Sports betting bonuses are promotions run by bookmakers as a marketing tool. These bonuses usually take the form of offers of free cash “just for signing up,” or for depositing a certain amount of money or placing a certain wager. Bonuses are the online version of casino comps – perks designed to draw in more business.
Bonuses have been a part of the online sportsbook industry since its inception. Though bonuses have changed over the years, the basic premise is the same. Sportsbooks throw bonus offers around as their primary means of advertisement.
How Sportsbook Bonuses Work
How can bookmakers afford to give money away? The most straightforward answer is that they can’t – and they don’t. Bonuses are designed to attract your attention with the promise of money but make it difficult for you to actually get your hands on it.
There’s nothing illegal about this – if a store offers you a “buy one get one free” deal, there will be certain restrictions you have to deal with in order to get your free item. The trouble with online gambling bonuses and giveaways is that they’ve become really watered-down, with ever-higher wagering requirements and other complications that turn offers of free cash into a minefield of red tape.
Now don’t go thinking I’m against bonuses – I’m not. I am, however, realistic about my prospects.
If a sportsbook offers me “up to $100” in bonus cash, I accept ahead of time that I may only ever see $5 or $10 of that cash because of the bonus parameters and the way I wager. But isn’t it still worth chasing that free $5 or $10 wager? I’m not fatalistic about bonuses – just realistic.
A Note on Wagering Requirements
Before you learn about the different types of bonuses available, make sure you understand wagering requirements – sometimes called “rollover requirements.” These are often listed with numerical values like 5x or 25x or whatever. This number tells you how much you’ll have to wager in order to clear your full bonus amount.
This is how the sportsbook keeps from going broke handing out bonuses – you have to be a loyal customer in order to earn your free stuff. Not all bonuses have wagering requirements, but the vast majority do.
Types of Sportsbook Bonuses
Here’s a quick guide to the basic categories of bonuses you’ll come across while researching online sportsbooks:
This is a generic term for bonuses made available to new depositors. It’s usually the largest and most-advertised bonus at an online book, splashed across banner ads and mass emails. The idea is to incentivize people “signing up” for an account by promising them money, usually in the form of a deposit match. The match rates and maximum earnings vary from book to book – I’ve seen match rates everywhere from 10% to 200% of your qualifying deposit. If you see a wagering requirement more than 8x, you should run the other direction. Even US-facing books are offering rollover rates as low as 4x for sports bets.
Deposit Match Bonuses
If a bonus doesn’t require that you be a first-time depositor, it’s probably a good-old deposit match bonus. This is a basic match bonus wherein the site will match your deposit at a certain percentage and up to a certain amount. Match rates vary across the industry – outside of sign-up deposit match bonuses, you probably won’t find one for sports bettors above 5-10%.
Free Bet Bonuses
The second most common form of match, besides a deposit match, is the free bet bonus. This offer is particularly popular at online sportsbooks as opposed to casinos. This not only incentivizes existing customers to try their hand at the sportsbook (with the promise of a free bet bonus), it also attracts new sports bettor members for a quick “worry-free” wager. Basically, a site will match the money you deposit in the form of a free (and immediate) wager – if you lose, you can usually redeem your losses with another bonus which, of course, requires a rollover, usually around 4x for sports bet rebates.
Bonuses are considered “reload bonuses” when they incentivize adding new funds to your account. Imagine you run a sportsbook – how do you keep customers coming back after they just lost all their money to you? By offering them a special match rate bonus for reloading their account. Usually, these take the form of a percentage match rate capped at a specific amount.
Sports Betting Bonuses Conclusion
Bonuses are fun, so long as you follow a few key principles:
Key Bonus Principles
- Don’t make a deposit at a sportsbook just to earn a bonus.
- Don’t ignore the terms and conditions.
- Don’t expect to get something for nothing.
If you don’t find a deposit bonus offer you like, you may have luck contacting customer support for a special offer. This is especially true for customers depositing a larger amount of money – say $1,000 or more. Sites love bettors with money ready in hand, so contact the cashier department at your favorite book before your next deposit. You may earn a little bonus money just for being you.