fact that casinos earn their revenue by having players wagering on their games. From the amount wagered they receive a cut from which they pay their overheads, marketing, bonus offers, taxes, fees and the remainder is then their profit. With slots generally running on average on a 96% RTP (Return to Player), it is the 4% that casinos are taking in as real revenue. Understandably, the more is wagered on the games, the higher the revenue.
So, giving players pure cash on top of their deposit is not profitable as they would not need to wager on the games to increase their cash balance. Hence, casinos issue their bonuses with a wagering requirement (WR). This applies to almost all deposit bonuses where bonus money is added to a deposited amount, the majority of free/extra/bonus spins where the winnings are added as bonus money or cashback bonus offers where a percentage of losses is awarded to eligible players.
We explained the different bonus types on our Casino Bonuses types article, leading us to this article where we will detail what wagering requirements are in practice. How is it calculated, how it proceeds, what games are better for bonus wagering as well as what wagering requirements are favourable or a trap for players.
What Does a Wagering Requirement Mean?
Usually, casinos publish the wagering requirements connected to a given bonus, either directly under the offer or in their bonus terms. For example: “The bonus must be wagered at least 40 times before the winnings can be withdrawn” or “25 times wagering requirement for bonus and deposit”.
In practice, the wagering requirement (WR) is the amount a player has to turn over on slots (or other games if allowed) before the bonus money is converted to cash and can be withdrawn. Take a WR of €4,000, which does not mean you have to lose the amount but instead, you have to play e.g. 800 spins at €5.00 per spin before the bonus money is yours. Of course, it does not apply should you bust out in your attempt to complete the wagering.
Generally, you will lose your bonus and deposit more often but in the event of making it through to the end, it will be a handsome reward on top of your deposited amount, especially if the wagering is attempted with big bets without actually going over the allowed limit.
What Rules Do You Need to Follow When Wagering?
There are separate articles on GMBLRS about rules and pitfalls of bonus wagering, but the most important rules that need to be followed are still worth mentioning and cannot be repeated enough times:
#1 always check the bonus terms for the maximum allowed bet size while you have a bonus active. Make sure you never go over it as it will allow the casino to confiscate your winnings.
#2 always check if bonuses come with a maximum withdrawal limit. Don’t take bonuses with a low limit as a big hit on a game might be then lost.
#3 always check what games are restricted and make sure to never even try to load them. Some casinos have a pop-up warning you but others don’t, making this one of the major pitfalls.
#4 do not change your bet size significantly after a big hit. Better accept that you can lose some of the balance or maybe even win more. Best is to continue with the same or similar bets as otherwise casinos can see it as a low-risk tactic and confiscate winnings.
How Is the Wagering Requirement Calculated?
The WR is usually expressed in the form of bonus amount multiplied by a given factor, which is normally between 30 and 75 times. Years ago these numbers were much lower.
In clear terms, claiming a 100% bonus with a €100 deposit and a 35x WR on the bonus will result in a total playing balance of €200 and a wagering requirement of 35 x €100 = €3,500. In these cases, the WR is expressed as 35 x B, the character indicating that only the bonus amount is multiplied by the wagering factor.
The second option to express the WR is to give a wagering factor multiplied by the sum of the deposit and bonus. Taking again a 100% bonus with a WR of 35x on a €100 deposit, leading to a €200 playing balance would see the total wagering requirement result in 35 x (€100 + €100) = €7,000, which is double the previous option. In these cases, the WR is shown as 35 x D+B.
Special attention should be given on smaller bonus percentages to see how the wagering requirement is calculated. For example, a 25% bonus up to €25, were the WR sounds rather small with 20x (deposit + bonus) means in reality on a €100 deposit a WR of 20 x (€100 + €25) = €2,500. In essence, the WR is actually 100x B.
The method to display the WR in D+B has become more widespread lately as it looks much smaller on first glance than it actually is. For the human eye and brain, a 20x always looks smaller than 40x. The WR for these bonuses are usually shown a 20x (D+B) where D stands for deposit and B for bonus, which only makes it more confusing for new or inexperienced players.
What Kind of Wagering Requirement Is Favourable for Players?
Below is a list of wagering requirements for xB formats, showing various levels of wagering needed to turn a bonus into cash. Any time you see a WR expressed in D+B it is advisable to convert it to the wagering factor for the bonus alone. Simply divide the total wagering amount by the bonus amount to get the factor.
- WR 1x – 4x Bonus: These are virtually free money for a player who doesn’t want to take a big risk. Can be wagered with small bets to hold the bulk of the bonus amount. You can still lose it when playing with big bets but having a reasonable hit could get you a nice profit. Some casinos might also have a requirement to wager your deposit at least once before you can withdraw. This is usually not part of the bonus terms but should it be, then you can mostly wager your deposit on low-risk games such as Blackjack.
- WR 5x – 34x Bonus: A very player-friendly requirement, usually easily achievable with small bets
- WR 35x – 40x Bonus: This middle-of-the-road WR bracket has been slowly disappearing lately
- WR 41x – 50x Bonus: Not particularly player-friendly, but not the worst either. Still OK with 100% bonuses while less than 50% should be avoided
- WR 51x – 75x Bonus: Starting to become an insurmountable task. Completing the WR will prove difficult. Keep your deposits low if they are tied in with the bonus and go for a big hit on a high variance slot.
- WR over 75x Bonus: Best avoided unless you are purely looking for extra balance and playtime. Completing this WR will be a rare feat.
Pay attention particularly to the 30x – 35x D+B type of bonuses (converts to a WR of 90x – 105x B on a 50% bonus), where casinos offer large bonus amounts of up to €1,000 with a percentage from 25% to 50%. A big deposit means a big risk for the player and while he receives a nice bonus amount, it will be practically impossible to complete the wagering unless all planets, the moon and the sun align on an extra lucky day.
It is imperative that you check if the casino where you are about to take a bonus is offering forfeitable types. In these cases, you are playing with your cash balance first and should you have an early big hit you are allowed to forfeit the bonus and withdraw your winnings without having to complete the WR.
Please note that in most instances, playing with your cash balance will not contribute to the wagering requirements and the bonus wagering will start only when you dip into your bonus funds. There are still some casinos where cash bets contribute to the WR, yet still allow you to cancel and withdraw a part of your winnings based on how much you progressed through your WR>
However, most bonuses will lock in your cash balance until the wagering is completed. When you forfeit such bonuses then your potential winnings will be lost too. (Should you mistakenly take such a bonus then proceed immediately to customer support to have it removed before you make the first bet).
During the bonus wagering, the deposit plus the bonus and all associated winnings are tied to the WR and are only released once you completed them. With this type, forfeiting is not an option as you will lose your winnings. Wagering, however, starts from the first bet. Most casinos have a wagering tracker, either in your account section or even in the game client, where you can see how far you have progressed. It is worth checking at regular intervals to ensure the wagering is recorded.
Your goal has to be always to make enough winnings to have a profit left after you completed the wagering. Small stakes will allow you to play longer but the balance will not deviate significantly in either direction. In fact, it is more likely to reduce slowly. Large bets, up to the allowed limit, can lead to a quick bust but also to sizable wins that will ensure you manage to get through the WR to the end. In general and in the long run, bigger bets are more profitable when wagering a bonus, and therefore casinos have set maximum bets in their terms.
However, a losing streak will reduce the total playing balance to zero before the WR is met, releasing the player from the constraints of the bonus terms. Once the bonus balance is lost, the wagering ends and will be removed before the next deposit is made.
Make sure though that the bonus is removed from your account once you have lost the bonus balance and do not leave any small amounts in your account as that could keep the bonus active, even after you make a fresh deposit. While some casinos convert small cent balances automatically to cash, others have a button in the account area to cancel a bonus. Beware though because some casinos require you to completely zero out your balance. Go to slots such as Book of Dead, Karate Pig or Golden Shamrock which have variable pay lines and spend the last cents until your balance reaches zero.
The other side of the medal is when you are lucky in your session and you accrued a good balance with some nice wins which will get you through your wagering. With a bigger bet, you might even hit another monster win after which you can relax and cruise through the WR. When wagering bonuses, balances often go on rollercoaster rides and a big win is not always a guarantee to complete the wagering requirements.
The most important point in the wagering process comes when you hit the limit where your balance is bigger than the remaining WR. You are now guaranteed to walk away with a profit and any additional wins will be extra cash once the bonus balance is converted to real money.
In no case should you alter your bet size significantly as casinos might interpret it as bonus abuse, an often used reason to confiscate winnings. You also not change from low-weighted to high-weighted games as that will always ring alarms bells in the casino payment department. Any changes should always be gradual, e.g. reduce your bet from €5 to €4.50 for while before bringing it down to €4. Never go below 50% of the highest bet you used in your wagering process.
Changing from high-volatility to low-variance games can help you get easier through the remaining WR. HV games are good at the start of the wagering process to try and build up a balance with some mega wins but they can turn very cold and take it all back before you complete the WR. Hence, changing to a low-variance game will get you easier to the end.
Game Weighting and Restrictions
Casinos generally have specific games that are not allowed to be played with bonus money, or they are not fully weighted in the WR contribution. Such games are usually those that have either too high RTPs (e.g. Blood Suckers) or their variance and win potential is so big that casinos limit their gameplay with a bonus (e.g. Dead or Alive). Plus, almost all table games such as Blackjack, are generally restricted or have a very low weighting.
Weighting means that wagering only progresses to a certain percentage of the bet on that game. For example, the weight percentage of blackjack is often 5%. This means that for every €100 wagered only €5 contribute to the WR. Low-weighted games are usually not worth playing for wagering because it multiplies the already high wagering requirements. Playing table games is also risky as many casinos do not allow switching from table games to slots. Plus, table games are often not available at the allowed bet sizes.
As a rule of thumb, bonus wagering should generally be done only on slots with a 100% weighting.
Optimizing Your Strategy for Successful Bonus Wagering
Following are some pointers and tips that can help you optimize your gameplay to successfully complete a wagering requirement
- Play at or near the maximum allowed bet, but never over it
- Play only slots with 100% weighting slot and high RTP, preferably close to 97% or more
- Play high-variance slots at the beginning of the wagering process, and low-variance slots at the end (if you get there and if the terms allow it)
- Play with the same bet or very similar bets from start to finish (if you change a game that does have the same bet, place it as close as possible)
- Never forget that a big win is not a guarantee to complete the WR and you only have won something once you finished the wagering.