Understanding Welcome Bonuses in the UK Market

New Player Casino Offers

Posted by Harry Kane on Saturday, October 30, 2021

New Player Casino Offers

While there are several factors and metrics to compare when choosing an online casino at which to play, the welcome bonus on offer is arguably the single most important. Certainly, welcome bonuses and new player promotions have become a pivotal part of the iGaming landscape in 2022, as the rising number of new and independent betting brands continue to compete aggressively through the deployment of such offers.

In this post, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to welcome bonuses in the UK, while asking how you can understand the small print associated with these offers and they key terminology used by operators.

The Different Types of Casino Bonus Explored

Let’s start with the basics; as while the concept of a welcome bonus is rather self-explanatory, it’s important to note that there are different types of offer available in the modern marketplace.

What’s more, casinos tend to run welcome ‘packages’ that combine multiple bonus types within a single offer, in order to offer greater value to customers and incentivise them to wager their hard-earned cash.

We’ve broken down these iterations in more detail below, so you can better understand their structure and whether or not they offer genuine value.

1. A No-Deposit Bonus

This type of offer has become increasingly popular of late, and it refers to a bonus in which players are afforded a predetermined amount of free money without them being required to make an initial deposit.

As you can imagine, this type of offer is typically capped at around £10 or £20, as this helps operators to incentivise players while minimising their losses. Ultimately, this is an excellent way of empowering players to explore a particular casino, without asking them to risk their hard-earned cash.

Of course, no-deposit bonuses often come with stringent terms and conditions, which also help to offset the risk of the operator. For example, it’s standard practice that the bonus money cannot be withdrawn (only winnings can), while the amount that you want to withdraw will be subjected to particularly high wagering requirements.

We’ll touch more on wagering requirements a little later in the guide, but no-deposit bonuses can require you to playthrough as much as 50x to 100x of the total bonus value.

2. A Deposit Match Bonus

Next up is the most common type of welcome offer, with a deposit match value seeing an operator match your first deposit up to a fixed amount. Occasionally, the offer may also match your second, third or even fourth deposits, creating a much higher value bonus that can be worth thousands of pounds.

Typically, a deposit match will match the amount that you initially credit your account with up to the value of anywhere between £50 and £200, while the wagering requirements associated with this type of offer will usually be a little lower at between 30x and 50x the bonus value. What’s more, your deposit won’t typically be factored in when calculating the wagering requirements, creating lower playthrough amounts and better value for punters overall.

This type of offer is also synonymous with reload bonuses, which are usually awarded to existing players after they’ve exhausted their initial deposit-match promotion. This is designed to cultivate customer loyalty and increase the value of individual players, while helping to fend off competition from rival online casinos.

3. Free Spins and No-Deposit Free Spins

Interestingly, operators will often combine a deposit-match bonus with a nominal number of free spins, creating a diverse welcome package that appeals to both casual and professional gamblers alike.

Of course, some online casinos create bonus packages that only comprise free spins, which may be dependent on you making an initial deposit or completely complimentary and immediately added to the accounts of brand-new players.

In the case of the former, you’ll usually have to make a minimum deposit of between £5 and £10 to earn a finite number of spins, typically between 50 and 200. These will usually be restricted to one or a number of online slots, while the T&Cs should dictate both the value of each spin and the cap placed on your winnings, which should be balanced against the total value of the bonus.

In the case of no-deposit free spins, you’ll typically see a much smaller number of free spins (usually 10 or 20) added to your account automatically once you’ve completed the registration process.

These may or may not be subject to wagering requirements, while the winnings cap will typically be lower as the offer is primarily designed to attract the attention of players or direct them towards a deposit-match bonus.

4. A Cashback Bonus

While cashback bonus offers are typically synonymous with sportsbooks, online casinos also utilise this type of promotion to help attract players and stand apart from their rivals. A cashback bonus refers to a promotion where an online casino refund some or all of your losses into your account.

Usually, this is calculated as a fixed percentage of your total losses over a set period of time, with the average value of cashback awarded ranging between 5% and 25%. Interestingly, operators such as PlayOJO have built an entire loyalty and rewards scheme around the provision of cashback, which is available across a broad range of online casino verticals.

This is a relatively rare but increasingly popular iteration of the classic welcome bonus, albeit one that may often be deployed alongside other promotions such as free spins or a generous deposit-match.

Introducing Wagering Requirements

We’ve mentioned wagering requirements a few times already during the piece, and not only do they represent a central component of most contemporary bonus offers, but they also have a direct impact on your experience when wagering online.

Let’s start with the basics; as while wagering requirements are often discussed in a negative light, they enable operators to run balanced and rewarding promotions that can be maintained over an extended period of time. After all, no business can afford to give away free cash without offsetting this type of offer, with wagering requirements used to recoup some capital before players are able to withdraw their associated winnings.

More accurately, wagering requirements compel players to extend their gameplay at the casino and spend more of their hard-earned cash, rather than simply registering for an account and banking the value of the bonus offer. Of course, issues occur when operators implement prohibitive wagering requirements that are disproportionately higher than the bonus, although this practice is thankfully being clamped down on by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).

Similarly, the UKGC has largely outlawed the practice of applying wagering requirements to your deposit amount, with operators now required to create a clear distinction between your own cash and the bonus value.

But what exactly are wagering requirements? In simple terms, they refer to the number of times you’re required to re-wager bonus funds or free spins winnings before withdrawing them as cash. Wagering requirements are usually expressed as a multiplier and applied to the total value of the bonus that was applied to your account.

As we’ve already touched on, the precise extent of wagering requirements will vary from one bonus type to another. In the case of deposit match offers, for example, the average requirement is 35x the value of the bonus balance, but this can go as low as 20x and as high as 60x in some rare instances.

For no-deposit bonus offers, however, wagering requirements can soar as high as 100x, the total bonus value, and it’s important to keep an eye on this when selecting a welcome package and initially crediting your account.

To understand this further, let’s use a practical example. Let’s say that you sign up at a casino offering a 100% deposit match up to the value of £50, and credit your account with the minimum qualifying amount of £10. The wagering requirements in this instance are 20x the value of the bonus.

Here you’ll receive £10 in bonus funds, which will be subject to 20x wagering requirements to create a total playthrough amount of £200 (10 x 20). This is the amount that you’ll have to subsequently wager before completing a withdrawal.

Now, let’s take the same basic bonus and change the wagering requirements to 60x your bonus value. In this case, you’ll have to play through £600 (10 x 60) before you can request a withdrawal, at least without forfeiting the bonus funds and having these removed from your account.

As we can see, the second scenario would require players to play through three-times more before accessing their hard-earned winnings, usually within a fixed period of between seven and 30 days on average.

This can have a huge impact on your iGaming experience and potentially encourage you to wager outside of your means and more that you can afford to lose, which is highly disconcerting from the perspective of responsible gambling.

As a rule of thumb, it’s important to note that the lower the wagering requirement, the lower the total value of the bonus offer. However, such offers typically make it easier for you to unlock your bonus funds affordably, whereas the opposite is true in the cash of high value bonuses with larger wagering requirements.

What About Game Weighting? How Does This Affect the Bonus Offer?

Game weighting is another key component of online casino welcome offers, despite the fact that this is often misunderstood or underestimated by players. Casino game weighting will feature in the precise T&Cs of your bonus offer, as they dictate precisely how wagering requirements are applied across different verticals and individual games.

Typically, game weighting values are expressed as percentages, which establish the percentage of bets and stakes that will count towards meeting wagering requirements in a specific vertical. For example, most bonuses dictate that online slots should contribute 100% to your wagering requirements, which means that every penny staked on such games will help to reduce your real-time wagering terms.

There may be variations with some specific slot games (where the percentage declines below 100%), and while this is relatively rare, it’s important to review these terms in detail before wagering your hard-earned cash. Conversely, the game weighting percentages tend to depreciate sharply in the case of table games like Roulette and Blackjack.

More specifically, Roulette typically contributes around 25% to your bonus wagering requirements, with this value declining to just 10% in the case of Blackjack. These are far more stringent terms and conditions, which effectively means that you’ll have to wager more over time to meet your wagering requirements and complete a withdrawal when playing such games.

For example, these terms mean that staking £1 on a single spin of the reels with your favourite slot will remove £1 from the amount that you have to play through to complete a withdrawal. Spending the same amount on your chosen Roulette game will remove just £0.25, however, while this will fall to a paltry £0.10 in relation to a £1 Blackjack stake.

Such differences must be factored in when selecting an online welcome bonus and committing to this financially, as the amount that you’ll have to pay to fulfil wagering requirements will vary dramatically based on the games that you play.

For example, if you frequently play slots, you’ll typically be able to access your winnings while spending considerably less. The same isn’t true for fans of table games, however, who will have to wager more to meet their wagering requirements within the specified time period.

Ultimately, you’ll need to check both the wagering and game weighting requirements when comparison welcome bonuses, so that you can make an informed and knowledgeable decision that benefits your pocket!

The Last Word

By understanding the different type of bonus types on offer and the importance of terms such as wagering and game weighting requirements, you can compare bonus packages more effectively and make better decisions over time.

Of course, the welcome offer promoted by an operator (and its unique T&Cs) shouldn’t be the only consideration when selecting an online casino either, as the brand’s customer feedback, range of payment options and level of customer support are also incredibly important factors.

However, you shouldn’t underestimate the value and complexity of casino welcome offers online, as this type of bonus can have a huge impact on your iGaming experience over time.

Author: Ryan Richardson