Casino bonuses sound great on paper. You’ll often see a promotion with the words “$50 Free Bet” or “$100 Bonus Cash” on pop up advertisements for many different online venues. These offers are given to players to incentivize them to use the service. Naturally, the juicier they sound, the better!
Of course, a casino isn’t a charity. If they gifted a free $50 to each new signup, they’d probably go out of business pretty quickly. That’s why online casinos almost always attach various terms and conditions to make the bonus seem like a much better deal than it is. That said, bonuses can still be abused by the savviest of players.
What is a Bonus Abuser?
A bonus abuser is a casino user that looks for ways to make risk free profits on the promotions offered by online casinos. There are a variety of techniques the bonus abuser will use to achieve this. It might involve covering all outcomes on a sport bet to ensure that neither the qualifying bet, or the free bet lose. Alternatively, it could be as simple as ensuring that a slot machine with the largest return-to-player rating is used when spinning through some bonus funds. In the next section, I’ll take you through some specific examples of bonus abuse and how the casino or sportsbook uses terms and conditions to minimize the damage that a bonus abuser can cause to the house’s bottom line.
Types of Bonus Abuse
Many sportsbooks will offer an introductory offer of a free bet up to a certain value if the player makes a qualifying bet of the same value as the free bet. For example, a common free bet scenario might involve betting $50 on a selected market and receiving a free bet of $50.
Bonus abusers can easily make around $35 entirely risk free with such a promotion. For a basic example, let’s suppose they decided to bet on tennis. There can only be one winner of a tennis match. A tie isn’t possible. Now if the bonus abuser were to bet on one of the players using their own $50 and to bet on the other player on a different bookmaker’s website, only one of the bets could lose. The other one wins by default. This process can be repeated with a second tennis match using the $50 free bet, and actual profit is realized.
Making life easier for sportsbook bonus abusers are the services offered by betting exchanges. Using a betting exchange, players can “lay” the result they backed at the bookmaker offering the free bet. This essentially covers all other outcomes possible for the original bet. It means that whatever the outcome, the player wins one of the bets they make – even if there are more than two outcomes possible (think games where a draw can occur). After making their qualifying bet using this method, they are breakeven (or very close to it). They are then awarded the free bet and repeat the process of laying a bet only using the free money.
To try and clamp down on this, sportsbooks have entire departments dedicated to analyzing the odds at major exchanges. They look for when the odds to lay and their odds to back are very close. If you get caught betting on two obscure fixtures with very close odds, you’ll likely be banned from further promotions from the venue on the grounds of bonus abuse.
Another method some bookmakers will employ is to make players bet multiple times to unlock the free bet. This eats into the profitability of a free bet promotion considerably. It also gives the house much more time to analyze your betting habits and identify suspicious patterns. An example of a suspicious pattern might be living in the Illinois and betting on two lower division South African football matches, a Japanese rugby game, and an under-21 Spanish basketball match to release your free bet.
Blackjack used to be the biggest weapon in the bonus abuser’s arsenal. Back in the early days of online gambling, many casinos used to try to lure people to play at them by offering juicy bonus cash deals. The shrewd bonus abuser would simply deposit the maximum value of the bonus, load up a blackjack table, and play perfect strategy versus the house until both their initial deposit and the bonus cash become withdrawable.
This is a classic example of advantage play. It’s not a risk-free prospect like the free bet bonus. The player could lose 1,000 consecutively and completely bust out. However, given that the house edge is less than 1% when blackjack is played optimally, this is highly unlikely.
Casinos have largely cottoned on to this form of bonus abuse now. Although they still often offer juicy bonus cash as an incentive to signup, the wagering requirements attached to said funds make profiting even with perfect strategy tough. To really try and stamp out the problem of bonus abuse, casinos have even limited the amount that blackjack will contribute towards a wagering requirement. In the UK, for example, it’s common to see blackjack contribute to just 1% of wagering requirements. This means that if you had to deposit $10 to get a $10 bonus that needed wagering 40 times, you would need to play a massive $80,000 worth of blackjack before you could withdraw any funds associated with the promotion. The odds of actually emerging in profit after such a mammoth playthrough are slim at best.
Slots are one of the casino’s best friends. Generally speaking, they offer a much larger edge to the casino than most table games. They’re also very formulaic from the point of view of the player. Unlike blackjack, there isn’t a way to reduce the house edge on slot machines, no matter how you choose to play.
This means that a bonus abuser who wants to take advantage of promotions using virtual slot machines must really shop around. They’re looking for the lowest playthrough requirements combined with the highest return-to-player slot machines going.
However, casinos have learned the hard way that the bonus abusers are out there. For this reason, they will often limit players to a small selection of slot machines. These are unlikely to be rated above say 96% in terms of return-to-player figures. They also attach huge wagering requirements to the bonus cash. Both facts combined dramatically reduce the likelihood that you will end up in profit from a bonus used on online slot machines.
Why do Bonus Abusers get a Bad Rep?
Bonus abusers are the scourge of the casino industry since they represent a completely unwanted overhead and a serious dint in the business’s overall bottom line. However, they’re unjustly vilified. They play by the rules and use their brains to gain an advantage over the house. When the house uses its brain to take cash from the player, it’s called a business. When the player uses their brain versus the house to take risk-free profits, they’re labelled a “bonus whore”.
You’ll find no deposit bonuses from so many online casinos, and the casinos just keep on giving out more. This means that the whole “bonus whore” narrative isn’t really fair since its actually being encouraged by the casinos offering the promotions in the first place.
If every casino and sportsbook could have its way, none would never have to offer a promotion ever again. However, in a fiercely competitive market such as online gambling, any way of standing out from the crowd is encouraged. This has given rise to sneakily worded terms and conditions, as well as the most stringent wagering requirements possible. Since online casinos are essentially private members clubs, it’s unfortunately their way or the highway.