2021 Welcome Bonus roundup

New year, new opportunities! Here at Ace of Slots, we regularly review hundreds of brands in the online casino space to bring you the best overviews. We want to make sure you don’t waste time and money. And what better way to start our quarterly overview than with a recap on welcome bonuses.

The welcome bonus is the first real contact you will have with a brand. It communicates a lot about who they are. Do they want your trial of the brand to be quick or comprehensive? Are they scared of you winning some money? Let’s find out! We investigated hundreds of online casinos to see where we are at the start of 2021 and what changed compared to previous years.

The standard welcome bonus is 100% match

We didn’t notice any major change this year in terms of the actual deposit match. Like in the past few years, 100% match is still the standard you should expect whenever you join a new online casino. There are a few brands who seem to want try something different:

  • Bonus Spin only offers. PlayOJO seems to lead the pack here since theirs are at least wager free.
  • Lotteries for welcome bonus spins. We’ve seen this with some brands (like BGO) in which you get a roll on a wheel to decide how many bonus spins you get. We can’t recommend these when better, guaranteed offers are out there.
  • Cashback “bonus” after meeting a certain wagering requirement. It can be okay, but it seems objectively inferior to the standard 100% up to X offers you can see with most brands.

That said, we also identified a few brands with great welcome bonuses, above this 100% limit. If you want the best welcome bonuses in the UK right now, in 2021, here’s what we found:

  • Unibet – 400% up to £10
  • Monster Casino – 200% up to £50
  • Gala Casino – 200% up to £40
  • 32 Red – 150% up to £150
  • Platincasino – 150% up to £50
  • GentingBet – 150% up to £50
  • 21 Casino – 121% up to £300

Wagering requirements are often misleading

It surprised us to see that compared to last year, in 2021 the wagering requirement has gone up on average. A lot of brands seem to sport quite high wagering requirements. Actually over 55% of the online casinos we analyzed have 60x or more wagering requirements relative to the bonus awarded. But it did seem to us like the brands were aware this was high. Why? Because they employed a myriad of marketing tricks to obfuscate the real value.

Wagering amount is calculated based on bonus + deposit

This is the most often encountered way to stealthily increase the wagering requirement. Even though you can only meet the wagering requirements with bonus money, they base the actual amount you have to hit on the sum of your deposit and bonus. Thus on a standard 100% up to £100 offer, “35x” wagering requirement, you actually have to turn over £7,000 to withdraw your money. In our experience this usually ends up deleting your winnings in the vast majority of cases because the value is excessive.

Games have 30-50% wagering requirements

Some brands use a different, artificial way of increasing wagering requirements. That is by having some games contribute less than 100% of your bet when being counted for wagering requirements. For example if, let’s say, Dead or Alive contributes 50% to wagering requirements and you bet £10, your wagering requirements will only drop by £5. As you can see this can have a massive impact on whether you manage to get some money or not.

But the problem is when most of a brand’s games fall in these limited categories. We’ve heard of limiting a few more exploitable games, no problem. But when you start to limit half or more of your portfolio, players will have trouble meeting the wagering requirements of bonuses.

Not everything is bleak

Even though a majority of the brands have these high wagering requirements, there are still some that offer good value for normal players. From our reviews we noticed these were the online casinos with the best wagering requirements in the UK for welcome bonuses:

  • Grosvenor Casino – 5x wagering requirement
  • 888 Casino – 30x wagering requirement
  • Platincasino – 30x wagering requirement
  • All British Casino35x wagering requirement
  • Admiral Casino – 35x wagering requirement

Bonus cashout limitations are not rare

There seems to be an increasing trend with online casinos to limit the amount of wins you can receive from the bonuses they give you. This is even more of a common occurrence nowadays with welcome bonuses. It surprised us to see that almost half of the brands we reviewed had a limit on bonus cashouts.

More than that, the limits we saw were often in the 3 digits which meant that you were rarely allowed to take home 10x the bonus amount. All this while their own wagering requirements are over 60x.

Our recommendation still stands: if you’re the type of player who enjoys playing with bonuses, you should look for one of the brands that do not restrict player winnings in such a way. Luckily, there are still a lot of them out there. If you’re interested in more, please do check out our recommended casinos section. Anything over 3.5 stars is not going to feature these kinds of strict restrictions.

Bonus Spin limitations are usually harsh

This is our biggest pain point of our whole Q1 2021 roundup. Bonus Spins on Welcome Bonuses have significant limitations. So many in fact that often we recommend not taking these into consideration when evaluating welcome bonus offers.

Our reviewers discovered that 87% of the online casinos we checked had a cashout limit on bonus spins. The limits are usually very small, sometimes even a few tens of pounds. The whole experience of playing slots is balanced around betting some amount of money and having the chance to win. When you remove one part of the equation, the winning, you remove the main draw.

On the bright side, we did notice that the wagering requirements for slots were slightly lower than for the welcome bonuses. Still not enough to compensate for the very strict limitations.

Conclusion

2021 brings us a lot of interesting trends when it comes to welcome bonuses. Unfortunately most of them are related to increased limits and restrictions. Our recommendations still stand and we can summarize them as follows:

  • Pick a brand with a valid online casino license
  • If you’re unsure of the brand, pick a casino with 100% welcome offer
  • Check the wagering requirements in the fine print
  • Check reliable sources for big red flags. In our review section we do our best to be short and to the point on these.

Good luck and may the reels be with you!

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