Casino Slots Bonuses
It's no secret that the odds always favor the house, and depending on what slot machine you're playing, they can be significantly stacked against you. So how do you level the playing field? Making smart use of slot bonuses is one of the best ways to do it.
There's a huge variety of different types of bonuses, and it's important to understand how they all work to know exactly how much of an advantage they're giving you. This article will teach you how all the different types of bonuses work, how to recognize known bonus scams, what the bonus symbols on each machine mean, and how to calculate the amount of money you'll have to wager before your bonus winnings become available.
How a Slot Bonus Wоrks
There are a few different forms a slot bonus can come in. The most common is “free play,” or credit that is wagered like virtual cash — basically house money to play with. You may also get free spins, rolls or rounds that can be cashed in on certain machines. You'll generally see the biggest bonus as a welcome gift, and then smaller periodic bonuses over time. The country you are logging in from can also influence what bonuses you are eligible for.
There's also a few different ways to get them. One way is as a one-time gift just for signing up, though expect terms and conditions to be attached. Some casinos will also give them out as part of periodic promotions, in some cases on a weekly or even daily basis as part of their loyalty program. They also sometimes send offers by email unexpectedly, and if the casino has a referral program you may get bonuses for signing other people up.
Wagering and Playthrough Requirements
The wagering or playthrough requirement is the amount of real money that has to be wagered before bonus winnings can be withdrawn. Each eligible game type will contribute a certain percentage of each wager to that requirement: for example, with slots you'll usually see 100% of your wager count toward the requirement, but with blackjack, it may be as low as 5%. Do keep in mind that a bonus may be tied only to certain games, however.
While a bonus is active, you may not be allowed to make cash withdrawals without forfeiting the remainder of the bonus amount.
Confused About Slot Bonus Symbols? Here's What They Mean
Base Game Multipliers: These multiply the total amount won. In some games, this multiplier will increase with each winning spin and decrease with each losing spin. Base game multipliers may also only appear temporarily as part of a bonus round.
Multiplier Bonus Symbols: These symbols may appear as part of the reels and will magnify any winning pay line that they happen to fall into.
Wild Multipliers: As with the “wild card” in card games, the wild symbol acts as whatever symbol is needed to complete a pay line. “Stacked” wilds are those that appear in a vertical column. “Trailing” wilds remain on the playfield for the next spin. “Expanding” wilds cover remote positions that will complete pay lines.
Different Types of Slot Bonuses
An additional deposit bonus is usually a fixed amount of cash or free play given to the player each month, calculated by the amount the player deposited either during that month or the previous month. If free play is given, the player may get a match bonus equivalent to their total deposit. For cash back promotions, it is more likely going to be a percentage bonus that is well south of 100%.
Bonus rounds are a special mode that is offered in some video slots. When the player collects the right amount of bonus symbols, they may enter a special round where they get a number of free spins. The pay table of a bonus round usually differs from that of the main game; players can expect to collect more small wins in these rounds, but the jackpots and larger win amount present in the regular game may not be available.
An alternate term for free spins. Spins earned through play or as part of an ongoing promotion are more likely to be presented this way.
Cash Back Bonus
If a casino offers a cash back bonus, it means you'll get real money back. This is most often a type of percentage bonus, usually ranging from 5% to 25% back on losses over a set period of time. These bonuses are most commonly part of a loyalty program or only offered to high rollers.
A cash drop is a periodic bonus given to a random player who is logged in at the time. This is usually some small amount like €5, with bonuses granted every 5-10 minutes over the course of anywhere from several hours to an entire month. They may consist of actual money, free play or free spin vouchers.
Daily / Weekly / Monthly Bonus
These bonuses are collected once during their time period. They will usually be percentage bonuses of any deposits made during that time and will be reserved for players with a significant betting history.
Deposit-Based Free Spins
Additional free spins may be provided to a player in return for making deposits of a certain amount. As with most other types of bonuses, expect them to potentially expire within 24 hours of the deposit and to be available for no more than 30 days at the absolute maximum.
A “deposit match” bonus gives the player an amount of free play that is almost always at least equal to their initial deposit amount. Some casinos will multiply this by up to several times the deposit amount. However, a condition is almost always attached that requires players to play through some multiplier of the bonus amount before any winnings can be withdrawn. So, for example, the player might have to wager the amount of the bonus two or three times over before they are eligible to withdraw winnings.
Online casinos usually offer a version for desktop computers and a version for mobile devices. The mobile versions usually do not have as many games and features as the desktop version, however, so to entice players to try it some casinos offer a special signup bonus and/or ongoing bonuses.
Though a “double deposit” bonus should technically just be a match bonus of 100%, we have seen some casinos using this term for bonuses of up to 400%. It's effectively the same thing as a match bonus, though be aware that nearly all casinos will limit the eligible amount to no more than a few hundred dollars.
Casinos may periodically send offers by email to their current players. To receive email offers, players are required to open an account with the casino but to get special rewards and benefits, players must remain active and play through a significant amount of money.
Exclusive offers are those that are only available through a particular referring site. Casinos will sometimes partner with one particular casino review or gambling information site for an exclusive sign-up bonus offer that is only available by following a link or using a special code from that site.
An “exhausted” bonus is one that has already been activated and played through.
“Flat top” is a type of jackpot that is a consistent fixed amount. This is in contrast to progressive jackpots, which will increase as players make wagers and then reset to a smaller amount when someone hits it.
Free bets allow the player to make a wager without putting any money on the line. A one-off free bet may have no strings attached to it, but a series of free bets will most likely have the same limitations that sign-up bonuses usually do.
“Free play” is basically casino credit. The casino gives you money that can't be withdrawn until the full amount has been wagered at least once; once you've wagered it enough times to meet the requirements, you're then free to convert any winnings from it into actual cash. The match and percentage bonuses almost always offer free play as the matching funds.
A type of free bet that is specific to dice games, such as craps. In poker, a “freeroll” game is one in which real money is not used but real prizes may be available for the winners.
A “free spin” is simply a spin on a slot machine or video poker game that you don't have to wager any of your own money on. Though it costs you nothing, you get to keep the winnings if it hits. Free spins are often restricted only to certain games, and if they are conducted within the framework of a “bonus round” the full pay table of the machine may not be available.
A free trial of an online casino allows you to play at no risk. Most casinos will have a “just for fun” area in which you can play games without wagering any money. However, some might give you a no-deposit bonus such as a handful of free spins, which lets you actually make a real wager without having to put your own money on the line.
As the name indicates, these bonuses are granted for playing particular games. They can be offered for a full category of games (such as blackjack or video poker) or for an individual game within those categories. This type of bonus usually consists of a small amount of free play designed to make the casino stand out in a popular game category or to drum up interest in a category that is underplayed.
Video slots often have in-game bonuses that have the theme of another type of game. A popular example would be the Wheel of Fortune slots, in which you spin the titular wheel during the bonus round. Board game themes are commonly seen, and with the rise of skill-based play expect to see arcade or video game bonus round types more frequently.
High Roller and VIP Bonuses
Similar to loyalty bonuses, these are provided to established players who regularly make large deposits and large wagers. If players put a substantial amount of money through the casino (tens of thousands of dollars per month), they may be awarded these bonuses very quickly, sometimes even before their first full month of play is up. As with the loyalty bonuses, these are often not listed publicly, but you may be able to get information on them before signing up by contacting the casino directly and indicating the amounts you intend to deposit and play.
An in-game bonus is one that appears only while you are playing a specific game. The “bonus rounds” that appear in certain video slots are an example of this bonus type. These are most commonly found in slots, but certain video poker variants will offer an extra prize. For example, “hot roll” games give the player a multiplier generated by a dice roll in return for doubling their bet, or when a certain hand comes up.
During a leaderboard tournament, you see a list of all the other players currently playing that particular game, along with how many points they've scored during the tournament window. The player with the most points at the end of the tournament wins a jackpot of cash or free play.
A loyalty bonus is usually offered as part of the casino's loyalty program or player's club. As the name indicates, you will usually have to be an active member of the casino for some time to be given this bonus. Since these are given to established players, they are usually easier to cash out than the other bonus types. Online casinos do not always advertise that they have loyalty bonuses available, so players may not find out about them until they are surprised with one.
A type of timed bonus granted in the middle of the week, which is generally a slower period for casinos due to players being at work. It's usually a percentage bonus and may be among the most generous that the casino offers (though also potentially only available to higher rollers).
Some players may get a repeating monthly bonus of a fixed amount from their casino. This usually does not happen until sometime after the month of initial sign-up. This type of bonus is also often “sticky”, which means that you can keep any winnings from wagering it, but you can't keep the actual bonus funds if they aren't wagered.
A “no deposit” bonus does not require the player to deposit a minimum amount of money. It's important to note that some sort of deposit may be required for this type of bonus, but the player may still receive it even if they deposit only the smallest possible amount to activate their account. Since a deposit isn't required, this is usually a fixed amount of free spins or rolls rather than a sum of free play.
An opt-in bonus requires the player to take some proactive action in their account for it to activate. This may involve following a link in an email offer or responding to a pop-up while playing.
A pay line is any line in a slot that gives you money if you get winning symbols across it. “Bonus” or “wild” symbols across a pay line may give you free spins or put you in the bonus round in some games.
Payment Method Bonus
Casinos sometimes offer a bonus for using a specific payment method to fund your account. This is often due to a direct relationship between the casino and one particular e-wallet service.
A type of deposit bonus that offers a specific percentage of the deposit amount in free play. These can go over or under 100%, though 50% is generally the smallest amount you'll see.
Some slot machine bonus rounds will give you the option of choosing certain tiles or doors, but in some cases, the bonus you're going to get is already predetermined and your choices don't actually matter. The only way to tell for sure is if the regulations governing that particular casino require that the results not be predetermined.
Progressive jackpots get larger as players make wagers. A portion of each wager is contributed to the jackpot until someone hits it, at which time it reverts to a smaller amount and begins to build up again. A progressive may be tied to one specific game, or a number of different games may feed into it.
Referral aka Refer-a-Friend
Some casinos will pay out a bonus when you refer a friend. You'll get a unique referral ID that is put into a link for your friends to follow to the sign-up page. You can either send them the link manually, or some casinos will generate a referral email to them for you. These rarely pay out simply for getting the friend to open an account, however; they'll most likely have to meet certain deposit and play thresholds before you get a referral bonus.
This is a type of bonus that applies only after your initial deposit. When you reload your account with fresh money, some casinos will offer you a percentage bonus that is usually somewhere in the area of 10%. These can be either an ongoing permanent bonus or a temporary promotion, and the amount may increase with your status in the casino's loyalty program.
A special promotion is usually a one-time offer. The casino may offer this to all players during a limited window, or may only make the offer by email to members of their loyalty program.
“Sticky” means that you get to keep any winnings from the bonus, but you can't keep or cash out the bonus amount itself. It's the basic principle by which free play works.
A timed bonus will allow the player to basically have unlimited free play for a fixed amount of time, often one hour or so. Various limitations are placed on these promotions to keep every player who comes along from cleaning out the house. They will often require that some amount of the free wagers be covered by any winnings, for example, or they may not allow you to withdraw winnings until you have made additional wagers after the timed promotion period is up.
Welcome, New Player or Sign-Up
This is a bonus given as a welcoming gift when a player signs up. It may be contingent upon making an initial deposit of a certain amount. These bonuses also usually have a limited shelf life, often they must be used within 24 hours or they will be forfeited. The most common bonus of this nature is an amount of free play matched to the deposit amount.
An alternate term for a welcome bonus. As it's very rare to see a welcome bonus presented in actual cash, it's also relatively rare to see casinos use this term. If they do, expect they are referring to free play rather than actual free money deposited to your account.
Sсаmѕ And Rір-оffѕ – Rеаd Thеѕе Warnings!
There's basically two big things that can go wrong with casino bonuses:
- The terms and conditions are so restrictive that the bonus is effectively useless
- The bonus offer is an outright scam — if it's accepted, it prevents you from cashing out your money
Slot players have less to worry about in this area than players of other games, as long as they're playing at a reputable and certified casino with a good reputation. Online casinos generally want to encourage slot play, as they see it as one of the games that cannot be exploited by betting systems. Still, it's important to carefully check bonus terms, and also to understand how slot bonus games work.
So how do you know if a bonus is a scam? The first thing to verify is that the terms don't actually put you at a disadvantage. If you can't verify this, it's probably best not to risk accepting the bonus.
These are the main things to look for to determine if a slot bonus will actually be helpful to you:
- Is it locked to games that you don't plan on playing?
- Do the games you plan on playing contribute 100% to the cashout requirement? Most slots usually contribute 100%, but multi-spin video slots that offer better odds sometimes only contribute 20-25% of each wager.
- Do you plan to wager enough money within the bonus window (usually 24 hours) to meet the cashout requirement?
Bonus policies can vary wildly from one casino to the next. Ideally, online casinos would post a clear link to their policy on their main page, but you'll find this is rarely the case. The most common place to find a link to the bonus policy is on a casino's FAQ page, but many have them buried too deeply to find.
There's a great trick for finding a casino's bonus policy, however: go to Google, type in “site:(URL of the casino)” followed by “bonus policy.” This should bring up a direct link to their bonus policy within the first two or three results. So, for example, to find the Caesars Casino bonus policy you would type in “site:www.caesarscasino.com bonus policy”.
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Slot Machine Bonus Glossary – Important Terms
A casino usually considers it “abuse” of the bonus if the player does the absolute minimum required to cash out and does not engage in further play.
Casino Bonus Account
Winnings from the bonus may be deposited into a separate bonus account. A good bonus policy should list any maximum amount as well as the cashout minimum.
Contribution Rates / Game Contribution
This is the percentage amount that wagers for each game type contribute to the cashout total. These are usually presented in a table format somewhere on the bonus policy page.
Offer Recall / Right to Rescind
The terms under which a casino can recall any bonus amount or any winnings earned from that bonus.
Promo Terms / Bonus Terms and Conditions
The specific set of terms for obtaining, using and cashing out the bonus.
Offline Slot Bonuses
With so many types of video slots appearing both in real casinos and online, you'll see land-based casinos using many of the same bonus structures described here. Land-based casinos generally do not offer the same welcome bonuses, however, and of course, the deposit bonus is a non-applicable concept there. Some casinos may offer new players a small amount of Freeplay or free spins, but some instead offer free t-shirts or a deck of cards!
With a full understanding of how slot bonuses work, you can more easily identify the best casinos to play at. Take a look at the bonus offers (along with the bonus policy pages) of some of the top casinos to get an idea of what offer types are trending in the market at present. If you're still not sure which game is right for you, you might also want to learn more about slot pay tables and how they vary between individual games.
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