What Are Sports Betting Bonuses?

Just about every online sportsbook offers some form of bonus to players when they sign up for a new account. Sportsbooks know players are looking for bonus opportunities. After all, who doesn’t like “free money”?

For many players, deposit bonuses are what draw them in the door when it comes to choosing a sportsbook. The overall odds, payout speeds, and other factors may be secondary to the amount of money they can get for just depositing.

While sports betting bonuses are an excellent way to add a boost to your bankroll, especially for novice bettors, choosing a bonus isn’t as simple as depositing and collecting money. There’s a certain amount of due diligence bettors need to follow to be sure they are getting a fair shake when accepting a bonus offer.

In this article, we’ll go over the types of bonuses available to players that are most prominent in the US market, along with rollover rates and the best ways to clear sportsbook bonuses. We will also touch on VIP or rewards programs, which are available at some sportsbooks.

Free Play vs. Cash Bonus

The vast majority of bonuses offered by sportsbooks are “free play” bonuses. Bettors will receive a portion of their deposit in the form of a free play, which will come with an attached rollover rate.

Free plays have one key difference from cash bonuses. When players bet from their free play balance, the cash is removed from the balance, regardless of the outcome of a wager. For instance, if a bettor has a $300 free play balance and bets $100 in free play funds, that amount will drop to $200 no matter if the bet wins or loses. Free play wagers do not refund a player’s stake along with the player’s winnings but instead only add to a player’s cash balance if the bet is a winner.

Cash bonuses will return both the stake and the profits if the bet is a winner. Cash bonuses are the preferred option when it comes to bonus options, but these aren’t offered much in the US market, particularly on first-deposit or introductory bonuses.

Rollover Requirements

Receiving a bonus isn’t as simple as depositing money and receiving a refund in return. Players agree to a rollover rate when they accept a bonus offer and have to meet those requirements before they can cash out their bonus.

Every bonus will come with a rollover, which, at most sites means the number of times the bonus and first deposit must be wagered before the bonus can be withdrawn. For example, if a player deposits $2,000 and receives a 25% free play bonus, the player would have a free play balance of $500.

If a site required a 4x rollover, the bettor would have to wager $10,000 ($2,500 x 4) before they could withdraw their $500 bonus. While this might sound unreasonable, consider that without a rollover, bettors could simply deposit and get the bonus money without risking anything.

Rollovers protect sites from bettors doing that. However, it’s also a double-edged sword. Rollover rates will vary depending on the sportsbook, and many bettors end up agreeing to absurd rollover rates without reading the fine print before they sign up.

Rogue sportsbooks and ones that are simply poorly rated will often have absurd rollover rates that make it nearly impossible to clear the deposit bonuses offered without busting your account. Rollovers between 3–6x are the most common at reputable sportsbooks and are extremely fair in terms of a rollover rate.

However, higher rollover rates make it much harder to clear bonuses. Those that are in the 10–12x range or higher make it basically impossible to clear without substantial losses. Sites that are offering rollovers in this range aren’t generally trustworthy either.

Clearing Bonuses

Bettors can simply wager the required amount to clear their bonus, but there are several ways to maximize their EV when clearing deposit and reload bonuses instead of just simply wagering on their favorite selections.

The first is betting parlays. Since free plays don’t work the same way as money coming out of your cash balance or bonus, parlays allow bettors to wager the same amount several times. Parlays, unlike straight bets, allow betting the same amount several times on multiple different selections.

It’s rare that bettors would bet parlays above two teams, but in terms of clearing bonuses, this is an optimal strategy. Betting 3-team parlays is an excellent way to maximize your chances of winning with a freeplay and is one of the better ways to clear a rollover.

Another strategy, one that locks in a profit, is using arbing or sure-betting. Arbitrage involves locking in a profit due to differences in the betting lines between rival bookmakers. We cover this much more extensively in another article on hedging your bets, but the concept is simple to understand when clearing bonuses.

By watching the betting market, bettors can take advantage of line moves and wager their free play funds on a market move but lock in a price at another sportsbook that gives them the ability to gain a small profit.

Of course, two or more accounts at different sportsbooks are necessary for this to work. This is something that is not allowed if you’re using a single sportsbook. Some sites will react negatively to players that are arbing or chasing steam, so it’s vital you do this with a reputable operator with a longstanding reputation.

VIP and Rewards Programs

Most sportsbooks servicing the US market don’t offer rewards programs. However, the most notable of the bunch is Bookmaker.eu and their sister sportsbook, Everygame, another sportsbook that is a lesser player in American markets, also offers a VIP Program. US-facing powerhouses like 5Dimes and Bovada don’t offer VIP or rewards programs for sports bettors.

Compared to online poker sites, where VIP rewards and stuff like rakeback can add significantly to players’ bottom lines, most online sportsbooks’ rewards programs are afterthoughts. Bookmaker’s and Everygame’s rewards programs can amount to several hundred bucks a month if a player is betting large amounts, but offering the best odds and most markets is much better than any bonus.

These sportsbooks are no slouches in that department, especially with long tenures in the industry. Both Bookmaker and Everygame offer cash bonuses for their points programs, and Bookmaker has a tiered loyalty program that rewards bettors who reach the higher levels. They also have a points store where players can purchase luxury items, along with other bonuses.

VIP programs can be something to consider when signing up at a sportsbook, but, for the most part, it should be something of secondary importance compared to the odds, reputation, and withdrawal options and speeds.