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 ColoradoIllinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and many more states to come. As sports betting is legalized 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, 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.

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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 bets — many of which are advertised in parts of this website.

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 be credited with a bonus “risk-free” bet corresponding to the amount of that first wager.


If you wagered $200 on the Dodgers to beat the Diamondbacks, and the Dodgers lose, you’d get a site credit in the amount of $200. (If you won on Los Angeles, congratulations, that’s the end of it)

So, your bet is “risk-free” to the extent that your funds are not necessarily lost if the initial bet fails. But when you put the bonus bet(s) back in play, if you lose that bet then, yes, your bet is lost. So not exactly risk free. That’s gambling, folks.   

Example 2

Now suppose you have a $200 site credit after losing the initial wager, and you make a $200 even money (+100) bet with it. If you win that bet, you’ll get $200 into your account. You don’t get the $200 bonus bet stake in your account plus your $200 for the win — only the winnings. And at that point, if you wanted to withdraw and break even, you could. This is true at many sportsbooks, but not all of them. Some let you withdraw the bonus as well. Be sure to check out the details (and read our sportsbook reviews) before making your risk-free bet. 

FanDuel Sportsbook, PointsBet, DraftKings Sportsbook, FOX Bet have offered the most generous risk-free bets of up to $1,000. Others have offered smaller promos, usually between $250-$500.

But note — regarding refunds/site credit:

  • Each sportsbook issues its refunds or bonuses a bit differently. At FanDuel if you lose your risk-free bet, you may get back “site credit,” which plays the same as cash. That is, when you make a wager using the site credit, if you win a bet with it, you will get the stake back and the profit. Using the above example, that would mean you could withdraw $400 instead of $200 after winning the risk-free bet.
  • Meanwhile at PointsBet, the refund will come as a “free bet” that can be broken down into smaller increments, but only pays the profit on a bet (i.e., you get the winnings on the bet, but not the stake).
  • And there are other sportsbooks where you won’t get to break down the “free bet” into smaller pieces — it’ll be a one-shot deal for whatever credit you have, which might be $20, $200 or $500. The best deal by far is the site credit.

2. “Free bet”

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

Popular sportsbooks, including DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel, and BetMGM, regularly have different offers. These offers vary by date but sometimes include a 100% free bet up to $500, where the amount of the free bet matches the amount of the player’s first wager.


So let’s say you deposit $500 after setting up a DK sportsbook account. You then bet $500 on the Warriors -5.5 to beat the Rockets.  After making the deposit and wager, you will receive a bonus bet in your account for $500 (processing may take around 24 hours).

Regardless of whether you win or lose your Warriors bet, that $500 bonus bet will be available to you. So if you win your Warriors bet at -110, you’d have $954 in your account — the initial bet stake plus $454 win — as well as the $500 bonus bet.

Two important notes

  • You may be required to use the free bet within a certain time frame, possibly within 30 days of first wager that allowed you to earn the promotion.
  • Second, when you put that free bet into play, you will collect only a win — not the $500 stake as well. So if you make another $500 bet at a -110 price, and you win, you’d come away with another $454 in that case, not $954.

3. “Matched deposit”

This one is most similar to the “free bet,” but comes with more flexibility. BetRivers Sportsbook (available in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Virginia) has offered this kind of bonus — matching your bonus with a site credit of up to $250.

How it works

If you’re a new player and you deposit $250, the sportsbook will match that and give you a bonus bankroll of $250. You don’t have to plunk down that bonus $250 on a single bet, and there are no restrictions on the type of bet(s) you can make with the bonus credit. This is nice added flexibility.

Don’t want to deposit $250? If you deposit $10, you’ll get a site credit of $10, and if you deposit $250 or anything higher, you’d get $250 site credit.

It’s common to see a time limitation in the terms and restrictions: You will need to “activate and play through the bonus money within 30 days after being credited with the bonus money, otherwise it will expire.”

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.

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).

So it fundamentally works in the same was as “risk-free” bet or “free bet” described above, but you just don’t have to make a deposit to activate the bonus.

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. 

5. “Welcome bonus” or “new player bonus”

Offers using this language typically come with more strings attached than any of those referenced above, and is similar to the types of offers that offshore sportsbooks illegally accepting U.S. customers are offering. Basically, there’s a substantial “rollover” requirement involved here.

DraftKings has offered one such promotion in some states — a $500 welcome bonus, but with a very steep 25x play-through requirement. 

This means that if you deposit $500, in order to get the full $500 welcome bonus, you must put $12,500 into play, gradually unlocking the bonus funds. Not until that $12,500 has been risked (or a corresponding 25x your deposit, up to $500), will you obtain the full $500 bonus. 

So, make sure you adhere to the term and conditions and know how much you’ve put into play. You can do that by tracking your bets on the sportsbook’s ledger and/or by keeping a spreadsheet.

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 -250 or higher (i.e., -249 or -110). 

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 sixth time this article, read the terms and conditions and take a screenshot of them after registering. Also, please bet responsibly and know your limits. 

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