In this column we look at how SugarHouse has gone against the grain, and who stands to gain the biggest benefits from its radical approach.
The pitfalls of traditional bonuses
For the most part, NJ online casinos have taken a tried-and-true approach to new and first-time depositing player packages: entice players with a bit of free money, and then follow-up with a gigantic first-time deposit bonus.
While that’s all well and good, today’s gamblers are more inclined to read between the lines. And what they often find are terms and conditions that leave them less enthusiastic about receiving a four-figure match bonus.
Traditional no-deposit and first-time deposit New Jersey online casino bonuses come affixed with turnover requirements, meaning that gamblers will have to wager their bonus a certain number of times before it is cleared for withdrawal. The gold standard in New Jersey is 20 times turnover on slots, and a 100 times wagering requirement on video poker and table games. And yes, you read those numbers right.
As an example, a player who deposits $1,000 and receives a $1,000 match may have to wager $20,000 on slots or $100,000 on video poker before making a withdrawal. That works out to 5 percent and 1 percent effective cashback, respectively — still a favorable deal given the high payout rates in NJ, but one that may not resonate with the average gambler.
Why? The main issue is time. Casual and budget conscious gamblers aren’t as willing to spend hours grinding out the penny slots in hopes of clearing a bonus. Which is what they’ll have to do in order to beat the expiration date of a bonus. Either that, or wager above their bankroll.
At SugarHouse Casino, time will hardly play a factor in a player’s ability to clear bonuses.
SugarHouse’s welcome package defies old standards
From the time they first register, players will notice that there’s something a bit different about SugarHouse. First off, instead of receiving a flat no-deposit bonus, new registrants will spin a wheel where the outcome will determine the monetary value of their bonus. Prizes range between $10 – $20.
That on it’s own is a nice touch, but hardly revolutionary. Where SugarHouse’s no-deposit offer varies widely is that the turnover requirement is only 1x on slots and video poker games. What this means is that new registrants will stand a reasonable chance of walking away with free money, ahead of making their first deposit.
By contrast, most online casino no-deposit bonuses are a device to get players to check out their offerings.
The 1x play through requirement carries over to all SugarHouse bonuses, including the first deposit bonus. The bad news, at least for players, is that in order to safeguard itself against exploitation, SugarHouse places an extremely low cap on the monetary value of its first deposit bonus: just $20.
It’s assumed other SugarHouse promotions will follow the same low turnover, low cap model.
Get rewarded for playing…less?
SugarHouse’s defiance of industry norms extends to its loyalty scheme.
First the similarities:
- As is the case with most NJ online casinos, players earn loyalty points for wagering real-money on slots, video poker, and table games.
- SugarHouse also utilizes monthly loyalty tiers.
And that’s about it.
Instead of earning better cashback conversion rates, SugarHouse players that reach a new loyalty tier earn one virtual Prize Wheel spin. Based on the outcome of their spin, they’ll win one of 12 bonus dollar amounts — the range of which is determined by a player’s tier.
Each subsequent spin is more difficult to earn. To illustrate:
- Moving from Wheel Tier 0 to 1 only tasks players with wagering $200 on slots.
- By comparison, going from tier 6 to 7 requires $12,000 in slot wagers.
- Stuck at Tier 9? You’ll have to wager $32,000 on slots, or $160k on video poker or blackjack to move up.
But isn’t achieving higher loyalty tiers supposed to be more difficult? Yes, but the difference is that the Prize Wheel rewards don’t ramp up quite as fast as the wagering requirements, meaning that casual gamblers reap proportionally more rewards than their hardcore counterparts.
This is something generally unheard of in the online casino business, although online poker sites like PokerStars and 888 have been transitioning to a similar model.
SugarHouse balances its casual-friendly approach to rewards by granting players who have reached Wheel Tier 7 with additional incentives. These come by way of a VIP Mystery Calendar stocked with special promotions and deals designed to satiate the more active gambler.
The differences don’t stop there
There are a few other ways in which SugarHouse refashions the mold:
- Bonus Money Meter: A meter showing how much bonus money has been activated and what percentage of a clearance requirement has been met is displayed front and center. Most NJ online casinos task players with navigating through a sub-menu or two to find their status.
- Weekly leaderboards: Players earn leader board points not just by playing, but also by depositing or simply logging in. Top point generators bank between $50 – $150 per week.
- Bonus Bank: Players can bank their bonuses for use at a later date.
- Flash: SugarHouse is a flashy site, bearing more similarities to a video game portal than a gambling site.
Is SugarHouse’s loyalty scheme a better deal for NJ online casino players?
That might depend on who you are asking. For the casual player, who likes to deposit $50 a month and play penny slots, then SugarHouse has much to offer. These players will have little trouble clearing welcome bonuses and reaching the first couple of loyalty tier thresholds. They may also enjoy the randomized nature of the site’s promotions.
Gambling enthusiasts might prove less ardent, as the incentives for putting in mass volume don’t appear to be as lucrative as they might be on other sites. Savvy players too, who don’t necessarily mind putting in the time to clear deposit bonuses, may be better served elsewhere.
Given the current gaming client, it wouldn’t surprise if more NJ online casinos designed their loyalty programs around recreational players. SugarHouse’s bold first step may just prompt a domino effect.