One of the core differences between online and offline sportsbooks are the bonuses and rewards. You can get hundreds of dollars in free bets, deposit bonuses, rebates, and VIP programs simply by choosing to bet online.
With the right offer and a little bit of luck – because you still have to make winning sports bets – you can break even, or maybe even walk away a little bit richer.
We know what you’re thinking – where do you sign up? But hold on just a second. Move too fast and you might make a common rookie mistake: signing up for an online sportsbook purely for their promotions.
That’s a bad idea, and a surefire way to get ripped off. You need to make sure the sportsbook you’re interested in is licensed, regulated, and most importantly has a reputation for quickly paying their customers.
You can find these sportsbooks on your own, but it might take you a while. And you’d need to know what to look for, which not everyone does, judging by all the “I’ve been ripped off; what do I do?” forum threads.
The easier approach – not to mention the faster approach – is to join one of the sportsbooks we recommend below. Read our reviews to ensure you find the perfect fit, then hit the “Visit Now” button to head to the site and get started.
If you’re new to this online betting thing, we highly recommend you read each of these sportsbook reviews.
Not only will you learn about each sportsbook’s betting markets, options, and limits, but you can also compare bonus offers and terms – things we cover in more detail below.
But first, let’s address a question we’re sure many of you have:
Why Do Sportsbooks Offer This Stuff?
Are you wondering why sportsbooks give away money, merchandise, and other “free” stuff? Because we wouldn’t blame you if your “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” radar is going off.
Relax – this isn’t a sham. Here are three reasons why sportsbooks offer these deals:
They want to attract new customers.
They offer deposit bonuses to entice you into making a deposit (because you can double or triple your starting bankroll). And they’ll use free bets to help you overcome any fear or anxiety you might have about placing a bet. What do you have to lose if they’re guaranteeing to give your money back if you lose?
To encourage dormant customers to come back.
Sportsbooks use offers to get bettors who haven’t placed a wager in a while back onto the site. For example, they’ll use a reload deposit bonus to get them to make another deposit if they drained their account balance.
To reward existing customers.
Sportsbooks have VIP and cash-back programs to give you a little reward for being a loyal customer. For others, it’s a little carrot to chase – a reason to continue betting (so you can unlock a reward).
As you can see, sportsbooks have plenty of good (and honest) reasons to offer bonuses and rewards. It gets you come in the door and spend money with them.
But don’t think for a minute that you’re pulling a fast one. You’re not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes.
Not at all.
Because each and every one of a sportsbook’s offers come with terms and conditions you have to fulfill before you can cash out. These terms make it extremely hard to turn a profit while on the sportsbook’s dime.
We’ll go into more depth about terms and conditions in a second – once we cover all the common bonuses and rewards you’ll encounter when betting sports online.
The Most Common Types of Bonuses and Promotions Sportsbooks Offer
There are many types of promotions. But there are only a handful or two of common promotions you can trust to find at nearly every sportsbook you come across online.
The following is a list of the most common types of promotions, and details about how they work.
Most sportsbooks offer free bets. Get $10 here or $50 there. But these aren’t what you think they are – their headlines are misleading. Here’s what we mean:
When a sportsbook offers a free bet, they’re not going to give you money to bet with. What they’re offering instead is a “risk-free” bet. They’re offering insurance.
For example, say you find an offer for a “free live bet up to $50.” When you make your (first) live bet, if you lose, the sportsbook will reimburse you up to $50. This offer only pays if you lose.
And if you win?
Nothing happens. You’ll collect your winnings and move on. The offer’s over. It’s one of the deals that’s exciting and a relief for some people, while seemingly pointless and anticlimactic for others.
Juice is another word for vigorish (vig), which is another word for fees. Every sportsbook charges vig on the (losing) sports bets.
A reduced-juice promotion discounts how much vig you have to pay. For example, a -110 line might become -105. This saves you 50% in fees, which can add up over dozens of bets.
Many books will award you points for every $1 or $10 you bet. The objective is collect points so you can later move up in (VIP) levels, as well as exchange your points for cash back, merchandise, and other perks.
Sportsbooks with multilevel VIP programs are ideal if you plan to make lots of bets because these tend to offer exclusive bonuses, rebates/insurance, merchandise, expedited payments, and cash back.
Even better yet, some multilevel VIP programs give points multipliers for moving up in levels. This means you’ll earn points at a slightly faster rate than the tier below you. Often times, these same programs will increase the points-to-cash-back-ratio the higher up you go, too.
This is like attaching a rocket to another rocket…attached to another rocket, with the destination of a treasure chest full of money. In short, if you can find a legit sportsbook offering a VIP program like this, sign up fast.
This is the most common of all online gambling offers. It’s so common it should’ve been first on our list.
A deposit bonus is a match bonus – an offer from the sportsbook to match a percentage of your deposit up to so many dollars.
For example, say you’re offered a 100% bonus up to $500.
What this means is that for every $1 you deposit, the sportsbook will give you $1. Deposit the entire $500 and you’ll receive $500 from the sportsbook, for a grand total of $1,000.
Try to find a sportsbook that offers a higher match percentage than 100%. For example, if you find a 200% match bonus, the sportsbook will give you $2 for every $1 you deposit. You can quickly triple or quadruple your bankroll if you find the right offer. We’ve seen casinos offer match bonuses as high as 400%!
These are identical to the deposit bonus, with two exceptions:
They are for existing customers instead of new customers.
They are smaller than deposit bonuses (maybe 90% of the time).
A no-deposit bonus is cash that the sportsbook gives you once you sign up – and you usually don’t have to make a deposit to get it.
These are small amounts, somewhere between $5 and $50, and are marketed as a risk-free way to test their sportsbook.
Mobile, Sport, Bet, Outcome, or Event-Specific Promotions
We’re lumping these offers together because they’re all the same thing. These are offers – usually a bonus or free bet – for:
Trying their mobile betting platform. Often a free bet.
Betting on a specific sport.
Betting on a specific event such as the Australian Open or Super Bowl.
Make a specific type of bet, such as an accumulator or parlay bet.
A specific outcome, such as a team scoring in the final minute of a match, or if both teams tie.
And so on.
You might get a small match bonus. Another common deal is a free $25 (insurance) bet. You might get reduced juice or dime lines.
These vary quite a bit from sportsbook to sportsbook, and we noticed you’ll find more of these at more legit sportsbooks that don’t accept US players.
This deal is just as it sounds – refer “friends” to the sportsbook and you’ll get a finder’s fee. The fees vary in size but are usually between $50 and $150. And you won’t get paid until your friend makes a deposit, and in some cases, until they’ve cleared their deposit bonus.
You won’t know for sure until you read the fine print.
Important! Make Sure You Read the Fine Print
All this talk about free money sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, don’t forget what we said earlier – don’t think for a minute that the sportsbook is doing this purely out of the goodness of their hearts.
Ha! Don’t make us laugh.
Sportsbooks are a business out to make a profit. Never forget that.
Now, this isn’t to say that bonuses and rewards are bad. We’re not saying that at all. But what we want to make very clear is that you’re unlikely to make money off the back of these offers.
Some people will. Most people won’t. And that’s because every single offer has terms and conditions – most of which force you to bet and risk your own money before you can request a cashout.
With that in mind, here are the most common terms and conditions to watch out for.
Rollover or Playthrough Requirements
These usually apply to deposit and reload bonuses. But it’s a good idea to expect them whenever you’re given money to gamble with.
The idea behind the rollover requirement is simple – the sportsbook wants you to wager your bonus so many times before you can cash out.
For example, say the rollover is 10x on a (100% match) $500 bonus. This means you’ll need to wager $5,000 before they’ll let you cash out.
Some rollover terms will apply to the total of your deposit and bonus. Using the same example from above, you’d have to wager $10,000 before you could cash out.
If you try to cash out before meeting your rollover requirements, many sportsbooks will simply say “no.” Others might void your winnings or take back your bonus money.
If you want to participate in a deposit or reload bonus offer, one thing you should look at and compare between sportsbooks is their rollover requirement. Lower is usually better – a 5x playthrough is better than 10x. But always, ALWAYS double check whether it’s only on the bonus, or if it’s on the deposit and bonus. It might mean you have to do some math to know which is better – or read our reviews.
You also want to check for a deadline. Many sportsbooks (and casino and poker rooms) will impose a timeframe you need to complete the offer within. Any bonus money you don’t clear in time will expire. All things being equal, the longer you have to clear the offer, the better.
Another term some sportsbooks have is on what you can or can’t bet on, or what the minimum odds need to be.
For example, maybe you can bet on football, but only if it’s not prop or parlay bets. Or you can bet on football, but it needs to be bets with odds of 1.75 or higher.
When it comes to deposit, reload, or no-deposit bonuses, it pays to find out if they’re cashable or not. Some bonuses, often no-deposit bonuses, are for betting only. You can cash out your winnings (if any), but you can’t cash out the stake. Others, such as deposit and reload bonuses, are fully cashable once you fulfill the rollover requirements.
This isn’t a big deal, but it may play a role in your decision if you’re stuck choosing between two or more sportsbooks (and their offers).
We briefly mentioned this earlier, but most sportsbooks will not pay you simply for having a friend sign up. That’s too simple. It’d be too easy for people to game the system.
Instead, most sportsbooks will either want your friend to complete the terms of the offer they accepted and/or they’ll want you to roll over the money they pay you for getting them to join.
The Bottom Line
The most important thing to take away from this section is to never accept an offer without knowing what it takes to earn it. Because there are some sportsbooks with absolutely ridiculous terms. Some are so bad that we encourage our readers not to accept them. Otherwise, you’d never be able to cash out your winnings (because you’ll be forever stuck trying to roll over the bonus).
Don’t want a bonus or other promotion? Most sportsbooks will let you decline. Each sportsbook has a different process for how to do this. Sometimes you’ll need to email them, while other times you can decline it when you make your deposit. And if in doubt, simply shoot them an email before you make a deposit (because some sportsbooks apply their deposit bonuses automatically).
One other thing – make sure to read our reviews and comb through the sportsbooks terms and conditions. Sometimes we miss things. But also because some sportsbooks have unique terms that other sportsbooks don’t.
5Dimes offers reduced juice and rebates. But if you choose one, you won’t be able to get the other.
The point is, you don’t want to make a hasty decision. You should take a few minutes to fully understand the offer, do some math, and figure out which offers you’ll make more money from in the long run.
The wrong decision can cost you thousands of dollars…
In case we haven’t made it clear, bonuses and rewards are a great way to add a little money to your “win” column.
(Or reduce the amount of money in your “lost” column.)
However, no matter how good an offer looks, never forget that these are never 100% free. There’s always a catch – and it’s your job to catch it, whether by reading our reviews or reading the sportsbook’s terms and conditions.
(We recommend you do both to be on the safe side.)
But even though bonuses and rewards aren’t free, you should still take them seriously. Because with a little bit of research and a little bit of luck, the right offer can absorb the money you spend betting sports at the very least, and in rare cases put some extra dough in your pockets.
And I don’t think anyone could complain about either of those outcomes.