As more and more states legalize online sports betting, competition between operators is heating up. This is a great thing for players, which not only benefit from the increased variety of options, but can also take advantage of potentially lucrative promotions, including free bets, risk-free bets, deposit bonuses and more. In this article we break down how you can do just that.
Online sportsbook promo code basics
A promo code is often a word, number, or combination of the two offered to bettors to receive rewards at an online sportsbook. Most often, those promos take on the form of free bets or bonuses, while some sportsbooks do offer more, such as gifts in the form of T-shirts or tickets to events.
The allure of a promotion when it comes to sports betting is how it works as a potential multiplier. Think of it as the opposite of a savings coupon — as opposed to getting a discount on an item, a promotion allows bettors to maximize the value of a wager.
Where do I get one?
Those promo codes are often found on the web page where the offer is being made, like this one! In fact, if you’re viewing this page from a legal state, you should see a listing of the top promo codes and offers in that state which you can take advantage of right now.
Thus, bettors simply have to enter the promotional code associated with the bonus being offered. It is important to realize there are many possible combinations available when it comes to promotions. Some bet promotions may be specific to sport, while some may be specific to bet type.
There are some promotions that do not have a code, but rather an opt-in requirement in order to be activated. In those instances, there is usually an “Opt-in” or “Deposit Now” button that will be on the page and need to be clicked for the associated promotion or bonus page.
Most online sportsbooks provide their own promotional codes, but USBets often offers exclusive promo codes that offer either a better value or are independent of a public offer. Therefore, we encourage players to comparison shop here first.
Which sportsbook brands offer welcome bonuses?
Nearly all sportsbook operators offer some type of welcome bonus promotions. While some are better than others, players can easily knock out one bonus offer, then move to another site and collect a bonus there as well.
What you can’t do is create multiple accounts at the same website in order to get multiple bonuses. This is a big no-no and will get your account banned very quickly.
The following is a list of five big national sportsbook operators which offer some type of sign-up or welcome bonus award:
How can sportsbooks offer so much money via promo code bonuses?
The simple answer is every online sportsbook wants to make money. Every promo code and bonus, regardless of size, also comes with terms and conditions. These vary from website to website and from promotion to promotion, yet there is always one common denominator to them. If a bettor wants to take advantage of a promo code or bonus, the bettor must give the book some action.
And that is how it should work. Think about it: If you were simply given money with no strings attached, what is the incentive in using it at the source? If any sportsbook simply made that offer, it would go out of business in rapid fashion, and there would be no legalized sports betting.
Bonuses as a marketing strategy
Think of promo codes and bonuses as marketing chips for sportsbooks at three different levels.
- The first level is the new bettor, a new client the sportsbook is trying to attract for new business. A promotion is designed to ignite curiosity to examine more closely, and if it works, makes a new customer.
- The second level is an existing customer who has been “out of the game” for a while. A promotion geared to this customer perhaps revives interest in sports betting and recalls a previous positive outcome from a bet on a sporting event or a type of bet made.
- The third level is the loyal customer who has established trust in the sportsbook’s brand, and the promotion sustains that two-way loyalty between the book and the bettor.
Each side gets something from the transaction when a promotion is activated.
For an operator, it ranges from the potential of getting a new customer to sign up and use the site and its services – that includes making a deposit and a wager. For bettors, they get an edge, however temporary, over the house for at least one play.
Who is eligible for sports betting bonuses?
- Bettors must be 21 years of age or older to register for an account at an online or mobile sportsbook.
- First-time users are a key target group for online sportsbooks in terms of promotions and bonuses. With the goal of sportsbooks to constantly expand their customer base to help create a potential profit margin, many promotions are geared to attracting new business and first-time bettors.
- Depending on the online sportsbook, there may be a limit on the number of bettors allowed in a household. Some online sportsbooks may allow only one account per IP address, while some sportsbooks may limit their promotions to one per player. While some sportsbooks may offer multiple promotions, the promotions are usually designed for “matched betting,” in which a bettor will use their promotion along with a second wager without an advantage. Sportsbooks can usually quickly identify bettors who partake in “bonus bagging,” which could result in account restrictions or even account closures.
- Sportsbook employees are usually prohibited from making wagers at their places of employment. Additionally, there are people with certain criminal convictions who may be barred from making online bets depending on state statutes. Lastly, in part with promoting responsible gaming, bettors may also self-exclude from sports betting or activate a “cool off” period for a determined amount of time depending on state laws.
Sportsbook Risk-Free bets
Before delving into the types of bets offered in promotions, a reminder to read the terms and conditions of the promotion. There may be limits on the bet amount, which is usually readily specified since the amount of a free bet is often the actual draw of the promotion.
Some promotions may limit the market of the wager – if a team/fighter is a heavy favorite (as an example, a “heavy favorite” is -200 or higher), the sportsbook may have a cutoff point on the market price to use the promotional bet.
A risk-free bet is often the most popular promotion offered to first-time bettors and new players. In almost every instance, a player can only cash out the winnings accrued from a free bet, and not the amount of the free bet placed. This is called a “freeroll” in which the bettor can only win or push, and not lose money on that specific bet.
Are they really risk-free?
The risk-free bet, though, is not wholly risk free. The common method of obtaining the free bet is by the bettor placing an upfront investment. If that bet fails to win, the amount bet is then refunded as a site credit. If the bet wins, the bettor simply gets the funds from the win.
As an example: A bettor places a $100 wager on the Lakers to beat the Warriors. If the Lakers lose, the bettor receivers a $100 site credit. If the Lakers win, the bettor collects the winnings on the bet and the transaction ends. The “risk-free” portion of the betting promotion ends when the bettor makes a second wager with the money from the site credit.
The bettor then makes that $100 wager at -110 odds on the Rockets beating the Thunder and wins. The bettor DOES NOT get the $100 bet AND the $90.91 in winnings, rather, the bettor receives only the winnings. At that point, the bettor has broken even and then has the option to withdraw the money from the account.
The upside of the risk-free bet is the bettor is essentially making a free second bet as an opportunity to break even from losing the first bet. The downside is a second losing bet means a bettor has run out of chances to make free money.
No-Deposit bets at US Sportsbooks
Unlike the risk-free bet, a no-deposit bet is the closer to a true free bet. They are offered provided a bettor registers and obtains a “valid and verified” real-money account. This often means the bettor must provide a valid e-mail account as part of the registration process. Once registered and verified, a sportsbook will provide a no-deposit free bet, usually for an amount up to $10.
There are some conditions to be aware of, though, when redeeming this offer. Most free bets come with a short window to be used, usually within seven days of sign-up. A bettor likely must also use the free bet offer first – redeeming a second offer from the same sportsbook will often void the offer of the free bet.
Another customary stipulation is the bet must be used in full (read as: one bet). And like the risk-free bet, a winning bet results in receiving just the winnings from the wager, not the bet placed and the winnings.
Simple and straightforward
The biggest benefit of the no-deposit bet is its straightforward nature: Receive free bet, place free bet, get winnings from free bet without making a deposit and almost always have the ability to withdraw any winnings from the account created. The downside may be the uptick in emails received as a result of registering.
Sportsbook Free Bets
The biggest difference between “free bets” and a “risk-free bet” is the second bet that comes with a “free bet” is completely independent of the first wager placed. Online sportsbooks will occasionally make an offer in which they will match 100% of a player’s first wager at a site, sometimes up to as much as $500.
Real world example
Let’s go back to the previous example of betting $100 on the Lakers to beat the Warriors. After you place that bet, there will be a bonus bet of $100 in your account. It should be noted, though, that bet may not be immediately available after placing your initial bet. There could be processing involved that may take up to 24 hours.
Let’s also say that, this time, that $100 bet at -110 on the Lakers wins. As a result, your account would have $190.91 from the bet placed ($100) and its winnings ($90.91) in addition to the $100 bonus bet.
Like the no-deposit free bet, there is likely a time frame to redeem the promotion among the terms and conditions, though it likely will be a longer period of time given the expectation of redemption for this promotion also implies a more mature sports bettor.
Like the risk-free and no-deposit free bets, putting that free bet into play means a bettor would only collect the winnings and not the $100 stake. So placing a second $100 bet at -110 odds and winning means the bettor walks away with $90.91 and not $190.91. Thus, your account for two winning bets would hold $281.82
The upside is the second bet is a pure free bet in which a bettor could potentially make a profit following a losing first bet.
The bettor does not have to place a second wager at identical odds to the first one. Thus, if the first $100 bet is a losing one at -110, but the second one is a winning one at even money (+100), the bettor walks away with almost $10 in profit. The downside is the potential unavailability of that matching bet in the immediate short-term after registering.
Sports betting deposit match bonuses
A “deposit match” bonus has some similarities to a free bet but also offers more flexibility in the sense bettors control what they do with the bonus.
How they work
For example, if a new better opens an account and makes a deposit of $200, the online sportsbook will match that deposit with site credit and provide a matching $200. There are no restrictions on how the bettor can wager that $200 – it can be made on one bet, it can be spread out over 10 bets of $20, or any type of combination.
There are some things to note, most notably that there will be a limit on what an online sportsbook will match.
For example, if you deposit $1,000, the sportsbook will only likely match up to “X amount of dollars,” which could be a maximum of $250 or $500. Another key term and condition is that there will likely be a period of time to “activate and play through the bonus,” which usually would be 30 days after being credited with that matching bonus. Otherwise, that bonus money will expire.
The biggest benefit of the deposit match bonus is the flexibility in using the matching bonus site credit however the bettor sees fit.
The refer-a-friend bonus is something that can be best utilized with a group of friends who are into sports betting but have been doing so with a local bookmaker or offshore account.
Getting your friends to register and open an online sportsbook account can be mutually beneficial. The bettor making the referrals will usually receive a bonus, varying in size, for each new player who opens an account and makes wagers. The bettors who open new accounts will receive a bonus once they reach a wagering requirement (explained further below).
The biggest upside is both parties receiving some sort of bonus, which could take on multiple forms – a free bet for the referrer, a matching deposit bonus for the bettor who was referred. The downside is the wagering requirement, which does involve some comparison shopping to find the lowest turnover requirement that will be explained shortly.
A wagering requirement, also called a “rollover,” is a multiplying factor applied to the sum of a deposit and a bonus, usually for new accounts. That total is the MINIMUM a bettor must wager before being allowed to withdraw the bonus money.
For example, a bettor opens an account with a $200 deposit with a matching 100% bonus and a 5x wagering requirement/rollover. That means the bettor now has $400 in the account. The 5x wagering requirement means the bettor must place $2,000 in bets before being allowed to withdraw the bonus money.
The simple formula to remember is (deposit + bonus) x (wagering requirement).
The wagering requirement varies from sportsbook to sportsbook, and the lower the multiplier, the better the deal. There are some online sportsbooks that offer a basic 1x rollover, which is extremely bettor-friendly.
Most rollovers are higher multiples: Think 5x, 10x, and higher, sometimes all the way to 30x, which is not very bettor-friendly. A good rule of thumb is to seek rollovers that are 15x and lower, though 20x is considered the highest acceptable wagering requirement. Comparison shopping for accounts is critical here, as is the commitment to reaching the wagering requirement.
Always read the T&Cs
Additionally, this is where reading the terms and conditions is vital to get the maximum value of an online sportsbook account.
Some sportsbooks will place a time frame on reaching that wagering requirement, which could be as little as 30 days. And even with a deposit of $100 that is 100% matched with a 5x rollover, it could be challenging to put $1,000 in play in a 30-day span.
Some sportsbooks will also attach conditions to the odds on the type of bet made. One such promotion limited the bets to sporting events with odds of -200 or higher. That means betting on heavy favorites with little return (i.e., in this instance, a bettor would be wagering $200 to win back just $100).
Which brings us to two key terms and conditions that will be attached to all of these wagering requirements:
“If a player withdraws the amount deposited to qualify for the bonus before all wagering requirements are fulfilled, the bonus and all related winnings will be forfeited by such player.”
Realize the importance of the second half of that statement in italics, especially the phrase “the bonus and all related winnings will be forfeited.” This means a player should be tracking bets, whether it is through the sportsbook or personally through a spreadsheet or whatever accounting method works best for that person.
And because the house rules, also realize the house “reserve the right at our sole discretion to modify the terms and conditions of this offer at any time.”
Something else to keep in mind is that while some online sportsbooks may have high wagering requirement multipliers, the expansion of legalized sports betting in the United States also forces sportsbooks to at least be competitive about such offers. Offshore sportsbooks often use the 30x and higher wagering requirement to make it difficult for bettors to withdraw funds.
Another note while reviewing the terms and conditions is to be aware if the bonus offer is “market-specific.” That covers almost the entire bandwidth of sports betting, but an example would be that the bonus credits could be restricted to in-game betting. It could be restricted to a specific sport, such as the NFL.
The common theme throughout all this? READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS. Read them repeatedly. Do comparison shopping. Ask questions throughout, especially if you are unsure of anything.
After all, given the amount of research you do when it comes to placing a bet, it borders on negligence not to do the same proper diligence when it comes to researching promotions and bonuses for online sportsbooks..
Some final notes and reminders
- Know your wagering requirements: Reaching a high rollover multiplier can prove challenging based on the amount deposited.
- Seek straight cashback deals: Cashback bonuses allow bettors to mitigate the damage and cut their losses. But some bonuses are given as site credits with high wagering requirements.
- Beware expiration dates: Again, read the terms and conditions. Some expire quickly, some expire over longer periods of time. If you feel like you cannot meet the terms and conditions of the bonus within the time period allotted in the promotion, do not accept the promotion.
- Seek out the matched free bets: Even if the matched free bet is not worth 100% of the real money wagered, it is still worth taking advantage of since it still provides an edge on the house.
- Do NOT cancel bonuses: There is a reason for this and it relates to wager requirements. Using the $100 example and matching bonus once more: If a player deposits $100 and receives a $100 matching bonus, the funds for the bets are taking from the $100 deposited and not the bonus. So if the player loses the $100 and cancels the bonus, the player leaves with nothing.
Bonus offers and sportsbook operator integrity
Representatives from online sportsbooks should be both able and willing to answer any questions you may have, and nearly all of them are helpful to that end via email and chat. Also remember online sportsbooks must answer to state government agencies.
There is an integrity factor for sportsbooks — a state regulatory agency can levy fines and even revoke licenses – and there is the knock-on effect of losing a player’s trust that is sometimes impossible to regain given the robust competition of sports betting in each state. Much like your bet has something at stake when you place it, so does the online sportsbook when it accepts that wager.
In the end, remember this is your money, and the goal is to find the best value for your money. Thus, you should be (say it with me one last time) reading the terms and conditions.