There was a time years ago, that an online casino might sporadically drop $5, $10 or $20 into your account to give you some extra cash. You could give new games a go, or try out games you never would have considered playing with your own money. There were no strings attached, and in many cases you could just withdraw the money without having to wager any of it. This was called "free" money - because that is exactly what it was: free.
But when something is offered as "free", what do you think happens? You guessed right, every Joe and his brother will show up wanting a piece of that no-strings-attached money. Thus the birth of the "casino bonus".
The bonus came with stipulations: it had wagering requirements, and at times you were limited to certain games. But like Dr. Frankenstein's attempt at creating life - he had good intentions, but in reality his creation was a monstrosity which ran amok. As soon as one casino launched its bonus offering, every casino had to follow suit in order to remain competitive. Sloppy management caused countless player problems with missing bonus terms, F.U. clauses, and convoluted terms and conditions. Many ruthless operators used the bonus to ensnare naive and unaware players with roguish terms - many of these operations are listed in our Rogue section.
Beside rogue casinos, the bonusing spawned the "bonus hunter", bonus "abuser", bonus "beater", players who could bankrupt a casino with one error in a bonus term. Even worse, bonuses became the catalyst for thousands of punters, motivated by greed, to commit player fraud by opening multiple accounts, submitting forged documents, and trying everything within their means to make a profit illicitly. Bonuses became the bane of the industry.
I have been involved in the online casino industry for the past seventeen years, and my opinion is as follows: the "bonus" is the worst thing that has ever happened to online gaming. It has caused endless problems for both players and casino operators, and has simply given online casinos a bad name.
I had hoped that the bonus scheme was a temporary thing - especially with the large casino entities getting involved in the business. When Virgin Casino came online in 2004 with their IGT powered casino, I was ecstatic. I thought, "Here we have a casino with deep pockets, and the resources to give players awesome incentives to play." I imagined such things as tickets from Virgin airlines being raffled off to slot players, or Virgin records sending off coupons to their loyal customers. I believed that this casino could actually break the vicious circle of bonusing players.
It never happened. Go to their site now and you're confronted with "Join Virgin Games today and get started with a 200% Welcome Bonus." Yawn-friggin'-yawn.
In my opinion, it a sign of laziness and a lack of ingenuity and creativity on the casinos' part. Online casinos were at one point making a solid effort to mimic the experience punters get from land based casinos. But it seems that there is a lack of direction to free operators from the lock-step they are in: bonus offers.
I have always been a proponent of not taking a bonus. Personally, I do not like being dictated to which games I play, and if I decide to go kamikaze - it's my money. Perhaps I lose it, perhaps I win big. I don't want any strings attached when I cash out.
Some main points:
The "sign up bonus" (SUB) has caused the majority of PABs. This sucks up resources; not only mine but casinos' as well. These resources could be used to improve the player experience via other incentives or services.
These disputes reflect badly on the industry as a whole and creates mistrust between players and the casinos.
Casino operators need to ask themselves, "What sort of player does the bonus attract?" Sure, some will go on to be big customers but at what cost?
So what can be done? Let's see if we can lay this beast to rest.
So let's get some nails to hammer into the coffin lid of the online casino bonus. Imagine there's no bonus...
it's easy if you try. It's up to all of us to break this nefarious cycle. Eschew the bonus Golem. Here's what you can do to help:
Fully understand that bonuses are not obligatory - you are more than welcome to play your own money on whatever games you wish to play in whatever manner you wish to play them in. Of course check the casino's terms and conditions. But you may be pleasantly surprised at the freedom you'll have. It's really a great uplifting feeling.
Understand the pitfall of expecting something for free. The adage "there's no such thing as a free lunch" can be directly applied to bonus schemes with ease.
Look beyond the bonus. Most casinos have other characteristics that are just or even more desirable than "free money": fast payouts, mind-blowing customer support, no payout limits, awesome VIP programs, and their selection of games.
How valuable is your time? How much effort do you go through trying to understand bonus terms and ensuring you are within the acceptable playing patterns and limits? Personally I can't be bothered with such nonsense. I value my time; I don't take bonuses.
Understand that you are not alone. There are many players who no longer bother with bonuses. Find out what they are looking for. You'll be a much happier player when you eschew bonuses.
There are other ways to advertise a casino. The best affiliates are those who play the games themselves and can give advice on what to play - what not to play. Players seek this information - exploit your experience to help them out.
Don't bullshit people. Ensure that your referred players know that they have a choice. No bonus is obligatory, don't act like it is.
Look beyond the bonus promo. Most casinos have other characteristics that are desirable for players: fast payouts, customer support, no withdrawal limits, flushing, VIP programs, and game selection. Focus on these qualities and make your website more tangible - more informative.
How valuable is your time? Do you deal with players complaining on your site about bonus offers? No bonus offers = little to no complaints.
Understand that you are not alone. There are a number of affiliates who are fed up with the bonusing of players and the problems that ensue.
There are other ways to promote your casino. There have been a number of casinos that created special promos in our forum that had nothing to do with bonuses: scavenger hunts with cash prizes, raffles and drawings, free give-aways. Players really enjoy these sorts of promos.
Don't bullshit people. If you can't explain a bonus in one concise paragraph - don't do it.
Think outside the box. Challenge your marketing folks to look at how B&M casinos gain loyalty with their players. If they can do it without convoluted bonus offers, you can too. .
How valuable is your time? Are you fed up with players trying to scam your bonus offers with bullshit complaints and player fraud? How much time and effort do you spend on constructing bullet proof bonuses? And what about the legal expenses? You can even hire a team of lawyers to write your terms and conditions, and you're still going to have headaches.
Understand that you are not alone. I bet your colleages and competitors would agree with me: bonuses suck resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
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