Free Bets, Promos, and Odds Boosts

Online sportsbooks are not different from their physical counterparts. The types of bets work the same way, the sports offered are usually the same, and the procedures for placing a wager are fairly similar. If anything, between live betting and the available banking options, online sports betting is a more flexible endeavour. However, one of the only major differences is the prevalence of promotions and bonuses that you can find online.

This page should serve as a primer for how best to comprehend and capitalize on the various bonuses, promotions, and deals that you’ll find on online sportsbook apps. We also have some examples of these bonuses from some of the best and most prominent sportsbooks in the world.

Types of online sportsbook bonuses

Now that we’ve discussed the ways that you might be rewarded, let’s talk about the different types of bonuses and promotions that you might encounter. For the most part, none of these bonuses are “good” or “bad.” They just address different types of betting that you might do. In time, you’ll probably end up using all of these. Below, you will see that we’ve provided screen captures of bonuses as we can find them on top sportsbooks. However, the bonuses listed are likely to be expired by the time you see them and are merely here as an illustration. Current bonuses are available through our links above.

Examples of bonuses from top operators

When it comes to sports betting, few sportsbook providers are more capable than DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, Caesars Sportsbook, and BetMGM Sportsbook. These four companies represent the vanguard of the sports betting world. You simply cannot go wrong with any of them. So, here are some of their bonuses.

No deposit bonuses

We have to apologize for saying that no bonuses are good. No deposit bonuses are good, full stop. You will sometimes see them called welcome bonuses, but that term is also used as a general reference to all the different promos available to new players. They are free money deposited into your account. You don’t have to contribute anything monetarily to take advantage of them.

Usually, no deposit bonuses are promotional tools to get you to sign up for a sportsbook. They are awarded to you upon completion of your registration. You may have to enter a promotional code during the registration process, but that’s about it. They are usually issued as site credits, but you might get some free bets as you create your account, too. Because the books want you to feel comfortable, there is usually no more than a 1x playthrough. No matter what, you should take advantage of no deposit bonuses whenever and wherever you see them. Even if you have no plans to stick with the sportsbook in question, there’s no reason to pass on the opportunity for some profit without the risk.

Deposit bonuses

The deposit bonus is one of the most common types of promotions that sportsbooks offer. Most books offer some kind of standing deposit bonus for new players and/or first-time depositors. In addition, all players will gain access to one of these bonuses from time to time. Whether they are called deposit bonuses, “match” bonuses, or “reload” bonuses, they all work roughly the same way.

In a deposit bonus, you deposit a certain amount. The sportsbook then matches a portion of your deposit as an additional lot of money on top of it. The percentage that the book matches varies from offer to offer, but can be as high as 100%. However, deposit bonuses usually come with a cap on the total amount of bonus money that you can acquire through the deal. So, a typical offer might be something like:

20% deposit bonus up to $500

So, you can deposit as much as you like, but the maximum amount of bonus money you’ll receive is $500. You can calculate the optimal deposit amount upfront, if you like, by dividing the money cap by the percentage. In this case, you could realize the maximum value from this offer with a $2,500 deposit ($500/0.2).

It’s not uncommon for the cap to be as high as our example, either. You can, in theory, put hundreds (or thousands) of extra dollars in your pocket with a deposit bonus. However, there is a major catch – these bonuses usually reward you with site credits, and very few deposit bonuses come with insignificant playthrough requirements. Some of the more extreme examples, with multiples at or above 25x the deposit amount, are most commonly found with deposit bonuses. So, in keeping with our hypothetical above, it might be necessary to wager $12,500 or more of your own money to release the $500 in bonus dollars.

Deposit bonuses usually come with a time limit, too. If your typical bet size is $25, you might have to make 500 bets to satisfy the playthrough requirement, and betting that much may simply not be possible or reasonable in a week or two. Even if you could technically pull it off, it might come at the expense of gatherings with family or friends, and we never recommend that you choose sports betting over the people in your life.

Many deposit bonuses are, in fact, good deals. Although they’re usually not so lucrative to change your entire profit potential, they can provide a nice bump to the bottom line. However, know what you’re accepting before you blast into a big deposit bonus offer.

Cashback

Another common type of sportsbook promotion is the cashback deal. These bonuses are sometimes called “insurance” or “refundbonuses, but those terms are interchangeable. Whatever their name, these bonuses seek to offer you some protection against losses on a particular wager or during a particular time. Like deposit bonuses, cashback bonuses come with both a percentage of refund and a maximum dollar amount. It’s possible to find a dollar-for-dollar insurance offer, but most of them are for 25% – 50% of your loss.

The trick with cashback bonuses is that they only affect net losses. In other words, if you realize a profit or break even over the specified bet or time, you receive no benefit from the bonus. Even if you lose individual wagers, you only get compensation if your end-of-day outcome is negative.

The other thing to realize is that your refund is rarely going to come to you as cash. Like other bonuses, you are most likely to receive site credit. Occasionally, you may also find an offer for a free bet of equivalent value. Now, the playthrough requirement is usually only 1x – meaning that you need only make a single wager with your cashback amount to convert it into cash. However, it does mean that you do have to put your money lost at risk a second time to get it back.

These requirements should not deter you from exercising the offer, however. For the most part, cashback bonuses are nice to have. After all, the alternative is that you simply lose your money.

Odds boosts

Odds boosts are an exceptionally common type of sportsbook bonus. They may even have their tab aside from the other promotions. The odds boost, as its name implies, is an inflation of the posted odds for a particular game or wager. The book’s oddsmakers set the lines as usual, but the promotion then moves the odds in a direction favourable to the sports bettor.

Usually, these movements are not profound. An addition of 10% – 20% of extra value is fairly common. It’s possible to find bigger adjustments, but they are not the norm for this type of bonus. Because the change is usually modest, you probably should not go out of your way to bet on an odds boost. They are fine to use if you were already planning a similar wager, but they will rarely provide enough value to be independently worth a bet.

The good news, though, is that this type of bonus is one of the few that routinely pays cash. Since you’re just getting extra money for your bet, you don’t have to play through any portion of your enhanced return. So, there’s no real reason not to use an odds boost if it affects your preferred wager — you’re just not going to get rich off one.

Rewards programs

Rewards programs, or loyalty programs, are probably the most universal of bonuses in all of gambling. You can find these programs in all manner of casinos, sportsbooks, racetracks, and almost anywhere else you can place a wager. Frankly, they’re pretty standard fare for many restaurants, too.

For gambling locations, including sportsbooks in Ontario, their concept is always the same. You earn points or partial points for every dollar that you commit to a bet. Those points are then used to rank your account within a list of prestige tiers. As you accumulate more points, you ascend higher up the ladder and become more highly regarded, so to speak, as a customer. The sportsbook, in turn, rewards you with an increasing roster of perks, benefits, benefits, and prizes. Some of these goodies might even translate into real-world benefits, like restaurant vouchers or entertainment tickets.

Some rewards programs also use this set of points or a separate set of points for a different rewards scheme. In some cases, the points you earn are redeemable for items in an exclusive store that the sportsbook offers. These items might be free bets, site credits, or branded clothing and other paraphernalia from the sportsbook itself.

Rewards programs are always free to join. You often become a member automatically when you register for an account. Getting a reward from one of these programs is always nice, but try not to vary your betting amounts or time to achieve one – you’ll feel pretty silly if you end up costing yourself more money in the pursuit of some trinket.

Leaderboards

Leaderboards are a promotion designed to generate some competition among sports bettors. Based upon predetermined criteria, the sportsbook ranks each player according to their play on a numbered list for a certain length of time. At the end of the time, the sportsbook awards the top finishers with a special prize – usually increasing amounts of cash as the player position gets higher.

Now, the way that these rankings are calculated varies from bonus to bonus. Generally, though, it revolves around your bet size, your bet frequency, and the results of your wagers. If you choose to participate in one of these bonuses, the bonus literature should be quite clear about how you rise the ladder (or don’t).

Only the most dedicated of bettors will find themselves at the top of a leaderboard and in line for a prize. Unless you are a professional sports bettor, you probably won’t have enough volume to make much of a dent in the top standings. However, this promotion is one that it might be worth it to put in some extra time to place a few additional wagers. Check the payout table to make sure that it’s worth your time, but there can be some serious money floating around that you could grab.

Free play

Free play, or free to play, bonuses are open for everyone to play. Literally. Even people who live in areas without sports betting can take part. They can do so because they’re not quite actual sports betting. Instead, they are giveaways.

Free play contests usually come with large prize pools. It’s not unusual to see big, life-changing amounts of money up for grabs, and the sportsbook’s marketing makes it sound like you’re going to get a big piece of that dough. Well, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. These contests are marketing vehicles designed to increase app/site traffic and whet the public’s appetite for the site in future markets.

You can indeed win big through a free play bonus. The odds of you doing so are quite small, however. You would usually have to do the equivalent of a double-digit parlay to realize a profit. The margin of error is so small that one goof can knock you out of competition or, at the very least, make it impossible to stay with the leaders. However, since they are (naturally) free to play, they can be a fun way to blow off steam.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up being that needle in a haystack bettor after all. You can’t win if you don’t play, as they say. Well, for the most part, you can’t win if you do play, either.

Why do sportsbooks give away bonuses and risk-free bets

A common advantage that many land-based gambling options have is a geographic monopoly, at least in some measure. A casino or, in this case, a sportsbook might be the only place to wager for several square kilometres. Even if there are multiple options in the vicinity, you still have to go to the trouble of getting into your car, driving to the other location(s), parking, and finding that facility’s sports betting venue. As a result, once you’re in the door, there’s no reason for the sportsbook operators to go out of their way to encourage you to wager.

Online sportsbooks, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury. The competition is just seconds away at all times. Your players might be occupying your app and your rival’s app at the same time. So, the books have to come out of pocket to attract and retain your business. They do so by offering a variety of different bonuses, promotions, and spiffs to you. All of these offers are designed to put extra money in your account and, more importantly, give you extra opportunities to bet.

Now, while the books’ motivation to give you these bonuses is not (primarily) altruistic or generous, it doesn’t change the fact that you can augment your holdings on various sites greatly if you understand how the bonuses work. So, t

The rule of promos

Before we begin, we need to tell you about our rule of promotions. Here it is:

No matter what bonus offer you see, do not accept it until you have read the terms and conditions thoroughly.

We cannot stress this point enough. Although reading the fine print is tedious, it can often be the difference between a good promo and a bad one. There are, in fact, some promotions that might end up costing you more money than you’re being offered. You might also find out that satisfying the requirements of the deal could adversely affect your daily life. So, please observe this rule religiously and unerringly —  it is entirely in your best interest to do so.

Playthrough requirements and time limits

Of course, you have to know what you’re trying to see when you read the T&Cs, too. Every bonus’ terms and conditions come with paragraph after paragraph of legalese and pablum, and most of us find our eyes glazing over after about ten lines of that. However, there are three main elements of the T&Cs you need to find and understand.

The first of these elements is the playthrough requirement. It may also be called the wagering requirement. In either case, the sportsbook requires you to make a certain dollar amount of wagers to release your funds as cash. This dollar amount is almost always a multiple of the bonus money that you are attempting to release. The multiple can be as low as 1, but it can also be much higher – we’ve seen examples around 50x before. In other words, before you can realize your gains from the bonus, you will have to wager between 1x and 50x of that bonus money to convert it into withdrawable cash. So, $10 in bonus money might require bets of $10 to $500. You don’t have to lose that much, mind you, but you do have to put it at risk.

The second thing to note is the time limit the bonus has. Few bonuses let you have unlimited time to redeem them. Most bonuses only last a week or two. After that time, any unredeemed funds are forfeited back to the sportsbook. Once you find the timeframe, you need to calculate exactly how long it will take you to satisfy the playthrough requirement. So, take the bonus amount and divide it by your average bet size. Then, figure out how many bets you usually make during a session and how long your sessions usually last. If you typically bet for an hour a day and make $20 in wagers, it’s going to be difficult to redeem $500 in bonus money before your time runs out. So, you’ll either have to raise your bet or increase the amount of time you’re going to be betting. Either decision can adversely affect your life, so you need to be realistic about your financial capabilities and personal time constraints before you agree to a bonus with a tight timeframe.

Finally, you need to understand the type of reward that you are receiving. It is decidedly rare for a sportsbook to offer a pure cash bonus. Exceptions do happen, but sportsbook companies know that simply giving away cash does not serve many purposes for them. Furthermore, any pure cash bonuses you can find will be small. It would be a surprise if a cash offer ever exceeded $10. So, although you should grab them when you see them, don’t expect to get cash from one of these offers. Instead, sportsbooks tend to offer bonuses with the following types of rewards.

Types of rewards

The first type of reward that you can usually find is the free bet. Free bets are vouchers for wagers of a certain denomination. You can use a free bet to cast a wager on most types of bets. However, it is not uncommon for a book to limit you from certain sports, certain types of bets, and certain odds on your free bets to prevent them from taking a heavy loss. If you do happen to win your free bet, expect to receive your profit only. Unlike normal sports bets, you will not receive the value of your stake in return. Free bets are indivisible, meaning that you cannot spread their value across multiple bets. You also cannot cash them out or withdraw their value from your account.

The second type of reward is site credit. This benefit is also known as bonus money or bonus dollars. To the untrained eye, site credit will look identical to normal cash. It will appear as part of your account balance, and you can use it any way you want onsite. However, the difference will appear if you attempt to withdraw your money as funds. Only the non-site credit portion of your account will be available as convertible funds. The rest of it will remain subject to the playthrough requirement.

The third type of reward is the perk. A perk is a non-cash reward you might receive that will allow you certain privileges or access with the sportsbook app. Those privileges might include favourable rate adjustments, bonus opportunities, or even credit in an onsite store. Depending on the sportsbook’s affiliations, you might also gain access to benefits at land-based partners, like restaurant vouchers, hotel stays, or tickets to entertainment options. This type of reward is much more common in land-based sportsbooks and gambling venues in general, but it does occur on sportsbook apps from time to time.

Wrap-up 

There are so many different ways that a sportsbook can try to draw you into their fold and keep you there. After all, with their cut on every bet (the “vig”), most sportsbooks get richer with each wager. Although many bonus offers are quite appealing, make sure that you look closely before you sign up for a deal.

It may require too much of an investment on your part. That investment might be in terms of your money – you might be inspired to deposit more than you usually do or bet at higher stakes than your normal level. The investment may also be your time, as you could be stuck trying to thrash out enough bets to satisfy the playthrough requirement in a limited timeframe.

A bonus that negatively affects your life, either financially or socially, is no fun at all. Make sure that the offers you take are, above all else, fun.