Sports Betting Bonuses and Promotions
Who doesn't like free stuff?! If you don't actually like free stuff, you're probably not going to find much value in this guide. For those of you that are not crazy and do like freebies, you're hopefully going to get quite a bit of useful knowledge out of this guide. You see, the sports betting industry is a highly competitive industry where all of the online sportsbooks are constantly battling each other to win your business.
What this means for you is that they're going to be throwing a lot of promotions, money, and free stuff your way to try to win over your initial business, as well as to retain your business over the long haul. What we'd like to do today is walk you through all of the different types of promotions, how they work, how to find out about new promotions, and how to make sure you're taking advantage of everything that is out there for you. If you're ready to learn how to get free stuff and free cash when you're making your sports bets, let's get started!
Promotions Versus Better Lines
Before we begin discussing the different types of promotions, we need to make sure that you understand something that is much more important. Promotions and free money are great. In fact, they are awesome. However, you should never choose a promotion over a better line or payout odds on a bet. Winning your bets will always be more valuable than pretty much any promotion we've ever seen offered.
For example, if you have the choice of betting at one sportsbook where you'll get some money back for betting or betting at a sportsbook where you get an extra half point on a point spread, take the half point 100% of the time. Promotions are great, but they should always come second to better odds or payouts. You'll feel really silly if you lose a $50 bet by half a point, but got a few bucks or a free hat instead.
That being said, if you have the option to bet in two places with the same line, take the freebies.
Reduced Juice Lines
One of the coolest sports betting promotions we see offered occasionally online are reduced juice bets. As you probably already know, the sportsbook takes a small percentage off the top of bets as their house fee for facilitating the action. This is known as the house fee, the rake, or sometimes the juice. For example, if you bet a spread bet in the NFL, it might look like this:
- Eagles +4 (-110)
- Patriots -4 (-110)
The last number listed on each side of the bet is the payout odds you'll get for a correct pick. If you bet $100 and win, a payout at (-110) will result in a profit of $90.91. The "missing" money is the percentage that the house is taking off the top. Notice that whether you bet on the Eagles or the Patriots, the house is taking that cut off the top. What they'll try to do is get the same amount of money bet on both sides of the game so that no matter which team wins, they turn a profit.
A reduced juice bet promotion is when the sportsbook elects to offer a better payout on a bet than they normally would. Typically, this is only offered on bets like spreads and totals where both sides are paying out at (-110). The sportsbook will alter the payout odds to be more in everyone's favor. For example, if the sportsbook were to offer reduced juice on the bet we saw above, it might look like this.
- Eagles +4 (-105)
- Patriots -4 (-105)
Now, if you were to bet $100 on either side of the bet, you would receive a profit of $95.24 for a correct pick. That's much better than the $90.91 you would receive for a correct pick at (-110).
When you see reduced juice bets, it's pretty wise to take a shot at one side of the game. Because of the lower house rake, you don't have to win as often to turn a profit. Yes, you still have to pick correctly over 50% of the time, but not as many times as with the normal (-110) juice. For serious sports bettors that understand the tight margins, this is a very popular promotion that can't be missed.
Usually, when it's offered, it's offered randomly on different games across different sports. When you see it, though, you should definitely consider making a bet, as long as it's in a sport that you already know pretty well.
Deposit bonuses are popular across all forms of online gambling, including sportsbooks, casinos, and poker sites. A deposit bonus is when the sportsbook, casino, or card room matches a percentage of the money that you deposit into your account. For example, if they have a 100% deposit match bonus up to $200, the will give you bonus money up to $200 that you make on your deposit. If you were to deposit $100, they would give you an additional $100 in bonus money to bet with. If you deposited $200, they would give you $200 in bonus dollars. If you deposited $500, they would still only give you $200 in bonus dollars, as that is the maximum on that specific promotion.
The limits and percentages will vary greatly from sportsbook to sportsbook. One of the biggest things that you're going to want to do before you take advantage of a deposit bonus is read through the fine print. Typically, there are criteria that you must complete in order to turn those bonus dollars into real dollars that you can withdraw. Otherwise, people would just deposit $200 and then immediately cash out $400, and the sportsbook would be broke once enough people did this. Most of the time this involves what is known as a playthrough requirement, which we will cover in full in a later section of this guide.
If you're someone who is planning on betting long term, deposit bonuses are awesome. If you're looking to deposit to make one or two bets and then cash out, you may want to steer clear of deposit bonuses. If that sounds like you, make sure you read our section on opting in further down in this guide, as that will be important to you in making sure your money doesn't get locked up on the site.
Deposit bonuses are a huge part of the online sportsbook industry and a big bonus for people looking to move their action online. Just make sure that you take the time to read the fine print associated with the deposit bonus.
A reload bonus is very similar to a deposit bonus, except that it's not your first deposit on the site. Typically, sites will offer you big bonuses on your first deposit, but sometimes they don't have much for people who are on a bad run or looking to add to their account. When they do have reload bonuses, you should seriously consider taking advantage of it, even if you aren't looking to add money to your account.
Often, what you can do is load money into your account and then "pretend" that money is not part of your account. After you clear through the betting requirements with your normal bets you were going to be making anyway, you can withdraw that money, as well as the bonus dollars that you earned from your reload bonus. If you do need to load money on, then you can do the same process and just use the money you loaded.
Keep in mind that some sportsbook will offer reload bonuses year-round, while many will offer them periodically for special promotions. We'll discuss in a later section how to stay up to speed on all of this. If you are planning to reload and you don't see a deal, contact support for the site and ask them if they happen to have anything available. If you tell them you are considering loading more money, they may have unadvertised reload offers that they could give to you.
This is a promotion that is not as popular as the others on this list, but we do see it from time to time at online sportsbooks. Known as rakeback or cashback, this promotion gives you back a percentage of the money that you either lost or that the casino profited from your bets. Typically, with sports betting it's going to be a percentage of the money that the sportsbook made from your bets. Basically, the more that you bet, the more money that you're going to get back from them.
Regarding particulars, they're really going to be all over the place. The percentages, how they're calculated, how they're paid, and when they're paid will all be different based on where you are betting and how they've chosen to set up their promotion. It's usually not a ton of money back per bet, but every dollar back is a dollar you didn't have before. These promotions are great for people who bet frequently.
Free Bet Promotions
A popular promotion that we see at a lot of the bigger-name online sportsbooks is a free bet promotion. Basically, the sportsbook offers to cover your first bet if you lose up to a certain amount (usually in the $10-$25 range). They don't give you the cash back if you lose, but they give you credit to make another bet.
If you win your bet, awesome! You have no need for the promotion. But if you lose your bet, they'll let you make a second one on the house. You'll basically have to lose twice in a row to actually lose any money.
Free Swag and Gear
Some online sportsbooks are aware that their customers are typically big sports fans. Because of this, they will often run promos where you can earn or win free swag or gear from your favorite teams. We've seen hats, t-shirts, hoodies, memorabilia, signed equipment, and pretty much anything with a sports logo on it. Sometimes they'll allow you to pick your favorite team, and sometimes you end up just getting what they have for you.
While this isn't money like the other bonuses and promotions on this page, it still is free stuff. If you're a sports fan, you're going to love this. The worst-case scenario is that you can take the free swag and give it as a gift, or sell it on eBay if you're really looking to push your financial edge when it comes to betting.
How to Stay on Top of Promotions
The key to getting the most out of bonuses and promotions is being aware that they are going on. We're going to cover opting in during the next section, where you'll see that just because a sportsbook is running a promotion, it does not mean you will automatically receive the benefits. This means that knowing what promotions are going on and which are coming up is of the utmost importance.
Thankfully, the sportsbooks make this process pretty easy for you. You have four ways to stay on top of promotions to make sure you aren't missing out on anything.
You need to join the sportsbook's email list.
Often, you are automatically enrolled in this when you join the site or are at least given the option. We know most of you hate spam and junk mail in your email box, but stuff from casinos and sportsbooks usually contains free stuff and promotional updates that you will want to know about. All email from companies is not junk mail - only the stuff that isn't important to you. If you're already part of a sportsbook and not sure if you're part of their email list, contact their support and ask them if you can be added to their list.
Follow the sportsbook on social media.
A lot of the bigger and more well-established books have their own Facebook pages and Twitter accounts where they are constantly updating patrons about promotions and bonus offers. If you're already using these platforms, this is a great way to stay up to speed.
Simply pay attention while you're on the site.
Most sportsbooks will run "ads" on their own sites that are more notifications of the promotions that are going on. The sportsbooks never want to hide promotions from you. They want you to take advantage of them, and they want you to be aware of them. Often, they will have a dedicated promotions page that will have all of the current promos and bonuses listed. You can usually find this by quickly navigating through the website.
Ask support if they are currently offering anything.
You'll usually be directed to their promotions page, but sometimes they'll offer you something that might not be listed. We wouldn't recommend bugging them every day, but it's worth a quick monthly check-in, especially if you're a big player. The more you bet, the more they are going to want to keep your action around. Use this to your advantage. The worst that can happen is that they tell you they don't have anything new or special going on.
In the last section, we mentioned something called "opting in." When sportsbooks release promotions, the majority of the time you are not automatically included in the promotion. You have to tell the sportsbook that you would like to be included. A lot of people think this is because they don't want everyone to take advantage of the promotions available, but that is not the case.
The reason they ask you to let them know when you want to be included is that sometimes there are criteria with promotions that you might not want to be a part of.
When you take a deposit or a reload bonus, you may have to bet a certain amount before you can withdraw that money. If you're going to be making only one or two bets, you don't want to potentially get your funds locked up because of a promotion that you would never be taking advantage of anyway.
The good news is that opting in is not a hard process. Usually, there is just a box in your member account that you check that says you want to be involved in a certain promotion. With deposit bonuses and reload bonuses, a lot of times you have to use a deposit code that will give you access to the bonus dollars. In some situations, you are required to contact support directly. You can usually just open up their live chat or send them an email that says you want to be a part of a certain promotion.
It only takes a few seconds, but it must be done for you to be able to be included in most promotions. Some promotions will be automatic, but the majority will require some form of opting in. If you are unsure if you need to opt into a promotion or not, contact support immediately.
Sometimes if you are a bigger player, a sportsbook will allow you to go back and get credit for bets contributing to a particular bonus, but you should not count on this. Be proactive and make sure that you take care of everything that you need to in order to be a part of a promotion or bonus offer.
Always Read Through the Fine Print
The number-one rule when it comes to taking advantage of bonus and promotions is that you need to take a few minutes and make sure that you fully understand all aspects of the promotion or bonus. If you ever read through comments and complaints about an online sportsbook, the majority of them have to do with someone not getting the bonus or promotion that the site was offering.
While your initial reaction might be to be upset with the site, 99.9% of the time it's because the customer didn't follow to a T the guidelines and rules laid out. You can't expect the sportsbook to pay out on a promotion if a player doesn't follow the clearly laid-out guidelines.
You need to take a few minutes to figure out all of the criteria needed before you start chasing or taking advantage of a promotion.
It should only take you a few minutes to check out, and then you'll be on your way.
If you do end up having questions, don't just make assumptions. Contact support and get them to clarify things for you. What we also recommend is keeping a copy of that support chat or those emails until the promotion is over and you have collected your money or free stuff. That way, if there is any sort of issue with the promotion and what you asked to clarify, you have proof that you were told differently. In those instances, even if the agent you spoke to was wrong, the sportsbook should honor your request.
The sportsbooks will do their best to lay things out clearly for you. It's up to you to take the time to read that information and make sure that you fully understand what you are getting into.
One of the most popular parts of the fine print that you'll see for a bonus or promotion is the playthrough requirements. Usually, when the sportsbook gives you free money, you can't just take that money and immediately cash it out. Logically, the sportsbook would be stupid to allow this. People would deposit, get their bonus, and then immediately cash out.
To combat this sort of practice, the book usually requires you to "play through" your bonus dollars a certain number of times. This will usually be represented in a __x requirement (like 20x, 30x, etc.). Some sportsbooks will apply this to all of your bonus dollars and all the winnings that come from them. Some will apply it to all of the money in your account, and some will only apply it to the bonus dollars themselves. It's going to be different everywhere, and you should check on this before you take advantage of a promotion that has a playthrough requirement.
You take full advantage of a 100% deposit bonus up to $200. You deposit $200, and they give you another $200 in bonus money. Let's also say that the playthrough requirement is 20x. This means that you would need to make $4,000 ($200 x 20) in bets before you could withdraw all of that money. Now, that might sound like a lot, but in reality, it really is not. This doesn't mean you have to put $4k on the site to get that $200 off. It just means that you need to make $4k in total bets to clear the bonus.
If you bet $100 a day for 40 days, you'll have made $4k in bets. Now, if that still seems like a lot, no fear. A lot of times the bonus money will be released in increments in case you don't plan on betting that much and still want to take advantage of the promotion. In those instances, they will break your bonus up into increments.
They might break that $200 up into 20 increments of $10. These will serve as 20 separate small bonuses that need to be cleared. To clear each segment, you'll need to bet ($10 x 20) which is $200. So, for every $200 you wager (a much more reasonable number), they will release $10 of your bonus to you.
Again, these requirements are not on all bonuses, but you will find them on quite a few of them. Make sure that you fully understand how it works at each site and how much playthrough you will need to do in order to release your bonus. Find out as well what happens if you don't get through the playthrough requirement. Usually, you just don't get the full bonus amount, but you should check just to be sure.
You also always have the option of not taking a bonus if you don't like the way that it is set up. Remember, you're sports betting because you're good at it and you can make money without bonuses. If you remember that a bonus or a promotion is an extra, you're going to have a much better time betting online. Most people aren't even aware of these things until they get in and start creating an account. This means you were perfectly content betting without the bonuses. Treat them as extras, and you'll be a happy camper.
When you're sports betting, you should be joining multiple books anyway so that you can line shop. An added perk of this is that you get the ability to pick and choose promotions from multiple different books. There is absolutely nothing wrong with jumping from book to book chasing promotions. In fact, most professional online bettors do this to some extent.
If another site is offering a great promotion that lends itself well to you, move some of your cash over and take advantage of it. When the promotion is done, feel free to stay there or move your money back to your home site.
Let's say you love betting college basketball and another online sportsbook opens up a promotion for reduced juice during March Madness. You would be pretty silly not to jump over there and take advantage of that at least during the month of March.
Of course, you want to make sure that you fully understand all of the parameters for each bonus so that you don't get your money stuck somewhere that you don't want it stuck. Also, remember that better lines will ALWAYS trump every promotion out there. Don't get blinded by the freebie bonuses and forget that your number-one goal is making great value picks and winning bets.
That all being said, if you have the chance to earn some extra cash by placing the same bets somewhere else, go for it. Effectively, it's line shopping, except with bonuses.
The Final Word
By now, you should be well versed in every type of bonus or promotion that could be tossed your way from an online sportsbook. It is still possible that you might see something new and innovative that we haven't mentioned here, but these will be the bulk of what you see.
The key takeaways are the following:
- Make sure that you fully understand any bonus or promotion you're getting involved with.
- Never turn down a better line or odds for a promotion.
- If you are unsure about a promotion, ask support for help BEFORE you get involved.