Feature Article
Clara Madeira29th Jun 2023

Bonus Abuse Unmasked: A Comprehensive Guide

No one wants to be accused of bonus abuse. Not only can it void your winnings, but also get you banned, blacklisted and, in severe cases, fined. In this article, we’ll go over bonus abuse, including what it is, why it exists, and how to avoid it.

What is Bonus Abuse? 

Bonus abuse is a scary term. And what makes it especially scary is just how vague it is! Generally, the term is used to refer to a player’s attempt at exploiting a casino’s welcome bonus. If a casino thinks you are using its bonus inappropriately, it will charge you with bonus abuse. 

So what might warrant an accusation of bonus abuse?

There are typically four justifications: 

Creating multiple accounts
Someone looking to exploit a casino’s welcome bonus might try to create multiple accounts. By creating new accounts, they will be able to claim the casino’s welcome bonus multiple times.

Bonus hunting
This is where a player claims a bonus for the sole purpose of making a profit. Casinos judge this to be the case when they employ particular betting tactics or their gambling activity follows an unusual pattern.

Bonus stacking
This occurs when a player tries to use multiple bonuses simultaneously. Sometimes, this can be a legitimate strategy – it may not be a violation of the rules. However, it is considered “abusive” if it is deemed an attempt to circumvent the T&Cs.

Collusion
If a casino allows you to play a social game, such as poker, or live versions of table games, the charge of “collusion” occurs when the casino suspects you of working alongside another player to gain an unfair advantage.

Why Are Casinos Wary of Bonus Abuse? 

In other words: why does bonus abuse exist? The truth is that bonus abuse is fundamental to ensuring a fair gaming landscape. When used appropriately, bonus abuse is fair for casinos and players.

Here’s why it’s so important:

Casinos are not charitable organizations. They are businesses. And like all well-run businesses, they are driven to create profit. A high volume of bonus abuse can significantly damage these profits – especially in the short term! 

A great example of how bonus abuse increases a player’s chances of winning is the strategy of creating multiple accounts. Theoretically, the more attempts you get at using a bonus, the more likely it is that you’ll win real money using the bonus. 

Interested in the maths behind how this works? We go over it below. (Warning: it’s heavy work!)

Bonus Abuse: The Maths Behind Bankrupting A Casino

Okay, let’s imagine that a casino offers a no deposit bonus that gives you a 5% chance of winning.

There is a way of working this out that we won’t go over here, but the values of such a bonus could be: 

  • Bonus value: $10 
  • Wagering requirements: 20x
  • Game weighting: 100%
  • Stake per bet/spin: $3.39

The no deposit bonus described would give players a 5% chance of winning. What we want to illustrate, however, is how this likelihood increases if you were to claim and use this same bonus multiple times. 

To this end, we can use what is called “complement probability.” Complement probability measures the probability of an event not happening. 

So, if you have a 5% chance of winning with this bonus with a single attempt, you also have a 95% chance of not winning. To find the probability of winning after “n” attempts, we can use the following formula:

Probability of not winning after n attempts = (1 – chance of winning)^n

Let’s say we want to see how many times we would have to claim and use the bonus before we have a 50% chance of winning. If the probability of winning is 50%, the probability of not winning is also 50% – which, as a decimal, is equal to 0.5

Our “chance of winning,” as we have already stated, is 5% – which, as a decimal, is equal to 0.05

Now that we have our two variables, we can place them into our equation: 

0.5 = (1 – 0.05)^n 0.5 = 0.95^n

The “n” in our equation is an exponent that represents the “number of times” we would have to claim and use the bonus before we have a 50% chance of winning.

To work out the value of “n” we have to isolate it on one side of our equation. And we can do this by using what is called the natural logarithm (ln), which is approximately 2.718. 

Take the natural logarithm and use it to balance both sides of our equation, like so: 

ln(0.5) = ln(0.95^n)

We are now able to make a few conceptual leaps.

The equation we have just created is also equivalent to: 

ln(0.5) = n * ln(0.95)

Which can then be rearranged to isolate “n” on one side of our equation:

n = ln(0.5) / ln(0.95)

And voila! We now have an equation that will provide us with the value of “n”.

Now all that’s left to do is carry out the equation and we get:

n = 13.51 (Yay! 🥳)

Therefore, with the value of “n” being approximately 13.51, you will need around 14 attempts before you have a 50% chance of winning at least once with our hypothetical bonus. 

Here’s a graph that – we hope – helps to illustrate:

Bonus Abuse

Bonus abuse can affect you too! Imagine you’re playing a game of poker at your casino and two players – both of whom have claimed a bonus – are working together behind the scenes. Chances are, they will significantly improve their chances of winning.

This is clearly unfair to you. What’s more, you could be playing with your hard-earned money, whereas they’ll be playing with the casino’s cash. Thus their collusion is doubly offensive, as they are playing risk-free, while the cost of a loss for you is very real. 

A high volume of bonus abuse is clearly detrimental to a casino’s reputation. Players need to trust that the gaming landscape is fair and safe, or else they will flee in droves.

Bonus abuse undermines this promise in a number of ways, such as:

Poor Security
A high volume of bonus abuse creates the impression that the casino has poor security standards. Bonus abusers exploit loopholes, weak security measures and poorly designed T&Cs

Lack of Trust
If a casino offers a bonus with poorly designed T&Cs, it may have to change them retroactively. How can you trust a casino that modifies its terms of service, after you’ve signed up? The answer is you can’t.

Negative Reviews
Some casinos have received negative reviews and a tarnished reputation because their T&Cs have been poorly communicated. Negative reviews should be expected when players can’t understand the terms and breach them by accident.

Financial Losses
If a casino loses too much by offering a casino bonus, and a lot of these losses are due to bonus abuse, the casino will not look like the most professional outfit. Trust will significantly decline if the brand seems like a financial liability.

Unfair gaming environment
As we have already discussed, bonus abuse is an issue for both the casino and the player. This is relevant in the case of collusion, but also when a casino unfairly or erroneously charges a player with bonus abuse.

While no study has been carried out for the Australian market, eCOGRA found that in the UK, bonuses and promotions were a common reason for disputes between players and casinos – emphasizing the importance of understanding the bonus T&Cs, and understanding how to avoid bonus abuse: 

Disputes between players and casinos

Another reason why casinos are wary of bonus abuse is because of the increased operational costs. These costs are separate from the costs of players winning.

Such costs to the casino include:

Increased customer support
Offering a bonus, attracting new players, and dealing with potential bonus abuse puts an additional strain on customer support teams. Occasionally, a casino may have to hire new staff to help investigate claims and handle disputes.

Security improvements
Detecting and preventing bonus abuse requires advanced security software. Examples may include ID verification, IP tracking, and tools that monitor gameplay. All of this has a cost.

Legal and regulatory disputes
In some cases, charging players with bonus abuse and a rapid increase in complaints can lead to increased regulatory scrutiny. If the casino is found to be treating players unfairly, it can lead to fines.

Basic Bonus Terms & Conditions 

While a breach of the T&Cs isn’t necessarily “bonus abuse,” it is a common way for players to violate the terms of their bonus. Reading and understanding these terms are vital, and we recommend you do it with every bonus you claim. 

Here are the most common T&Cs you need to be aware of:

A bonus’s wagering requirements outline how many times you need to wager the value of your bonus before you can withdraw. Say, for example, that you claim a no deposit bonus worth $20 with wagering requirements of 20x. In other words, you have to stake this $20, twenty times. 

Therefore, before you could withdraw your winnings, you’d have to stake a sum total of ($20 x 20) $400 using your no deposit bonus.

Game weighting percentages refer to how much of your wager contributes towards the wagering requirements depending on the game you play. High odds games tend to contribute significantly less than games with low-decent odds. 

For example, imagine you claim a no deposit bonus where slots contribute 100%, while blackjack contributes 5%. If you wagered $100 on slots, the entire $100 would go towards the wagering requirements; wagering the same $100 on blackjack would only contribute $5.

Casinos may limit the maximum you can bet per hand/spin while using your casino bonus. A typical limit is $5, but it can vary greatly.

After a set period of time, your bonus will expire. No deposit bonuses, for instance, tend to last for between 2-7 days.

With no deposit bonuses, you are likely to have a limit to how much you can ultimately withdraw in real cash. For instance, if the win cap is set at $100, this is the maximum amount you can withdraw, even if you win more using your bonus.

Many bonuses come with a list of eligible games. Playing games that are ineligible is a violation of the rules. Please stick to the eligible games list while using your bonus, and while you try to satisfy the T&Cs of your bonus. 

Expert Advice
Clara Madeira
Clara Madeira

Want to learn more about the key T&Cs?

We have the guides for you! Become a casino expert by reading our easy-to-follow guides on Wagering Requirements and Game Weighting Percentages! Master the T&Cs to maximize your chances of winning real cash.

The 5 Consequences of Bonus Abuse

Account Suspension or Termination
If a casino suspects you of bonus abuse, its first action will be to either temporarily suspend your account (to investigate further), or, in cases of flagrant bonus abuse, they will terminate your account entirely. 

Confiscation of Winnings 
Sometimes, in less severe cases of bonus abuse, you will simply have your winnings confiscated. To carry on playing, you will have to use your own funds.

Exclusion from Future Promotions 
Another, less severe punishment used by casinos is to exclude serial bonus abusers from future promotions. This can significantly diminish your experience of the casino.

Legal Consequences 
While rare, casinos may decide to press legal charges against players if they are found to be in violation of the jurisdiction’s laws. This is usually reserved for serious cases of fraud and other illegal activities. 

Damage to Personal Reputation 
Online gambling is a community as well as an industry. Casinos are often in touch to alert each other about proven bonus abusers. Consequently, if you are caught abusing one casino’s bonus, you may face an industry-wide ban!

Beyond the Basics: Unraveling the Subtleties of Bonus Abuse

The accusation of bonus abuse can hinge on one or two delicate details.

Let’s take out our proverbial magnifying glass and focus on the small print:

Unless specified, wagering requirements are a key component of all casino bonuses. Yet the term has a bit of flexibility to it. Subsequently, while one casino bonus may require you to wager the value of your bonus, another casino may require you to wager the value of your bonus plus the value of your deposit.

Because of this, it’s possible you may try to make a withdrawal too early and thereby break the rules – so be careful!

So you’ve just used your free spins and won, say $5. Can you withdraw this as real money? It’s unlikely. Can you use it to play other types of games than the eligible slots? Sometimes. Will all games contribute equally to the wagering requirements? Possibly. 

These are all questions you have to ask yourself before you use a free spins bonus. Read the fine print of the T&Cs so you don’t accidentally breach the terms!

You may be asking yourself: what constitutes an abusive betting pattern? Again, the concept is ill-defined so it can be applied to a wide-variety of instances. Common, so-called “abusive,” betting patterns include betting the maximum every time to try and satisfy the wagering requirements quickly, or placing simultaneous bets on competing outcomes, such as red and black on roulette.

Truthfully, it is difficult to say what exactly makes a betting pattern abusive. Our advice is to use your bonus as if you are trialing the casino, and not in a competitive way. 

Casino bonuses are offered on a one-per-player basis. But how do casinos ensure that players don’t create more than one account? The answer is that they track your IP address. Consequently, you have to be careful not to create more than one account per household, rather than per person.

You also have to be careful not to create an account using a public wifi domain, as someone else may already have done so! 

Conclusion 

Navigating the world of online casino bonuses can seem quite daunting. There are a lot of rules to learn, and the subtle variation in rules between one casino and another can have real consequences. Our advice is simple: read the T&Cs and stick to them as best as you can. Remember that casinos are not trying to accuse you of bonus abuse – they would rather you become a long-term and loyal player.