Sportsbooks compete for customers in a number of ways. Some offer better odds than their competitors, some have faster payouts, and others rely on top-notch customer service. They do all this with one goal in mind: attracting potential bettors to their platform. Bonuses are perhaps the most common lure sportsbooks drop in the betting waters to entice bettors to join their sites. Understanding how these bonuses work is vital to getting the most out of your sports betting experience.

Special Information

Join Bovada to get the best sign-up bonus for new players. Your account
will be credited automatically after you make a deposit.

There’s two main kinds of bonuses: sign-up bonuses, which only apply to your initial deposit or your first few bets, and ongoing bonuses, which apply to the entire length of your sports betting. It’s important to consider both in order to maximize the value of your bonuses over the length of your betting career. This is called “Lifetime Value” and, if you plan on betting for a sustained period, it’s singularly important. Don’t get taken in by a big, sexy deposit bonus until you read the wagering requirement, but at the same time, don’t leave money on the table.

It’s important to take your time when signing up at a gambling site, as many of the bonuses only apply to new users and, if you don’t claim them properly during the sign-up process, you could miss out. Keep in mind that the whole sign-up process takes somewhere around fifteen or twenty minutes, so don’t rush through thinking you’ll miss kickoff. Be cool, find the right bonuses for you, claim them properly, and then start frantically worrying about your bets.

One way to ensure you’re getting the best sign-up bonus from a sportsbook is to sign up through SportsBettingDime.com. Our list of sports betting sites includes the best deposit bonuses for each sportsbook so you can scan them efficiently and pick the one that’s best for you. Be sure to click the “Bet Now” link to sign up and claim your bonus. Doing so will ensure your account is credited with best bonus available. We’ll also provide the necessary promo code for sites that require them.

Sign-Up Bonuses

Designed to attract new bettors, these “welcome bonuses” offer too-good-to-pass-up free lunches that take a lot of the sting out of depositing your hard-earned money in an online sportsbook.

There are many different types: some sportsbook will match a percentage of your deposit or give you some free bets to place, others will match your first bet or multiply the winnings on your first bet. It’s important to consider the terms and conditions to understand their real value.

These bonuses are only available to new customers, so don’t expect to be able to claim these more than once at each site.

Initial Deposit Bonuses

These first time deposit bonuses are not complicated. Simply put, for every dollar you deposit into your betting account with a sportsbook, the sportsbook will match some percentage of that deposit. Usually they range anywhere from 50% to 100% of the amount you add. They arguably offer the biggest incentive for joining a gambling site, and they can shape the way you bet.

These bonuses are usually applied to the very first deposit you make, or deposits you make on the first day, and are subject to terms and conditions like rollover. The betting sites will also have a maximum amount of a deposit that will qualify for these bonuses.

Free Bet / Matching Bets

Another kind of bonus books offer is a “free bet.” If you deposit, say, $25, you’ll get to place one $10 bet without actually laying any money. If it doesn’t pay out, no harm no foul, but if you pick a winner, you get the profit from that bet.

These free bets might not look as attractive as the big 200% deposit bonuses some books offer, but they come with a few advantages and might be right for you. If you’re not looking to bet frequently (Super Bowl props only come once a year, after all) a free bet offers you a little value, some fun (bet a longshot! Who cares? This money isn’t real!) and no long-term commitment to the book.

Matching bets are less common but broadly similar: If you lay $25 on Carolina, the sportsbook will just credit you with two of that bet. It’s basically a free bet but constrained in such a way that you can’t bet against yourself and guarantee profit.

The strategy around free bets is interesting, because you’re essentially multiplying the payout without changing the risk or the underlying probability. For this reason, it might be better to play favorites than longshots, to get good odds of a great payout instead of long odds of a magnificent payout.

Wagering Requirements for Bonuses

Most  sportsbooks impose a requirement on sign-up bonuses called “Rollover” (also known as “bet through” or “minimum wager” or something similar). This refers to the amount you have to bet at that sportsbook before the bonus funds become withdrawable money. Typically, the higher the bonus the higher the rollover, so don’t be too quick to hop into a 200% bonus on a $100 deposit if you’re not intending to place $2,000 in bets. Think about how frequently you want to place bets: if you want to wear a big hat and bet the Kentucky Derby once a year, a big rollover probably isn’t going to work for you. If you want to make a deposit at the beginning of football season and bet every week until the Super Bowl, you’ll be able to clear that threshold pretty easily.

An example might help. Let’s say that you deposit $250 to a sportsbook that is offering a 50% bonus with a 5x rollover. This means that you’ll have $375 to bet with, but can’t withdraw the bonus money until you’ve placed $1,875 ((250+125)x5) in bets.

The following table illustrates how much you will have to wager in order to clear common rollover requirements and obtain your bonus money, assuming a $100 initial deposit.
calculating bonus money rollover

The way sportsbooks calculate rollover and the bets that go towards clearing it varies, so be sure to read the terms and conditions. One sportsbook credits you your risk amount for losing bets, and the lesser of the risk or win amount for winning bets. This means that if you bet $10 on the Patriots at -110, you earn $10 towards your rollover requirement if they lose, but only $9.09 if they win. Most books have rules against betting strong favourites to clear the rollover, so don’t be surprised if you have to bet at higher than even money to earn credit towards your rollover. If you have to bet at better than 2/1, it’s probably not a good deal.

Another thing to look out for is a time limit on the rollover. Rushing your bets to clear an arbitrary threshold is a sure way to place poor bets and lose money. Before you take a bonus with a time limit, calculate how much you need to bet per week to clear that requirement, and figure out if this makes sense for the way you want to bet.

Additional Requirements

Besides rollover requirements sportsbooks have a variety of other terms associated with sign-up bonuses that you need to be aware of in order to clear your bonus for withdrawal. They are different at each book, so it really pays to read the fine print before jumping on one and trying to cash out before you’ve met all of them. Here are some examples of additional requirements:

  • bets with a price of less than or equal to -200 (1.5) do not count toward fulfilling sportsbook bonus rollover requirements
  • no withdrawals can be made within 30 days of claiming this promotion
  • bonus is only be eligible for use in Sports, Horses, and Casino. It is not available for use in Poker
  • you can only have one active bonus at any one time. To claim another bonus the current active bonus must be completed or closed first.
  • In multiple bets at least one selection must have odds of 1.50 (1/2) or greater to count towards any turnover requirement

 

Ongoing Bonuses & Promotions

Once your deposit bonuses or free bets are gone, it’s the ongoing rewards that will make betting easier, more fun, and more profitable. Some of these “ongoing” bonuses insulate you from the most heartbreaking losses (soccer games where the lead changes after the 88th minute, for example); some offer you rebates or cash back on the bets you lose; and some offer deposit bonuses when you reload your bankroll.

Reload Bonuses

Yeah, I know, you’re never going to need these, because you’re going to deposit money once and then withdraw for the rest of your life, but humour me a little. Let’s just pretend that some bettors don’t always pick winners and have to reload their bankroll from time to time.

The numbers on reload bonuses are never as big or sexy as the numbers on initial deposits. You’re not going to see 100-200%. On the flipside, you’re not going to be working to clear a 20x rollover, and if you’ve made it through your initial deposit, you’ve probably got a better handle on your betting habits and are in a better position to pick a bonus level that works for you.

Cash Back Incentives and Rebates

Cash back and rebates are fairly straightforward: for every dollar you bet (or lose) you get a certain percentage back in your bankroll. It’s a simple mechanic, sure, but it effects your bankroll management and the way you make bets in a big way. That percentage you receive back in the event of a loss has to figure into your calculation of expected value.

Seasonal Promotions

To promote betting around the big events that figure heavily in their annual outlook, sportsbooks offer bonuses specific to those events. Capitalize on this value: you were going to bet on the Super Bowl anyway.

An example: sportsbooks want to attract all those bettors looking for somewhere to bet on the Super Bowl, so they’ll offer, say, a free Super Bowl bet of 50% of your deposit. This means that if you make an initial deposit of $100, the book will credit you with a free $50 bet which you can place on the Super Bowl. This is great value, and if you’re looking to sign up with a new sportsbook, consider waiting until some of the year’s banner events roll around and see what they’re offering then.

Unique Promotions

There are a lot of bonuses that sportsbooks create to steer bettors towards features they want you to use, and there’s frequently good value to be found in them. For mobile betting, in particular, which sportsbooks are eager for you to start using, you can get your first losing bet refunded, or you can get a percentage added to your winnings. There are similar bonuses for using Bitcoin to fund your bankroll or taking advantage of some other feature on the site. You have to dig around for these a little, so keep an eye on the promotions page of your sportsbook and its social media feeds. It might take a little work, but getting a bet refunded just because you placed it from your phone instead of your computer is free value. Take advantage!