You might not have noticed it, but June the 1st marked the end of a long standing free sign-up offer at Foxy Bingo. Previously new players signing up at Foxy Bingo gained £10 of free games to try the site out with, in the hope of enticing them to stay on at the site and deposit. Foxy Bingo’s decision to remove the free sign-up offer came at a time when other sites seemed to be in an ever escalating arms race to give free cash to bonuses. Game Village, Wink Bingo and others have been raising the amount the give free to players the last month or so to gain new players.
Had I gotten around to it, I was going to do a pretty negative piece on what I was going to call the ‘No-Deposit Bonus Wars’. Personally I’ve never been a fan of no-deposit sign up offers, for reasons that will become clear as this piece goes on. But with this move from Foxy I can now write a more positive piece in the hope that Foxy’s move encourages other sites to stop their big bonus give away obsession and concentrate on providing better services to keep their customers loyal.
So why do I not like no-deposit bonuses? Personally, I’d rather the Bingo operators would focus on better user experience, things like removing withdrawal limitations, increasing rewards for players and improving the value of their games. In my experience playing online, the best sites out there often have the worst sign-up bonuses available. Gala Bingo, Mecca Bingo, Ladbrokes Bingo and many other solid gaming brands offer a very small one off bonus, but for my money they offer the best online bingo experience for players and good value for money.
As a Bingo affiliate I get a unique insight into how well sites keep the players that have come via my sign-up links. I get to see how well lots of different sites compare to each other, which is information that most Bingo sites don’t have about their competition and this gives me a good idea of what sort of sites and offers keep players at sites. I’m not going into specifics, but in my experience, the sites that seem to keep the players I sent them are often the ones that don’t have no-deposit sign-up offers.
My guess is these sites succeed because players like what’s on offer there, such as prize money and cost levels and the community of the sites. There’s a reward for most of these sites, but to get it, players need to deposit first and having lots of regular depositing players should be every Bingo operators end goal. Unfortunately, many aren’t achieving it and instead subsist on a diet of a few die-hards and a regular turnover of new players.
I’d actually go as far as to say having sign-up bonuses can be counter-productive to getting a site well established. It creates a high turn over of new players and can lead to lower prize pots and dissatisfaction amongst players that do regularly attend the room, these are just a couple of the problems the offer can cause. With the restrictions operators put on withdrawing winnings won on the free money, it can also lead to frustration and bad press for sites when one of its new members wins then finds they can’t get their winnings.
Of course, the opposite is true when it comes to withdrawing money. If someone comes in, wins a big pot on their freebie and they can withdraw it, they are often not seen again. More fraudulent players on some networks can turn this into a way of life, I’ve seen examples of players signing up multiple times and walking away with large profits with out spending much more than a £5 first deposit to make their winnings eligible for withdrawal after winning a large prize on their free games.
Another problem with offering these free games to players is that they can also be extremely costly to operators, especially if they aren’t providing a compelling enough service to make the bonus bounty hunters stay and be regular members once they’ve spent their free reward. Let’s face it, if you’re a regular player, you try the freebie then see games cost a lot of money and the prize pots are very low, why should you stick around?
That’s a whole slew of reasons that I don’t like free no-deposit bonuses, and there are many others as well I don’t have space to articulate here. I don’t know if any of these reasons compelled Foxy to get rid of their no-deposit bonus, especially given the widespread exposure its had in the media. Was it causing unnecessary costs and not converting to regular players? Were the bounty hunters taking away from their loyal members and running onto the next free meal? I don’t know the answers, but what ever the reason, I applaud Foxy’s decision to do this and hope that now many others will follow suit.
As for what online bingo sites should offer new players to their sites, well, the good old fashioned first deposit bonus is just fine, it encourages people to take the plunge and get a reward for doing so. And of course, once players have deposited, if they like it they will return. Foxy aren’t the first to drop the bonus either, I’ve seen other site drop it in the recent past, Party Bingo and Big Heart Bingo spring to mind.
At the moment it feels like it could go either way, there are no-deposit bonuses at present in excess of £20. This time next year you could be seeing bonuses of £30-£40 at the rate they’re going. Either that or operators will start to take a step back and concentrate on attracting regular depositing players rather than fly-by-nighters. In the meantime I will continue to tell people not to judge a site by the size of it’s free bonus.