Dean McHugh, Guest Author at

Generous bonuses for new players allow them to try sportsbooks and casino games with no or a low financial obligation, making them much more inclined to register with the casino. Obviously, when the bonus has been used or spent, players are incentivized to spend and bet their own money.

In the majority of cases, it’s a win-win situation: players get free funds to wager and casinos get valuable new paying customers. Sometimes however, problems do arise when players try to scam casinos in a variety of ways using these bonuses. While the majority of players are completely honest, it goes without saying that some players do attempt to abuse the system and the bonuses.

These players are attempting to make a fast profit by completely flouting the strict terms and conditions that have been put in place by the casino. The repercussions of these underhand actions are far from lenient, and could include having funds confiscated, having accounts locked, and sometimes having legal action brought against them by the casino.

Understanding Casino Bonuses

The bonuses offered by gambling operators can vary. Typical promotions give players bonus funds or free spins to encourage them to use their casino – then continue playing once the bonus has run out by depositing their own money. Both the player and the casino should gain from the best casino offers – players get a free bonus to bet with, and the casino operators get new paying customers.

Challenges emerge when certain players begin to abuse the bonuses and start using them for malicious activities such as money laundering. Even though bonuses differ depending on the casinos, popular ones include:

  • Registration bonus (+ free spins)
  • Deposit match bonus
  • No deposit bonus
  • Reload bonus
  • Cashback
  • Free bets
  • Reward program
  • Refer-a-friend bonus

Not everyone who takes part in bonus abuse is a seasoned criminal or criminal mastermind. Most bonus abusers are just normal people who think they are only cheating the casino and not actually breaking any laws.

That said, in recent years there’s been a worrying surge of criminals that are tech-savvy. These ‘cyber-criminals’ have high-tech programs and machinery to utilize virtual machines, emulators, betting bots, and (simulated) residential IPs.

What is Bonus Abuse?

Bonus abuse when criminals or fraudsters search out casinos that offer bonuses to sign up with them. These fraudsters then attempt to obtain these bonuses illegally, by claiming them more than once, or cashing out without completing the casino’s wagering or playthrough requirements.

The most common form of bonus abuse is for gamblers to hunt down casino sites for the best casino offers and create multiple accounts, trying to claim the bonuses numerous times.

The majority of the time, they target casinos with no-deposit bonuses that do not require them to provide bank details. More daring casino bonus abusers will use stolen identities, fake IDs, VPNs, and other online funding methods to bypass the casino operators policies and KYC (Know Your Customer) requirements.

What are the Different Types of Bonus Abuse?

  • Chip dumping: Chip dumping is when a poker player at a table loses their chips intentionally or credits them to another player in an attempt to transfer funds to that player’s account. The player receiving the chips would more than likely be somebody working alongside the ‘dumper’ or could even be the fraudster himself, playing from another account.
  • Collecting registration bonuses: One of the most common forms of casino bonus abuse is collecting sign-up bonuses. Fraudsters will sign up to an online casino site with multiple accounts and then cash out without ever having played a game. This is the reason that online casinos have now adopted wagering and playthrough requirements, meaning players cannot withdraw any bonus or funds made from that bonus until they have actually played.
  • Arbitrage betting, a.k.a., arbing: Arbitrage betting or arbing is carried out when betting on sporting fixtures. The process entails bettors concurrently placing bets on every possible outcome from a sports event that will secure a guaranteed profit, whatever the outcome of the event. The fraudsters using this method are called ‘arbers’. Arbitrage betting is significantly different from traditional betting and involves applying a mathematical technique to guarantee a sizable profit. A bettor can place bets with multiple bookmakers, placing a bet with one bookmaker and different bet with another, and so on. This is especially useful when more than two results are possible.
  • Identity theft: Identity theft is when someone steals someone else’s identity/personal information such as their social security number, with the intent to commit fraud for financial gain. Having purposely stolen somebody else’s identity, it is the intention of the identity thief to use the ID to use accounts that are in the name of the person whose identity was stolen from or create new ones.
  • Money laundering: This is an extremely complex process that involves multiple individuals and transactions. Fraudsters launder money in various ways, but all typically involve moving money through a series of financial transactions in order to make it appear to come from a source that is legitimate. Laundering money often involves money transfer services, shell companies, and offshore accounts, to hide where the money really came from. These processes make tracing the money back to its original criminal origins extremely difficult.
  • Account takeover: Account takeover (ATO) fraud is very much like identity fraud and is when someone uses stolen credentials to gain unauthorized access to another person’s online gaming and casino accounts.
  • Chargeback fraud: It’s too easy for a player to bet, spend and lose much more than they intended when gambling online. Chargeback abuse/fraud occurs when a player is unhappy with their losses and files a chargeback through their bank, often claiming it wasn’t them, even though the transactions were completely legitimate.
  • Collusive play: Collusion or collusive play involves numerous players who work together in a fraudulent manner for financial gain. Collusive play often involves chip dumping which we have already mentioned, involving two or more players working together to gain the upper hand over other players, particularly at a poker table. Collusion causes significant problems in gambling, impacting online casinos significantly. It can also involve serious legal ramifications as it is highly linked to money laundering, which comes with hefty jail sentences.

Bonus abuse usually starts at the sign-up. Fraudsters, whether working alone or in a group, will create as many online casino accounts as they can. This is a process called ‘gnoming’.

This is done by using disposable emails, fake names, and fake or stolen financial information to bypass any KYC checks that may be in place. Once the multiple accounts have been created, they will take advantage of the casino bonus or promotion.

Signing up multiple times at an online casino isn’t technically illegal, however, breaking the terms and conditions set by the casino is.

Typically, all bonuses include terms stating that if the casino suspects the account holder has been involved in any form of bonus abuse, they have the right to confiscate their winnings.

The same would apply if there were any suspicion of fraudulent use of an account, e.g., if someone other than the account holder was using the account.

Opening numerous accounts under someone else’s names would also apply.

If found out, any bonus money and winnings would be confiscated, and any deposit made could also be frozen in the account.

How Online Casinos Find Bonus Abusers

Over the years, bonus abuse has been less of an issue, thanks to the vigilance of those in the online casino and gambling industries.

  • Tracking IP Addresses: This is something that casinos carry out as a matter of course, and is the first line of defense against online casino promotion abuse. If they didn’t have IP tracking tools in place, the casino would have no way of knowing if a player has signed up multiple times. However, this is not water-tight as it doesn’t prevent players from using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or signing up from a different IP address.
  • Wagering Requirements: Believe it or not, in the early days of online casinos, bonuses didn’t come with wagering requirements. Players could sign up and get free cash easily by abusing bonuses. Casinos have since developed wagering requirements, which means players must spend bonus funds multiple times before any cash can be withdrawn.
  • Ban Specific Countries: Casino bonus abuse seems to be rife in some countries. Whether this is down to the lack of regulations in some jurisdictions is anyone’s guess. Casino operators restrict certain countries that have a history of abusing bonuses. This isn’t the best of news for the genuine players, but it does protect the casino.
  • Monitoring Abnormal Betting Activity: A lot of bonus abuse cases at online casinos involve players placing large bets. Casino sites track players’ betting patterns to keep a check on any abnormal activity and any change in their betting behavior.
  • Restricting Payment Methods: If a player has successfully abused a bonus, they would want to withdraw their winnings as soon as possible. Some online casinos restrict payment methods like e-wallets, that offer players faster withdrawals

How to Avoid Getting Tagged as a Bonus Abuser

While most bonus abusers know what they are doing, some players may be abusing bonuses inadvertently. Players can avoid the online casino ‘red-flagging’ their account by NOT doing the following:

  • Wagering big bets with bonus funds: Don’t wager big bets on any games that work towards a casino bonus. There’s nothing wrong with players looking for high RTP and higher volatility games to win big. However, casinos don’t condone players doing this with bonus money as it sets alarm bells ringing.
  • Signing up at an online casino more than once: Players are only permitted one account per online casino. If players want to take advantage of multiple online casino bonuses, they should sign up on several different sites instead of creating numerous accounts on just one site.
  • Failing to read any Terms and Conditions: Any misunderstandings surrounding casino bonus rules and restrictions can be avoided by reading the terms and conditions.
  • Failing to understand wagering requirements: Wagering and playthrough requirements are an important section of T’s & C’s relating to a bonus and will have detailed information about the number of times players must wager before any funds can be withdrawn. Players should read these carefully.
  • Playing erratically: Strange, erratic and irregular betting patterns can be flagged by casinos, and any bets made could lead to the casino site not paying out bonus money. It is important that players read the T’s & C’s to understand the casino’s position on betting irregularities.
  • Only making depositing when a bonus is present: If you are a player and customer of the casino, don’t make deposits just to get bonuses; it could label your account as a ‘bonus hunter.’ Once a casino sees a player making regular deposits, it will be more likely to offer generous bonuses and VIP programs to reward loyalty.

Summing Up

However tempting it may be for players to start exploiting casino bonuses, the consequences really aren’t worth it. Players could be banned from the casino, lose deposit and bonus funds, and even be prosecuted for fraud or money laundering.

Players must, of course, play fairly when it comes to bonuses and promotions offered by the casino. However, it is also down to the individual casinos to ensure that their terms and conditions regarding any bonuses are laid out clearly for players to understand.

If there are any discrepancies between players and casinos regarding possible bonus abuse, gaming regulatory bodies may need to step in.

When it comes to online casinos, it is always better to play nicely and remember that honesty is the best policy!

About the author

Name Dean McHugh
Job Freelance Content Writer

Dean McHugh graduated from Birkbeck University in London and became an independent freelance content writer in 2020, specialising in iGaming topics.

Believe in the power of numbers! The stats will lead the way.

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