Aggressive marketing is an integral part of the online casino business. With the low margins and intense competition, the smaller casinos are caught up in a never-ending quest to find new players. And dozens of new websites launching each year makes things even worse.
This forces casinos to put out ads that oversell the online gaming experience to a great extent. And a lot of it has got to do with the way they deal with bonuses and promo offers. While some of these tricks are benign, others can have real monetary impact on players.
Online casino ads are constantly vying for our attention. But they all face a central dilemma – how to stand out from the crowd? Big Vegas casinos have plenty of ways – celebrity shows, luxurious rooms, prime locations, restaurants, and other forms of miscellaneous entertainment.
But at online casinos, what you see is what you get – hundreds/thousands of slots, a few table games and video poker, maybe a live casino room or two. And many casinos even share the game catalog, especially if they use the same software service.
So, they have to focus on features that are not shared, especially those that matter to players. And bonuses matter to players, quite a lot. Everyone loves freebies and discounts. And this is what a casino bonus does to a player – give them a bunch of stuff for free.
Virtually all online casino advertising deals with welcome bonuses – the promotional offers exclusively kept aside for new players who join a casino. But they only show a massive headline, like “$1000 welcome bonus” or “Hundreds of free spins” without mentioning the fine print.
Here are some of the more egregious ways in which casino advertising tricks us.
A casino welcome bonus is usually a match deposit bonus – you deposit a certain amount of money and the casino will match that amount by a percentage mentioned in the bonus terms. Now, if the ad says 100% welcome bonus, that’s accurate and to the point.
But when it prominently highlights a particular amount as the welcome bonus, usually thousands of dollars, it is not revealing the full story – to get those thousands of dollars as bonus money, you also have to deposit a similar amount!
If you make only the lowest permissible deposit to claim a bonus, usually $10-$20, the most you will get as part of that attractive welcome bonus is $60 or $100 max. To get the big bucks, you need to have some big bucks to spend.
This is perhaps the most controversial of all bonus-related issues at online casinos. All promotional offers at online casinos come with a wagering requirement. It is a kind of insurance policy maintained by the casino to protect its business.
A freebie or bonus cash is a potential liability for a casino. If they give it away willy-nilly to all, there is a huge risk of loss. Imagine a thousand players sign up and use the free bonus. Many of them will win cash while some of them will be huge wins. There might even be a massive win or two out there.
All that money has to come from the coffers of the casino. And remember, this is money being paid out to players who haven’t spent much at all at the casino. This can lead to players taking advantage of casino bonuses for easy money.
Wagering requirement prevents all that by demanding that you wager the money you win a certain number of times before demanding a payout. The more you wager, the higher the chance of the casino getting back that money.
Some bonuses come with inordinately high wagering requirements, like 60x on bonus+deposit. Imagine this scenario - you deposit $100 and get a $100 bonus, you played some slots and won $300 in total. Based on the wagering rule, you would have to use that $300 to place bets worth $60,000! (60 X $200).
This essentially means that any bonus cash you get will result in your winnings getting lost in an endless round of wagers. It certainly takes out much of the attraction from that tasty bonus, doesn’t it?! Many players have wisened up to this tactic – they are looking for casinos that offer low wagering bonuses.
Some casinos have even started offering zero-wagering bonuses. The easiest way to be sure that there is no wagering on a bonus is to use specialized sites covering online casino bonuses.
This is another rule that does not get any screen space on a casino bonus add. The casino may promise you a thousand dollars in bonus money. But sometimes, that offer comes with a $50 or $100 max cashout limit.
What this means is that even if you win $2000 using that particular bonus, you will only be allowed to take out a paltry $50 or $100. The rest of the money is written off by the casino. And remember, this limit kicks in after the wagering requirement, like an additional step to further limit the amount of money you can gain from a bonus.
These are just a few of the ways in which casinos can mislead you with their flashy advertising tricks. The wagering requirement issue became so perverse, authorities in the UK had to step in to warn online casinos about deceiving players with unfair and convoluted bonus rules.
The lesson here is quite simple – do not judge a casino by its advertising! Do some research, read the casino terms and bonus terms thoroughly before putting your money down. That is the only way to avoid getting tricked!