Casino Welcome Bonuses for Canadian Players: What Are They Anyway?

A casino welcome or sign-up bonus, on the face of it, is simple as pie; you make a deposit, and, up to a certain limit, the online casino matches your deposit dollars for you, so you can double or sometimes even triple your bankroll. What's so complicated about that, right?

It turns out that there is more to these exciting casinos bonuses than meets the eye, and if you're not familiar with all the nuances, you may be leaving dollars on the table. So use this guide to find out how you can turn your casino bonuses into free money every single time!

Different Types of Bonuses

Not all online casino bonuses are created equal. The following should help you better understand some of the many variations of online bonuses you may encounter and for which you may be eligible.

100% Matching Bonus

100% Matching BonusThis means exactly what it says; whatever you deposit, the gambling site will match you, dollar for dollar, with whatever cap they indicate. There is a wide range on these cap amounts; some sites might make $150 the max, others could go up to $1,000 or more, so be sure to check. This information will almost always be right out front where they indicate the percentage of the matching bonus.

Things to bear in mind:

  • The welcome bonus is just that; it's for your first deposit only. While many online casinos do offer player loyalty repeat deposit bonuses, they will likely not be as generous as the initial one, which is of course meant to tempt you to play at a given site. So it makes sense to make as close to the max deposit they will match as possible.
  • There may be a time limitation from the time you register to qualify for your bonus; for example, within seven days, so be sure to check your site's terms and conditions.
  • A minimum deposit amount will almost certainly be required to get your matching bonus, so don't try to deposit miniscule amounts, thinking you will build it into a million bucks with your bonus.
  • Playthrough (or wagering) requirements will be required on virtually every online site you visit. While this may seem unfair to some players, remember that the casino is essentially handing you free bankroll, and the only reason for them to do that is to snare you as a regular customer! If you make one hit and cash out, their investment was for naught.

What Is "Playthrough" Anyway?

What Is Playthrough Anyway?"Playthrough" is really just a fancy term for wagering or betting. Playthrough requirements have a huge variance from site to site, and even within a site, from game to game. Basically, the casino wants to know they've been given a reasonable chance to win their own money back, if truth be told.

Each casino will have come up with their own calculations as to what would constitute a "reasonable" number of wagers for that to likely happen. While you may receive increments of your bonus before meeting playthrough requirements on most sites, you will not be able to cash out your winnings until you have done so. If you have ever received bonus play money at a land casino, it's pretty much exactly the same way they do it there, as far as the cashing out rules go.

Examples of Playthrough Requirements

Examples of Playthrough RequirementsLet's say a site requires 25x playthrough before you can cash out your winnings. And let's say you made an initial deposit of $100, with a matching $100 welcome bonus. So that's $200 x 25 =$5,000 in total wagers you must make before you can cash out, assuming you're playing an online game that credits you 100% for each wager.

Don't freak out; we know that sounds like a crazy amount of money, but it's not "real" money being wagered, it's just virtual money! To make it sound less scary, look at it this way: If you were to bet $25, and win $125, and then bet half of that ($75) and that becomes $500, and then you bet half of that ($250), you've already wagered $350! But you only actually used $25 of your own money to make those bets. See what we mean? Hopefully, your breathing has returned to normal now.

Playthrough requirements have a huge variance from site to site.

The more the house odds are in the casino's favour on any particular game, the lower the playthrough requirements are likely to be. So, for example, most online casinos will count slots, where they have the greatest odds edge of beating the player, for 100% playthrough, meaning every bet you make counts 100% towards your bonus retrieval.

On the other hand, a game like poker, where the house really only makes money on the pot rakes, will have a much higher playthrough requirement, and may only credit you 10% or 20% per wager (pot, in this case) you fund. And on many sites, there may even be games that are excluded entirely.

Most importantly, there is wide variance on who allows what playthrough for what games among online casinos, so be sure to read the promotional terms carefully on each one before you sign up and begin to play!

Additional Bonuses (2nd, 3rd, etc)

Additional BonusesRemember, a casino is a business, and they're a business in the business of making money. So while they're perfectly happy to pay out winners (after all, if no one ever won, no one would ever gamble!), they also are not so carefree that they are going to be handing out 100% matching bonuses to players over and over. Their hope is that once you've played on their site for awhile, you will stick around because you enjoy the games, tournaments, software, variety of offerings, and so on.

But, of course, they still have to compete with thousands of other casino sites for your business, so they are willing to continue to offer you slightly smaller incentives, just like their land-based cousins. Typically, subsequent bonuses like these might be in the 25% matching range, but again, every site will have their own plan. And if you aren't winning their money (meaning you will need to make yet another deposit), you may find the third and fourth bonuses are larger again, possibly up to 50%.

Also, if you haven't played in a long time, gambling sites will often lure you back into the fold with more generous bonuses, and sometimes even free money bonuses, which brings us to our next topic: no deposit bonuses.

No Deposit Bonus

No Deposit BonusNo deposit bonuses mean just that: you are not required to put any of your own money into your online casino bank in order to get free money from the site. These no deposit bonuses are generally given as rewards for certain milestones: for example, regular play on the site for a year (Anniversary Bonus).

Casino sites might also offer freerolls (essentially, a free buy-in to an online tournament), really just to keep players engaged and excited to play on their site on a regular basis.

How Online Casinos Track Your Play

How Online Casinos Track Your PlayIn order to clear your welcome bonus, you're going to need to actively play on that site. For every wager you make, you'll receive points towards unlocking your bonus money. The more (and bigger) you bet, the faster you can clear your bonus.

Note that some games, like slots, churn out points faster than other games, like blackjack, because of the different house edges. In fact, some games do not help you unlock your welcome bonus at all! Again, this info can be found in the fine print, so be sure to read all of it on each site you decide to deposit money and play on.

As your points build up, you'll start to see bonus money trickle into your account in small amounts. Every casino is different, but many pay out in small chunks, say around $5 at a time, as your point count increases. Note: if your casino requires you to clear the entire bonus before you receive anything, you should consider a different operator.

Online Casino Bonuses vs. Live Casino Comps

Online Casino Bonuses vs. Live Casino CompsIf you've ever played in a land-based casino, you're probably familiar with how these places reward players with comps and bonuses. Welcome bonuses in online casinos are different from live casino comps in one, really significant way: they are earned in addition to your standard VIP points!

This extra cash is something that most players simply won't see in land-based casinos, because online casinos don't have to spend anywhere near as much money on operating expenses. Instead, they can reward new players for depositing.

Don't Void Your Bonus!

Don't Void Your BonusFar too many online casino players end up losing their bonus money by not complying with the fine print's restrictions. One of the most common issues is that every bonus has an expiration date. When you reach that date, any un-cleared money disappears forever.

In addition to this, your online casino may place limits on maximum bet sizes and many other factors that can keep you from getting the welcome bonus that you deserve.

So, as a final reminder, read the fine print! Along with telling you exactly how your bonus works, the restrictions will also tell you a lot about the integrity of the casino that you're dealing with.

Once you have the rules under control, there's no reason why you shouldn't just enjoy your normal play and make extra free money while you're at it!