Legal Sportsbook Bonus Offers — Betting Promos, Explained

Bettors new to legal sportsbook apps will have the opportunity to take advantage of some sweet sportsbook bonus offers in Arizona, ColoradoIllinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, New YorkPennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, among many other legalized states and others hoping to join the party as soon as possible. As sports betting gets the green light in more and more states, competition for new customers is increasing, resulting in improved bonus offers.

In this post we will explain popular bonus terminology, terms and conditions, and more because it’s important to understand what you’re getting, and how and when you’ll get it. The numbers are not always what they seem – and some offers are less attractive or possibly more attractive than they may appear. Whether your betting with FanDuel, BetMGM, or a newer site like PointsBet – you always want to understand your bonus.

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Sportsbook bonus terminology and “free bets”

As a starting point — always, always read the terms and conditions when you see advertisements for promotional bonuses — many of which are advertised in parts of this website. We also give you a full, easy to follow breakdown on every bonus for every site, as some terms and conditions can be very confusing.

Some sportsbooks may limit what you can wager on with your promotional bets — possibly not allowing wagers on markets priced greater than -200. This would mean that you can’t take a prohibitive favorite (-400, for example) for your promotional bet. Now let’s review the most common terms and phrases you’ll see and break them down:

1. “Risk-free bet”

This phrase generally refers to an offer where a new registrant makes a bet with the sportsbook for the first time, and if the bet loses, the player will have their initial stake reimbursed in the form of a “risk-free” bet credit of some sort. The two most common forms of reimbursement are site credit (also known as bonus cash) or a traditional free bet credit

Example 1: Free bet credit

This example will highlight what would happen if a player opted in to a risk-free promotion that promised a free bet credit if your first wager were to lose.

If you wagered $200 on the Dodgers to beat the Diamondbacks, and the Dodgers lose, your account would be credited with a free bet in the amount of $200. (If you won on Los Angeles, congratulations, that’s the end of it. Receive your stake back plus the winnings in cash and feel free to do with them as you please.)

The $200 free bet can be used on any sporting event or market, but will need to be used in one shot, unless smaller increment free bets are given out. For example, while some books might reimburse your $200 stake with one big $200 free bet, another sportsbook might opt to distribute five separate $40 free bets instead.

The biggest drawback when it comes to free bets is that you do not get to keep the free bet’s stake if it hits, only the winnings. So let’s say you received a $200 free bet for losing your first qualified wager and want to turn it into some cash. If a $200 free bet credit is placed on a selection at +100 odds and it hits, the player will only receive the $200 winnings as opposed to getting the full $400 back.

Example 2: Site credit or bonus cash

Now suppose you receive the same $200 reimbursement, but this time in the form of site credit/bonus cash after losing your initial wager. If you make the same $200 play described above at even money (+100) and win the bet, you’ll get the full $400 added into your account this time around. Site credit essentially works the same way that cash does, other than the fact that it is not eligible for withdrawal until wagered at least 1x, or sometimes even more depending on the promotion’s terms and conditions. Regardless, it is definitely the better of the two rewards in comparison to receiving a free bet credit.

2. “Free bet”

How is this different from the risk-free bet mentioned above? The key is that this type of “free bet” lives separately from the player’s first wager.

Some of the more popular sportsbooks offer extra incentive to new players looking to get started. These offers may vary depending on the state of operation, but in the past have included a 100% bet match, where the amount of the free bet awarded matches the amount of the player’s first wager, win or lose. This is a fantastic alternative to the typical risk-free promotion because the player in this case can walk away with both their winnings and a sizable free bet. 

Another fantastic offer comes from DraftKings, who will give you a $50 free bet just for completing the signup process and making your first deposit. This $50 free bet is completely separate from any other new user promotions offered, making DraftKings one of the more generous sportsbooks in the industry.


So let’s say you deposit $100 after setting up a DraftKings Sportsbook account. DK will hook you up with a $50 free bet credit that can be used on any sports market of your choosing. Let’s say you decide to put it on the Warriors at +100 odds to beat the Rockets. If the Warriors win, you would receive a payout of just $50, which is the profit from the bet without the stake. If you made that same bet with $50 cash instead, you would receive the full $100 payout ($50 stake + $50 profit). As noted above – with most free bets, you will only receive the profit.

Important note

Users may be required to use all free bet credits within a certain time frame, usually anywhere between 7 to 30 days of the first wager that allowed you to earn the promotion. This timeframe will vary from book to book, so always be sure to keep an eye on the terms and conditions.

3. “Deposit match”

Deposit matches typically award players with bonus funds in the form of site credit. Site credit works the same as betting in cash, meaning the player gets to keep both the stake and the winnings. Deposit match bonuses are starting to become a lot less common within the industry, but when you do come across one – be sure to take advantage.

How it works

Let’s say a sportsbook brand is offering a 100% match on your first deposit up to $250. If you’re a new player and you deposit $250, the sportsbook will match your deposit and give you a bonus bankroll of $250. You likely won’t have to plunk down that bonus $250 on a single bet, and odds restrictions are typically on the friendlier side. Lastly, and most importantly, there are usually no restrictions on the types of bet(s) you can make with your bonus credit.

Don’t want to deposit $250? If you deposit $10, you’ll get a site credit of $10. If you deposit $250 or more in the case of this example, you’d get $250 in site credit.

It’s common to see a time limitation in the terms and conditions. Players will often be required to clear a wagering requirement within a specific timeframe or their bonus offer will expire. Always check out your sportsbook’s terms and conditions so you know what is expected!

You may also see a match bonus referred to as a “first deposit bonus” or “registration bonus,” with the nature of the bonus operating in the same or similar fashion as the match.

Important note

While some sportsbooks offer deposit matches with little to no rollover, others will. For this reason, it is extremely important to always read the terms before forking over your funds to an online sportsbook.

DraftKings has offered one such promotion in some states — a $1000 deposit match welcome bonus, but with a very steep 25x play-through requirement. $1 is released for every $25 that you wager, which is a nice touch, as some are all or nothing, and will only release the bonus funds if you complete the full wagering requirements. 

This means that if you deposit enough to receive the full $1000 bonus, in order to get your hands on it, you must put $25,000 into play, gradually unlocking the bonus funds. Not until that $25,000 has been wagered (or a corresponding 25x your deposit, up to $1000), will you obtain the full $1000 bonus. 

With that being said, once again make sure you adhere to the terms and conditions and know how much you’ve put into play. You can do that by tracking your bets on the DraftKings Sportsbook’s bonus section. 

4. “No deposit free bet”

This one truly is a free bet or about the closest thing to it, so long as players register for and obtain a “valid and verified” real-money account. We suppose the only downside is unwanted emails.

Once you’re registered, the sportsbook will credit your account with the stated bonus amount. Typically these freebies are smaller increments (but still very welcome!), between $5 and $25. 

A few important additional terms you’ll often see.

  • You’ll typically have between 7 and 30 days to use the free bet;
  • This kind of free bet bonus must be used in full, i.e., it cannot be divided into multiple bets.
  • If the event the player wagered on results in a win, the player will receive the winnings from the wager, but not the free bet stake amount into their winnings. For example, a $10 free bet at -110 odds would return $9.10 ($19.10 – original $10 free bet stake = $9.10).

The offer terms typically do not include any rollover requirement, meaning you should be able to withdraw any winnings once you have put the bonus amount in play once. 

Parting shots

Always keep in mind, for any form of bonus, there may be restrictions on the markets you can bet on–typically preventing you from betting heavy (or very heavy) favorites. One sportsbook requires that you bet on sides with prices of -200 or higher (i.e., -199 or +110). This number ranges from book to book, but is usually capped anywhere between -200 and -300.

In cases like these, the sportsbook is not going to make it a complete gimme to capture a bonus credit – by betting heavy favorites for example. Odds at -200 imply a 66.7% win probability.

Be sure to contact customer service by email or chat if you need help or have any questions about activating or obtaining your bonus. In our experience, sportsbooks have been responsive and helpful. And for the umpteenth time this article, read the terms and conditions and take a screenshot of them after registering. Also, please bet responsibly and know your limits. 

Brett Smiley

Brett Smiley

Brett Smiley is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Sports Handle, which joined forces with the US Bets team in November 2018. He focuses on the sports betting industry and legislation. He's a recreational sports bettor and DFS player himself, focusing on the NFL. In a past life, Smiley practiced commercial litigation in New York City and previously wrote for FOX Sports and He lives in New Jersey with his family.

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