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  • Conor’s Corner: Bonuses are boring, it’s time to put them in the bin
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In this month’s edition of Conor’s Corner, our intrepid journalist dives deep (sort of) into the world of online gambling bonuses.

What’s the point?

Gambling is only fun if you do it with your own money.

I suspect most readers are acutely aware of this fact anyway, but I feel it’s a point worth reiterating. It’s also one that was deftly demonstrated to me by my usual online bookmaker just the other day.

As many of my regular readers may know, I often use a well-known privately owned bookmaker based in Stoke-on-Trent, whenever I feel like placing a bet.

I don’t remember receiving a sign-up bonus when I first registered my account several years ago (though I probably did), and can assure you that bonuses have had almost nothing to do with my relative loyalty to the brand ever since.

The range of markets available, low latency, ease of use, on-site live-streaming, quick deposits and withdrawals (however rare) – and a whole host of other UX-related elements I’m probably not even aware of – are what have kept me coming back.

Fancy a spin?

For a bit of additional context, I pretty much only ever use the site for sports betting. So, when the kindly bookmaker recently offered me 10 free spins on one of its online slots, it didn’t take me long to work out what was happening.

The bookie clearly wanted to move me away from my £2.50 each way bets on the occasional gee-gee, and towards the fast-moving, cut and thrust world of online casino.

I don’t mind the occasional flutter on live roulette, blackjack, or some other table game or gameshow, but slots are quite simply not my cup of tea.

Still, I’ve never been one to turn down a free lunch, so begrudgingly flicked my way through the bonus page to Totally Original Groundbreaking Online Slot #74098, or whatever it was called, and fired up my free spins.

And would you believe, dear readers, the wins started piling up.

Ten free spins later, without a single drop of adrenaline entering my bloodstream, and not even so much as a curling of the lips into a half-smile, I was eleven pounds up.

Eleven pounds! Free! No effort, no deposit, nothing at all – 30 seconds of pressing a button, and I was eleven whole Great British Pounds Sterling better off than I had been before.

And I didn’t care. Not even a little bit.

You see, bonus funds are boring. There is absolutely no joy in gambling with somebody else’s money – even if it does give you a small glimmer of hope at recouping some of your previous losses to the bookie.

How can you get excited about the fate of a fiver you never had in the first place? If it couldn’t also buy me a pint (the fact that a fiver no longer can in most parts of London notwithstanding), then it isn’t really money, is it?

Eyeing the competition

The online betting brand of a major US-listed casino operator recently launched in my home market of the UK.

Upon launching, the brand offered a Massively Generous Marketing offer of a few free bets for those who signed up and punted a tenner, which I found out while writing a news article about its entry into the market.

Being the highly dedicated, online gambling-specialised business journalist that I am, I decided I’d give the thing a go, and see if I couldn’t get the brand off to a bad start in Britain by rinsing its generous bonus offer with my expert sporting predictions.

I couldn’t, obviously, because I don’t know anything about sports and I’m terrible at betting – effectively a bookmaker’s perfect customer.

But still, the offer was undeniably generous, and I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to take this book for all it was worth.

Except that I didn’t even bother.

The bonus funds were all to be used on different types of bets – a fiver here for a football accumulator, a tenner there for a punt on the NFL, and £6.83 to be used on any UK- or Ireland-based horse race with between seven and nine runners, starting between 8:00 and 8:03, where the favourite was running at 1/4 or under, the going was soft and one of the jockeys was wearing a purple hat.

I think I placed three out of four of my free bets, before swiftly giving up and accepting that I will never again win a bet on anything (like I didn’t know that already).

And therein lies the problem. If you have bonus funds that go unspent, who even cares? Nobody does, because it’s not their money. 

I reiterate. Gambling is only fun if you do it with your own money.

The verdict

Anyway, I tested the site out, found its user experience to be somewhat lacking, and before you ask whether I returned to deposit again, the answer is a resounding ‘no’.

Whenever I feel like losing another fiver, I go to the old familiar in Stoke, the bookie which has seen me through painful, unexpected losses, relatively painless, fully expected losses, and every kind of loss in between. (I did win a small bet once).

And while we’re at it, I might as well throw into the conversation that bonuses are ripe for abuse by all manner of clever people who don’t feel the need to gamble ‘in the spirit of the game’.

For every customer like me who takes the occasional bonus to try out a new site, loses and quickly decides to go back to their regular bookie, there could be any number of bonus abusers jumping on board to rinse the free bets, lay their selections on the exchange, and guarantee themselves a profit, also never to return.

So please, gambling firms, do better. Work on UX, on boosted odds, and on payment options. And put Ray Winstone in your adverts, for heaven’s sake! (Only joking.)

Bonuses will never be enough to keep punters coming back. 

Instead, you might have to actually (dare I say it?) entertain them.

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