It’s all too easy for the novice online bingo player to fall foul of wagering requirements which determine when and whether winnings can be cashed out.
A wagering requirement is a minimum spend condition imposed by an online bingo site when they offer a bonus of any kind. The minimum spend is generally some multiple of the bonus, or of the bonus plus any associated deposit, and it usually has to be on bingo tickets only, with anything spent on other games on the site not counted or else contributing at a much lower rate (for instance, at Gamesys bingo sites slots play counts towards wagering requirements, but only at 10%). Casino and slots sites also have wagering requirements for the bonuses they offer and these tend to be much larger than those on bingo sites.
4 x bonus is a common wagering requirement for bingo bonus. Suppose you deposited £10 and received 300% bonus giving you £40 to play with initially. A 4x wagering requirement on this would work out at £30 x 4 = £120. You would need to spend £120 on bingo tickets (taken from the original deposit and bonus plus £80 worth of winnings) to clear this wagering requirement (although most sites will treat it as cleared if your account balance reaches zero in the meantime).
Some wagering requirements include the original deposit in the multiple. If the wagering requirement in the above example were 4 x (deposit + bonus) instead of a straightforward 4 x bonus, the required spend to clear it would be 4 x (£10 + £30) = £160. The less generous the bonus is, the more of an adverse effect the inclusion of the deposit in the calculation has. In the case of a 50% reload bonus, for example, including the deposit in the wagering requirement TRIPLES the amount of play required to complete it!
Deposit £10, receive £5 bonus. 4 x bonus = 4 x £5 = £20. 4 x (deposit + bonus) = 4 x £15 = £60.
In general, the sites that offer the best introductory bonuses also tend to have the highest wagering requirements and when those sites offer reload bonuses carrying a further wagering requirement, it can take a very long time indeed to clear. You might not mind that, of course, if your main motivation for playing bingo is to have fun and socialise.
There are a few reasons for such requirements. Firstly, the bingo site has to comply with anti money laundering regulations, and this means no putting money in and taking it straight out again – at least one playthrough of the deposit is required. Secondly, the bingo site would like to ensure, in return for the bonus it gives you to play with, that you keep on playing at the site for a while (which helps to make the bingo rooms busy and lively and therefore attractive to players in general). Thirdly, without a wagering requirement there would be nothing to prevent a player from repeatedly taking money out and then immediately depositing it again to stack up multiple deposit bonuses.
The Gambling Commission licence conditions and codes of practice require the wagering requirement (and any other important terms and conditions) to be specified when the bonus is advertised/offered. Once upon a time this all used to be buried in the small print but following the crackdown on gambling advertising that happened at the end of 2015 sites have to be much more careful about spelling it out. We also include the wagering requirements in our bingo reviews so you can see how the different sites compare.
Dragonfish network sites, for instance, used to operate with type 2, but as of September 2015 it was changed to be effectively type 1 and these days it is rare to find any bingo site with a type 2 wagering requirement. Worse still, many bingo sites – including all Cozy bingo sites – remove any remaining bonus when you withdraw even if you have completed all wagering requirements.
Many sites will allow you to opt out of the bonus offer altogether to avoid wagering requirements (although they will then still require you to play through your deposit once to comply with money laundering regulations). And these days, not all bingo sites still have traditional wagering requirements (see next section).
In September 2013, the UK Gambling Commission published a consultation document regarding proposed changes to gambling conditions and codes of practice in connection with the new gambling legislation that became law in October 2014. The marketing of bonus offers and free bets was identified as an area of concern “particularly in relation to potentially misleading or unfair terms and conditions”, and a multi-agency review was planned. The Advertising Standards Authority has been receiving an increasing number of complaints about bonus offers and free bets, and of the 58 cases investigated between 2008 and 2013, 53 resulted in some kind of enforcement action. The ASA has been taking action regarding advertising on companies’ own web sites and via email and social media, as well as TV advertising and posters and once the Gambling Commission got involved as well it was the death knell for excessive wagering requirements buried in the small print.
Some of the big name sites on the Virtue Fusion network reacted to the original consultation document by doing away with wagering requirements as such. Instead, they offered a welcome bonus that was not released until the player had deposited and spent at least £10. The bonus could only be spent on bingo cards – but after that, there were no restrictions. Ladbrokes at one point went one better still, and offered this arrangement 5 times in 5 different bingo rooms!
Where Virtue Fusion led, others followed. In January 2014 the 15 Network did away with the traditional wagering requirement they had previously imposed; anyone who had previously wagered a total of £30 real cash (from deposit and/or winnings) could withdraw from any of those sites any time that they have sufficient cash in their account to make the minimum £30 withdrawal, but making a withdrawal resulted in the loss of any unused bonus or loyalty points. This arrangement remained in force throughout 2015 and much of 2016 but at some stage the total playthrough requirement was quietly upped to £100 and the latest news from this particular network is a return to the regular sort of wagering requirements (to coincide with the introduction of slots bonuses).
We thought that other sites and networks might move to this type of arrangement, with a minimum amount that must be deposited and played in order to comply with anti-money laundering rules, and loyalty points and bonuses being used as an incentive for the player NOT to take any money out after that, but in fact much the reverse has happened. The Virtue Fusion sites discussed above continue to require the initial deposit to be spent before releasing their welcome bonus but now they almost all have a wagering requirement as well. This is partly to do with bingo sites feeling the pinch after the introduction of the POC tax and not having so much free money to give away any more, and partly to do with the increase in popularity of slots bonuses. Whatever happened with the wagering requirements for bingo bonuses, the wagering requirements for slots bonuses were never going to go away; the RTP on slots is so high that it would be financially ruinous for the bingo sites and casinos to drop them. What does seem to be a growing trend is the offer of free slots spins rather than a slots bonus. With free spins, it is generally the WINNINGS from the free spins that carry the wagering requirement – so if you don’t win anything from the free spins, you haven’t handed yourself a wagering requirement that must be filled before you can cash in your bingo winnings.
The latest development in the saga came in October 2016 when the UK Competition and Markets Authority launched an investigation into online gambling. In particular, they are looking into “concerns raised by the Gambling Commission about potential breaches of consumer law, including misleading promotions and unfair terms, being used by firms to block players’ payouts”.
Here’s what to expect at the various different bingo networks and platforms regarding wagering requirements (last updated autumn 2016):
Virtue Fusion wagering requirements are set by the individual operators and vary from a single playthrough to comply with anti money laundering legislation (usually combined with a requirement to spend all of the cash deposit before the bonus can be released in the first place) to as high as 6x for bingo. Virtue Fusion slots bonuses are kept separate from bingo bonuses and wagering requirements vary wildly from 1x in the case of a few special promotions up to a massive 50x . At most (but not all) Virtue Fusion bingo sites wagers are taken from the cash balance first and bonus will only be used if you have no cash left. Another variable at Virtue Fusion sites is restrictions on bonus usage with some rooms being made cash only.
Microgaming bingo sites have a wagering requirement of 30 – 50 x bonus on casino (slots) bonuses. The wagering requirement on bingo bonus (BBz) varies from 3x to 5x and most sites have further restrictions – at the Betway sites, for instance, there is a complicated arrangement whereby bingo winnings can end up being paid as casino bonus if there is an incomplete casino bonus wagering requirement, and at Butlers Bingo there is a proviso about spending at least half of your most recent deposit on bingo tickets in order to withdraw winnings. These further restrictions seem to change quite often, so it is essential to read the small print. BBz also typically have a short expiry (21 days) and will only be used if there is no cash in your account.
The standard Dragonfish wagering requirement is 4 x bingo bonus and an extremely unattractive 99 x instant games bonus. If the bonus is deposit related the multiple stays the same for bingo bonus – 4 x (deposit + bonus) but drops slightly for instant games bonus to 80 x (deposit + bonus). Free spins winnings are treated as instant games bonus. Historically at Dragonfish all that happened if you withdrew before meeting the wagering requirement on a bingo bonus was that you lost any remaining bonus (although you did have to have made a minimum deposit, typically £20 or £30, before any withdrawals were allowed). This has now been changed at all the sites on the main Dragonfish network so that if you withdraw without completing the wagering, you lose all your winnings from bonus wagering as well as any remaining bonus. On the plus side, Dragonfish bonuses are usually valid indefinitely (as long as the player logs in regularly to keep the account active) so at least there is no time pressure to complete the wagering.
This change was rolled out across the rest of the Dragonfish /Cassava / 888 sites during late 2015 and 2016, and Dragonfish /Cassava / 888 sites have an additional restriction on slots bonuses and free spins, capping the amount of winnings that can be cashed out even after completing the wagering requirement at £400 plus the value of the original bonus (apart from in the case of a progressive jackpot win). Again, on the plus side, most sites – including the ones that actually offer a slots bonus – have departed from the outrageous 99x slots wagering requirement, dropping it to somewhere between 30x and 50x.
In early 2017 Dragonfish tried something new – the Real Bingo Network. The first, experimental site on this network was Blighty Bingo and after numerous tweaks to the welcome offer, other sites started to appear on the network in Summer 2017. The Real Bingo Network does not offer any bingo bonuses as such; instead it gives out free bingo tickets to specific games and free slots spins, with no wagering requirements on the winnings. The only restriction on taking money out is the relatively high minimum withdrawal which is £35. The jury is still out on whether players will get used to and ultimately prefer this rather radical solution to the problem of wagering requirements – it certainly generated plenty of complaints to start with when players were expecting a bonus and didn’t get one!
Cozy bingo sites have a standard wagering requirement of 4 x (deposit + bonus) or 8 x bonus on bingo and 10 x (deposit + bonus) or 20 x bonus on slots. This has to be filled for any withdrawals to be allowed and even then if you withdraw, you lose any remaining bonus. The rules for an initial no deposit bonus are different, though, and following recent changes winnings from that can never be cashed out; when a player makes their first deposit previous winnings can only be carried forward as casino cash (a type of bonus) to the value of the deposit up to a maximum of £50, with the standard wagering requirement. Cozy also restrict winnings from a deposit bonus to 5 x bonus up to a maximum of £500.
The standard bingo wagering requirement is 4x at the main Daub Alderney sites (such as Kitty Bingo) but with the odd proviso that bingo games count at 150% on the welcome bonus and the further odd proviso that free spins winnings from the welcome offer are treated as bingo bonus, not slots bonus. The Daub sites also offer slots bonuses and these have a wagering requirement of 20x or 25x.
The wagering requirement at the Leapfrog powered sites (such as King Jackpot) is 3 x (deposit +bonus) on bingo and 10x on slots but these sites have a number of other rules connected with bonuses; in a nutshell, they cap winnings from their no deposit offer at £30 (bingo bonus) and confiscate them if the player does not make a deposit within one month of registration.
The Wheel of Slots has a 40 x wagering requirement on winnings from free spins. 15 Network had no wagering requirements as such but there was a one-off requirement to play through £100 real cash (from deposit and winnings) before any withdrawals were allowed at all, and even then all remaining bonus and loyalty points were forfeited when a withdrawal was made; this changed in autumn 2016 and now there is a standard wagering requirement of 4 x bonus for bingo and 40 x bonus for slots. All Jumpman wagering requirements are recalculated whenever a fresh bonus (or free spins winnings) is added, so for example if a player has £2 bingo bonus in their account and makes a deposit that awards another £10 bingo bonus, their wagering requirement would be £48 rather than £40 (but this would supersede any remaining wagering requirement on the £2). Jumpman also have a maximum convertible rule for bonuses and this is £500.
Bede Gaming have a standard 4 x wagering requirement on deposit bonuses and 10 x on no deposit bonuses (on bingo only). They also cap winnings by players who have never deposited at £20, and restrict bet size to £50 while there are outstanding wagering requirements.
Only Probability mobile sites now survive from this group. These are slots sites with just one bingo room and the bonuses they offer are basically slots bonuses, carrying a 50x wagering requirement.
The B-live sites – Bingocams and Bright Bingo – have a standard 4 x wagering requirement for deposit bonuses (recently upped from 2 x) and 10 x for no deposit bonuses (on bingo only). Any remaining deposit bonus is lost when you withdraw.
At Tombola, in order to withdraw without penalty you just need to leave at least as much cash as bonus money in your account. The bonus money is only used to play with if you run out of cash funds.
At Maria and Bingo.com (Relax Gaming), the standard requirement is 35 x (with bingo stakes counting double) on a bonus and 15 x on winnings from free spins. Bonuses are also frequently given out as a bingo voucher (only to be spent in the bingo rooms) and these carry a wagering requirement of 4 x on bingo only.
At mFortune (mobile bingo) the wagering requirement is just 1 x (deposit + bonus).