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Free Casino Bonus Money Red Tape: Part III – The Play Through

5 March 2010 by Devon Chappell

Continuing with the OCS blog series on casino bonus red tape, we’d like to discuss the concept of the play-through, and how this applies to bonus money and real money.

As you may already know, unless you are playing with a no-deposit bonus, a.k.a. free chip, all free casino bonus money is contingent on the amount of an accompanying deposit. The more money you deposit, the more bonus cash you will receive. This is usually up to a certain amount, although it is not unheard of to receive an unlimited bonus.

Depending on the percentage of the bonus, the ratio of bonus money to deposited cash will vary. A common amount is 100%, meaning that for every dollar deposited, 100% will be matched in bonus money. This is actually the correct meaning of a true “match” bonus. For a bonus less than 100%, technically, it is not a match bonus.

Let’s say you deposit $100. With a 100% Match bonus, you will receive $100 Free, giving you a total bankroll of $200. Now, here is where things become more tricky. Instead of having the $200 in a single account, the casino will keep your bonus money separate from your real money, until the wager requirement has been met. The wager requirement is the amount of times you must wager over your bankroll before you are eligible to cash out winnings derived from bonus credits. A 10x play-through will require you to wager $100 + $100 = $200 x 10 = $2,000, before you can cash out.

The way it works is that your balance will show the total amount of your bonus and deposit. Although it appears there is one balance, per say, a bonus balance and real money balance is tracked through the accounting/cashier section of the software. This determines how much of the play-through has been met, and how much in wagers is needed to be eligible for a withdrawal.

Some online casinos, such as Microgaming powered Jackpot Factory, use a bonus management system (in this case, the “ClearPlay Bonus” system) that automatically transfers eligible bonus money winnings to the real money account as the play-through is met in increments of $10. This money is eligible for cashout; However, keep in mind that all remaining bonus money is void. Most online casinos do not even allow players to cash out bonus winnings until the entire play-through is met.

This brings up an important question. When do you know when the play-through is met? Keeping track of it yourself – wager for wager – also called “micro managing” your bonus, is timely and difficult. Not every game contributes to the play-through and of those that do, most do not even contribute the same percentage amount. Furthermore, certain bets, such as the Gamble Feature on many slot machines do not count toward the play-through.

But don’t worry. All online casinos have a system in place that keeps track of it for you. When the play-through is met, any winnings exceeding the maximum amount of bonus money earnings that can be cashed out (most bonuses have a maximum cashout) will be removed from the real money account. Remember, being “play” bonuses, no actual bonus money can be cashed out – just winnings earned off that bonus money. Some casinos will also remove the bonus winnings that is eligible for cashout and make it a “pending” withdrawal.

But remember, this is IMPORTANT – in all cases, the player must request the final withdrawal and should always withdraw ALL winnings derived from the bonus. Otherwise, if any bonus winnings are left in the account, all future winnings will be subject to the original bonus terms and conditions. In other words, it is vitally important to keep tabs on your wager requirement. For me personally, if this means micromanaging, then so be it.

Case in point is the player who recently was robbed of a $5,000 jackpot win, because his bonus winnings were still in his account. Even though the player had met the play-through, he had not withdrew his funds yet and was still playing on excess bonus winnings. His jackpot win was hit making a wager with such winnings, and therefore, was subject to the max bonus cashout – far below the $5,000 jackpot.

Do online casinos do this on purpose – throwing in just one more variable that will make it harder for you to win? Probably. Does that mean you have to let them win. No, it doesn’t. When you know the bonus red tape, you are one step ahead of the curve.

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