Whether you are a first time online gambler or a well-seasoned vet, the sign-up bonus is an ever-present part of online casino advertising. You’ll see them even on the banners listed within this site, casino’s essentially offering “free money” as a reward for signing up with their casino. These enticing bonuses sound like a great deal – and most of the time they are – however let there be no question about it there is a catch.

It’s my guess that you’ll be harder pressed to find an industry or business that doesn’t have some form of advertising as opposed to ones that do. Keeping that in mind, the online casino is no different than any industry that has a need to bring in new paying customers. Promotions are born out of the hope of enticing new customers into signing up and playing with a casino. “You say you’ll match my deposit by 200%?!” That’s very simple math – it’s a good deal! Especially if I’m interested in online casinos to begin with, shopping for the biggest bonus is a very often used – and abused – evaluation method and deciding factor.

Here in lies the problem for the online casinos and the players who frequent their games. Although it can be argued that the house ends up on top, there is no doubt that the casino takes risks along side with the player. When creating a sign-up bonus, the online casino marketer cannot formulate a given return rate for these promotions. The hope is that the player loses this money obviously, but that’s not a given. Simple math can prove that there are many games in which are barely in favor of the casino. Just as the player takes chances when gambling with his or her money, the online casino takes its chances as well. Even though it’s designed to be in favor of the house, there’s no doubt that these outcomes are far from controllable.

So, like all good businesses, “Terms and Conditions” or loosely written lawyer lingo comes to the rescue. This is the catch. In order for you to receive your bonus, the online casino designs a rather beefy yet transparent agreement that the player electronically signs. Now, I would be lying to you if I told you that I read these T&C’s all the time. If that were true, it would take an hour to install any simple piece of software instead of just minutes. The average Internet user never reads these, and most importantly, if you did you would most likely feel confused. In the case that you do in fact understand what you are reading it’s very possible that you’ll feel alarmed to the fact that it’s not in your best interest to agree to these terms. Furthermore, all industries use the same roundabout safety wording in their clauses as well. Take a gander at your cell phone companies terms and conditions, there’s no doubt dozens of paragraph giving the cell phone company ultimate control over your phone service at their discretion.

Back on track though; overall the online casino designs a bonus to attract players, and creates agreements to protect them incase their gamble goes sour. Many online casinos have proven to stand by their bonuses, and have a great community presence when dealing with issues that arise from bonus players winning large sums of money. However, there have been too many community reports of casino’s refusing to pay the player’s winning because he/she apparently violated bonus play terms and conditions.

Some cases are obvious fraud by the casino, and others are just less than fair. Either way as an online gambling community member I’m tired of the resulting outcomes of these bonuses.

While this situation exposes rogue online casino operations, I’ve also seen these situations damage an otherwise respectable online casino’s reputation. This hurts the industry as a whole. While there are many online casinos, there are few software providers. This means that a reputation damaged at one online casino, might in turn damage online casinos that are related by the software that they use, or the promotional avenues (affiliate webmasters and affiliate agencies). This trickle-down effect has it’s pro’s and con’s as well. You can argue that this strengthens or weakens the online casino industry – another topic for another day however.

Message to the player:

This is very simple. Do not allow the casino bonuses to persuade you into joining up with an online casino. Realize that the online casino is using the bonus as a risky promotion – one that can pay off for you and hurt them at the same time – that in any other industry would otherwise equal a horrible advertisement idea! If you would want to be paid your winning money – then by all means play only with your money! This can ensure that no sticky terms or conditions apply to retrieving your winnings. In the case that the casino refuses to pay out money that you clearly won – you have online portals like Online Casino Boss that can be used as a leverage to state your claim. Additionally forums such as CasinoMeister are very well known online casino watchdog communities that you can use to help you fight the casinos. Don’t forget to apply the other Online Gambling Safety guidelines when picking a casino.

Message to the Online Casino Industry:

Please put your creative thinking caps on and design a new promotional tool. Bending the terms and conditions is annoying and unfair to the players. These bonuses only hurt you and your industry as a whole. You already walk the fine line with the nature of your business to begin with, (many loosing players are quick to discredit or blame you and your software) why would you add anything more to the list of possible grey areas? As I mentioned above, a sticky bonus situation can easily create a poor reputation for your company even if you pass with flying colors on other (more important) standards.

Affiliate webmasters and online casino gamblers are tired of the bonus promotion and the online casinos unfair manipulation of the rules. I hope that the online casino industry (affiliates and players included) shuns the use of bonuses down the line.

By Amon Borland
Amon Borland is the webmaster of the Online Casino Boss Copyright © 2006 http://www.onlinecasinoboss.com/ – All Rights Reserved. This document may be freely redistributed in its unedited form and on the condition that all copyright references are kept intact along with the hyperlinked URLs.