By Mark Wadie

Responsible Gambling in Ontario

Online casino bonuses are a staple feature of the gambling industry worldwide. They are the enticement that every operator from Canada to the UK will use to get you through their doors and keep you spending money at their tables and slot machines. As a customer, it pays to understand how these incentives work and how to use them to your advantage. This guide will help you to do just that.


Before we get into the details of how casino bonuses in Canada work it’s worth considering why casino managers give them away in the first place. Understanding their motivation will help you to understand how to find the best value offers because whilst on the surface these are free bets, remember they are there to drive more spend from you in the long run and they are always tied in with conditions that mitigate the casino losses.


Casino perks are not exclusive to the online side of the gambling industry. Head to Vegas or Macau and you’ll be plied with free drinks and food to keep you on the casino floor, and if you turn out to be a regular big spender (or high roller as they are known) then you’ll be invited to stay in lavish suites. Why? Because what you spend far surpasses the cost of those drinks, meals and VIP hotel rooms.

And the same applies online. Bonuses are a tool used by online casinos to acquire and retain customers. And the more you spend, the more they are prepared to offer you to keep you there. After all, with so much competition around, you might just take your dollars to another new online casino if you think they will treat you better.

Crucially though, bonuses are not a standard marketing cost to a casino. Most of that money given away in free bets is simply wagered back through the games and consequently lost by the player. And the terms and conditions we are about to explain are the reason why. And if you can understand those terms, then you can pick out the best value bonuses for yourself every time!


Before we run through our check list of significant terms and points to help you find the right bonus let’s quickly look at the different types of bonus that casinos most commonly offer to customers. If you are a new registration you will often be given a package that includes a mix of several of these types.

No Deposit Bonus – This is also called a registration bonus and it is awarded on sign up before any deposit is made. Typically, it will be some free spins on a specific game but it can also be a $5 or $10 bonus to use on a variety of slots or tables. As there is no requirement to deposit to receive this offer it will always come with restrictive terms associated with any winnings generated so keep an eye out for this. Check out our own list of no deposit bonuses.

Deposit Bonuses – The most common type of casino bonus is the deposit match offer. Usually this will be a 100% or 200% match – deposit $10 and get $10 or $20 extra in bonus funds. It is sometimes possible to find 500% match bonuses but they are much rarer than they used to be.

Free Spins – The standard currency of online slots casinos, free spins, are just what they say. This is a free play on a specified slot or group of slots. Typically, free spins are eligible for NetEnt games like Starburst as they are very popular, or Book of Dead by Play n Go, another popular title.

Cashback Bonuses – An alternative bonus format used by casino managers more commonly as a retention offer rather than a welcome offer is cashback. This is payback on any losses calculated as wagers minus wins. You’ll often see Cashback Bonuses as part of VIP schemes.

Non-Cash Bonuses – It’s not uncommon for online casinos to give away non-cash gifts to big spending customers in the same way that casinos in Vegas do. If you join a VIP club you may even be gifted with tickets to concerts, big sporting events or even exotic holidays.

Welcome Bonus Package – If you browse the pages of our website you’ll notice that all casinos are offering new players a bonus package that usually mixes up a registration bonus, a deposit match and some free spins. There are various configurations for these offers and it’s not uncommon to receive a bonus on your first one, two, three or even four deposits. At each level you may get a different percentage match and bonus size.


Now we know the types of bonus to look out for, here are the most important significant terms and other criteria to help you find a bonus that works for you. In short, we are looking for bonuses that offer you free play on your favourite games and at the best value possible. Which means, a good size of free bet and withdrawal terms that are not too restrictive.

1. Qualification Criteria

First of all, check out what you have to do to qualify for the bonus. There will be a process to unlock the offer. If it’s just registration, then you have nothing to lose and you might as well go ahead and sign up. Just keep in mind that at most casinos you will also be required to verify your ID using a passport or driver license EVEN if you don’t plan to deposit. This is a fraud consideration on the part of the operator and also an essential if you won and wanted to withdraw in any case.

Most bonuses require a minimum deposit first. Usually this will be at least $10 and sometimes even $20. So keep an eye out for that in the terms and conditions and don’t expect a bonus if you only plan to deposit $5.

2. Maximum Bonus

If you are in this for the big money bonuses then look out for the maximum value bonus you can receive. There will always be a cap to limit the casinos losses and it will normally be between $500 and $1,000. If you are a high spending customer then it pays to shop around. There are some casinos whose welcome packages offer as much as $5,000 in bonuses, whilst others are capped at just a few hundred dollars. Check out our VIP casinos page for the best deals.

3. Game Eligibility

We all have different preferences when it comes to slots and table games. You need to make sure that your bonus is eligible for the games you like. Most free spins bonuses are restricted to specific games like Starburst or Aloha! Cluster Pays. However, if you shop around you’ll find that some operators are giving away free spins on more interesting slots like Book of Dead by Play n Go or even Mega Moolah by Microgaming.

Another consideration is table games. Due to their narrow house edge – Blackjack and Roulette for example are 98% to 99% – they are seen as a bonus risk by casinos. Players can more easily wager bonus money and win on these games and the casino doesn’t want that! Consequently, it is quite rare to find a casino that offers table game or live dealer bonuses. But it’s not impossible to find one and it’s worth searching. Currently, Casoola Casino offers a live dealer bonus to new players.

4. Wagering Requirements

The key to understanding the value of your bonus is the wagering requirements. We cover this off in more detail in this guide. Wagering requirements are applied to your bonus or winnings and tell you that before they can be withdrawn, you must wager the value of the original bonus (and sometimes the deposit that triggered it too) X number of times.

Crucially, wagering requirements vary from one deal to the next. Low wagering requirements equate to a better value bonus and you should hunt those deals down. The industry average is somewhere around 30x to 40x but can be as high as 60x.

Our advice is to seek bonuses where the wagering requirement is 30x or lower. This gives you the maximum opportunity to claim the bonus, spin your favourite slot and maybe walk away with some cash in your pocket.

5. Cashout Restrictions

We also recommend that before you accept any bonus you check the cashout restrictions which are common to most offers. These state that even after meeting the wagering requirements of a bonus there will still be limits on how much you can actually cash out. This will normally be $500 to $1,000 though some sites will set the limit much lower. So beware, onerous cashout restrictions can seriously impact the value of any bonus.

6. Expiry Conditions

A less-well known condition of any casino bonus is the expiry date! This refers to how long your bonus is available to claim and then spend before it expires. This pushes you to take up the offer before it expires and means the casino can remove any spare bonus money sitting in inactive accounts from time to time.

Expiry conditions may not be a major concern to you but if you don’t plan to spin your bonus through in a short space of time it’s worth being aware of this restriction. It may particularly apply to free spins offers that are awarded in batches over a period of a week or more. Often, packages of 200 spins are awarded like this in groups of 10, each group expiring if they are unused after 24 hours.

7. Payment Service Restrictions

If you are not using a bank card or credit card to deposit then we recommend that you check to see that the service you are using is eligible for a bonus. eWallets like Skrill and Neteller are generally excluded from bonus offers as they are seen as easy prey for gamblers who want to sign up multiple accounts and claim a bonus multiple times. This is known as bonus abuse.

8. The Importance of Licensing

Finally, it’s vital to keep in mind the importance of playing at a casino that is licensed by a reputable regulator, whether that is the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, or one of the big European regulators like the Malta Gaming Authority.

A licensee must adhere to strict rules on how it treats its customers including providing fair and transparent terms and conditions for any offer they make available to their players. So, before you sign up and deposit, as well as checking the terms of the offers, always check to see that a casino displays its license number on every page.


So, in summary, there are many takeaways from this page to consider before you sign up to claim your next casino bonus. Free money offers are always restricted by terms and conditions that are designed to reduce the risk for the casino that you walk off with more money in your pocket than you deposited. But some casinos are more restrictive than others and it is possible, by understanding these terms, to pick off the best value bonuses. It is not just about the games that you can play with your free spins, but how much you will have to wager any winnings before they can be withdrawn and how much your winnings are capped at too.

So, tread carefully and always check the significant terms before you dive in and claim a bonus. Good luck and have fun! Now check our recommended real money casinos to grab yourself a good deal today!