Online casino gambling is a relatively new business sector, having only been around since the mid 1990s. However, it has proven to be a hugely popular industry with a multi-billion dollar annual turnover.
At the beginning there were relatively few operators but by now there are quite literally hundreds of casinos, all vying with each other for their players’ loyalty. When the primary product is gambling, how does a casino bring something unique and special to the table to bring players to your front door?
Playtech Software claim to be the first company to have come up with the solution, and while the validity of this statement is up for debate, their story is compelling. Unlike other casinos which were born online, Playtech made their start by partnering with land-based casinos and trying to work out what they offered that online casinos didn’t.
The answer was comp rewards. A real brick-and-mortar casino doesn’t just provide games, it showers you with all manner of freebies in order to keep you coming back time and time again. Arguably the free drinks they ply you with have a dual purpose, but that’s besides the point: if you spend money playing at a real casino, you get lots of free stuff.
And so the idea of casino bonuses was born – a rewards system to thank players for their business, and to entice them to play more. Since the entire experience happens in a virtual environment, the best way to do that is with free money to spend on more gambling.
Whoever began them, the idea spread like wildfire, and soon almost every online casino on the Internet began offering lots of different bonuses for almost anything – for loyalty, for regular play, for playing on a Tuesday … and most importantly, for signing up in the first place.
The real benefit of the bonus system became clear quite quickly – if you give players free money for signing up at your casino, they’ll be more likely to experiment with games they’re not used to. And if it’s a big enough pile of free money, they might sign up to play where they’d otherwise be more cautious.
For a while online casinos competed with each other, offering increasingly rash bonuses, but the practise has gradually standardised. First, because people came to expect a bonus, and secondly because a culture of bonus abuse developed.
The industry saw a rush of people signing up to new casinos with multiple accounts, claiming their bonuses, and cashing out immediately. Bizarrely most casinos hadn’t developed policies around this yet, and a lot of money was lost as a result. The practice even gained a name: casino farming. The industry reacted briskly, however.
Today online casino bonuses are alive and well, and have calmed down to a more reasonable level. Nearly all online casino operators have added clauses to their rules and user agreements that govern how free bonus money is handled, usually requiring a certain amount of play before a withdrawal can be made. This way players still get the benefit of the bonuses, but the industry is protected from abuse.
There are two major kinds of bonuses
If an online casino is offering you a match bonus for signing up at their venue, it means that you are required to open an account with them and deposit some real money into it, but in exchange for doing so, they will match whatever you deposit. This effectively doubles the amount of money you’re going to play with, and it’s an excellent way for a new player to build an impressive starting bankroll.
It’s become common practice to place an upper limit on this kind of bonus to protect online casinos from high rollers using this system to double a million dollar bankroll.
No Deposit Bonuses
If an online casino is offering you a no deposit bonus for signing up at their venue, it means that they really are offering you free money. All you have to do is sign up with them – you don’t have to put any money of your own in – and they will give you free money to play with. If you win while playing with their money, they’ll even let you withdraw the winnings.
Online casinos offer no deposit bonuses so that you can have the opportunity to taste the exciting world of casino gambling without risking any of your own money
Wagering / Playthrough Requirements
Because of the practice of casino farming, nearly all casinos have now attached requirements to the free bonus money they give you. You cannot simply claim your bonus and cash out; the purpose of a bonus is to encourage you to play. Every set of requirements is different, and it’s worth making sure you understand them before you accept a sign up bonus.
Most commonly the playthrough requirements attached to an online casino bonus mean that you must play a minimum number of hands or place a minimum number of bets before you may cash out your winnings