What is a wagering requirement?
When you receive a bonus from an online casino or slot site, they will typically impose a minimum spend that has to be made before you can take your winnings out. This is called a wagering requirement and will usually be expressed as a multiple either of the bonus, or of the bonus plus any deposit you had to make in order to get the bonus in the first place. Let’s say you deposited £50 and received a 200% bonus with a 20x (deposit+bonus) wagering requirement; you would need to play through 20x (£50 + £100) which is £3000 in order to be eligible to withdraw your winnings. That sounds ridiculous given that you only deposited £50, but do remember that slots have a high RTP and the £3000 need not be made up of deposited cash; it could be winnings that are played back through.
Why do they have a wagering requirement?
Firstly, they are actually obliged to have one as a result of anti money laundering legislation, although this just involves playing the deposit and bonus through once before withdrawing. Secondly, they want to get some value out of the free money they give you, in terms of activity on the casino and (they hope) eventual brand loyalty.
What about free spins?
The usual way of dealing with free spins has winnings from the free spins treated as a bonus to which the casino or slots site then applies a special wagering requirement (which is not usually the same as their regular wagering requirement). What that wagering requirement actually is can vary wildly from 1x to 200x or more – so do check the terms and conditions prior to accepting a free spins offer.
Why are the wagering requirements so high?
Wagering requirements on slots are so high compared to those on bingo because the RTP on slots is comparatively so good allowing you to play through your original deposit many times even if you don’t get lucky with a big win. Some table games have an even better RTP than slots and casinos generally either exclude play on them from the wagering requirement entirely, or impose an even higher multiple.
Do all wagering requirements work in the same way?
Not all wagering requirements work in the same way. Usually once you have made a deposit and received a bonus on it, the whole amount is tied up until the wagering requirement is completed, but there are some exceptions you may consider more appealing. Some sites, such as Mr Green, only release the bonus after you have spent your initial deposit and only apply the wagering requirement to the bonus, so if you are lucky enough to win big with your deposit the winnings are yours to withdraw. Other sites, such as Grosvenor Casino, require you to play your deposit through a (modest) number of times before releasing the bonus in the first place, but apply no wagering requirement to the bonus beyond the single playthrough required by law.
What happens if I lose all my money before meeting the wagering requirement?
This is another question where it is important to read the small print! Some sites wipe the wagering requirement out if you run out of funds before completing it, allowing you to make a fresh deposit, receive a reload bonus and start again with a fresh wagering requirement. Other sites restrict withdrawal of any further amounts deposited until the original wagering requirement has been completed.
Are there time limits?
Yes, some sites attach time limits to their wagering requirements and reserve the right to remove any remaining bonus and winnings if they are not completed in the time. Mostly this is in connection with free spins where the free spins themselves have to be used in a certain time frame (7 days is common) and the bonus winnings from them spent in a longer time frame, but increasingly it is happening with traditional bonuses as well. When there is a time limit on completing the wagering requirement, it is usually a reasonable one such as 6 months, but occasionally much shorter time limits, 14 days for instance, have been imposed so again – check the small print!
Is there any way round it?
We list the sites which have low wager requirements but inevitably there is almost always some form of a trade off with the bonus being smaller.
In tandem with the change in UK gambling law that will come into force in October 2014 and require all casinos and slots sites that cater to UK players to be licensed in the UK, the Gambling Commission is doing a review of the licensing conditions and one of the things that is being looked at is the marketing of free bets and bonus offers. The TL;DR version is this – the Advertising Standards Authority has been getting lots of complaints about ads for free bets and bonus offers and has upheld most of them, so the Gambling Commission wants to make fair and open advertising of these deals one of the licensing conditions. The writing is on the wall for excessive wagering requirements buried in the small print!