Sports betting deposit bonuses work on a simple premise: sportsbooks offer free bets or site credit to new customers who sign up for accounts and make deposits. However, the details vary significantly between offers, and learning how to take maximum advantage of every bonus isn’t as simple as it seems.

Since its inception in 2018, the legal online sports betting industry has been in a mad dash to acquire customers. Competition is fierce, with some states already supporting more than a dozen betting platforms. Other states sit on the precipice of legalizing online wagering.  

Therefore, it’s no surprise that legal betting apps and websites are throwing promotional dollars around like they’re candy. And what better way to attract new customers than with lucrative deposit bonuses?

These days, most signup offers come in the form of risk-free bets, but several operators still opt for traditional deposit bonuses. Sports betting deposit bonuses can be particularly beneficial to bettors as long as they approach them intelligently.

In this guide, we’ll explain what betting deposit bonuses are, their pros and cons, and how sports bettors can use them to build healthy bankrolls.

Rank
Betting Site
Bonus
Rating
Visit
1
Get up to $500 back if your first wager loses
2
100% up to $250
3
20% up to $1,000 Deposit Bonus21+ to Play, T&Cs Apply
4
Two Risk Free Bets Worth Up to $1,000 in Total
5
$1,000 Risk Free Bet

Sports Betting Deposit Bonuses Explained

Deposit bonuses are rewards sportsbooks give to bettors in exchange for a monetary commitment. Betting bonuses are not cash, but they convert to cash once the new customer meets the designated wagering requirements (more on that soon).

Most sports betting deposit bonuses take the form of first deposit match offers. They’re easily recognizable by their wording, which follows a simple formula no matter the offer: “X% match up to $XXX.” Let’s break that down.

Consider a betting site that advertises a “100% match up to $500” welcome offer. The percentage in that offer indicates the sportsbook is willing to match new customers’ first deposits dollar for dollar. If it were instead a 25% match offer, bettors would receive $1 in bonus funds for every $4 deposited.

The “up to $500” in this example means new users can claim up to $500 in bonus funds. In our example, bettors who deposit $100 qualify for $100 in bonus funds, and bettors who deposit $500 or more receive $500 in bonus funds. New users may deposit even more if they wish, but the most they can receive with this offer is $500 extra.

Sportsbooks reserve the biggest betting deposit bonuses for new customers. Existing customers occasionally receive deposit bonuses as well (also known as reload bonuses), but they tend to be much smaller than the offers extended to new users.

Are There Other Types of Betting Deposit Bonuses?

Sportsbooks occasionally offer free bets to depositing customers, but it’s uncommon. However, sportsbooks frequently provide free bets to existing customers for reloading their accounts. Offers to the tune of “deposit $20 and receive a $10 free bet this weekend” are relatively common.

There are several other differences between free bets and standard deposit bonuses:

  • Free bets are usually indivisible – e.g., a customer who receives a $100 free bet must use it all at once on a single wager
  • Free bets do not return the initial stake on winning tickets, only the net profit
  • Free bets are usually only subject to a 1x rollover requirement, whereas deposit bonuses typically come with higher rollover requirements

What To Watch Out for In a Deposit Bonus

Online sportsbooks are not in the business of giving away something for nothing.

Nearly every bonus in the world comes with terms and conditions. In most cases, customers must place wagers to withdraw their bonuses or any winnings associated with their bonuses. The fine print dictates the wagering requirements and outlines other restrictions attached to any betting bonus.

It’s critical to read and understand bonus terms, as they lay the blueprint for exactly how much a bonus is worth. Below are a few items to look out for when evaluating bonuses.

Bonus Wagering Requirements

Wagering requirements (a.k.a. “the rollover) are the single most critical thing to know about any deposit match bonus. The rollover determines how much a bettor must wager before the bonus or winnings obtained by wagering the bonus convert to withdrawable cash.

The sports betting industry denotes wagering requirements as multipliers, such as “5x” or “10 times.” A 5x multiplier indicates that customers must wager the bonus amount five times to clear it for withdrawal. So, for instance, if a bettor receives a $200 match bonus with a 10x rollover requirement, the bettor must place $2,000 ($200 x 10) worth of bets to clear it.

If it’s not already apparent, the lower the rollover requirement, the better the bonus. The house has the edge on every wager it offers, so by placing fewer or smaller bets, bettors preserve more of a bonus’s value.

There is a lot of nuance to wagering requirements beyond what we’ve already discussed. For more information about clearing bonuses, see our wagering requirements guide.

The Monetary Cap

All other factors equal, larger bonuses are better than smaller ones. Even if a big bonus has less favorable terms than a smaller one, it may still be the better option.

To illustrate this point, assume a bettor claims a $1500 deposit match with a 10x wagering requirement. The bettor wisely bets on point spreads and totals, giving up approximately 4.5% of edge to the house. The total wagering amount is $15,000 ($1,500 x 10) and the expected loss is $675 ($15,000 x 4.5%). On average, the bettor will profit $825.

Another bettor claims a $500 match with a 5x rollover and makes similar bets. The expected profits are only $387.50. The bettor will win a larger percentage of their bonus but end up with less money overall.

The Delivery Mechanism

Sportsbooks may allocate deposit bonuses as site credit or free bets. Site credit is more flexible than free bets and returns the initial stake on winning wagers.

Generally, site credit bonuses are more favorable than free bets unless the former has exorbitantly high wagering requirements.

The Match Percentage

Not all deposit bonuses are 100% match offers. Sometimes the match percentage is markedly lower. It can be 50%, 35%, or as low as 10%.

The match percentage matters for a couple of reasons. The smaller the match percentage, the greater the upfront investment relative to the bonus amount. For instance, bettors only need to invest $500 o max out a standard “100% up to $500” bonus. At 50%, the upfront investment rises to $1,000. At 20%, it’s $2,500, which may be too rich for many.

In addition, some wagering sites require bettors to roll over both the bonus and deposit amount X times before unlocking a bonus. This is a sneaky caveat because it misleads bettors into thinking a wagering requirement is low when in reality, it might be sky-high.

Compare these two bonuses:

  • Bonus #1: Bonus amount: $500; Deposit match: 100%; Wagering requirement: 10x the bonus amount
  • Bonus #2: Bonus amount: $500; Deposit match: 25%; Wagering requirement: 5x the deposit + bonus amount.

The effective wagering requirement on Bonus #1 is $5,000. Bonus #2 initially looks better, but a deeper look reveals that bettors have to wager the bonus amount ($500) plus the deposit amount ($2,000) five times. That works out to $12,500. Thus, Bonus #1 is by far the better bargain.

The Expiration Date

All deposit bonuses come affixed with an expiration date. It could be three days, 14 days, or even a month after bettors claim the bonus, but eventually, all bonuses terminate.

Most online sportsbooks and horse racing betting apps require bettors to clear the entire bonus in the specified time frame. So, if the wagering requirement is $2,500 and the bettor only places $2,200 worth of tickets, the entire remaining bonus expires.

Expired bonuses are particularly damaging because wagers are subtracted from cash balances first and from bonus balances only after the cash balance reaches $0. If a bettor starts with a $500 deposit to claim a $500 bonus and loses $250, they’ll be out $250 cash should the bonus expire. Don’t let this happen.

Odds And Other Restrictions

Some sportsbooks place limitations on the bets that customers can place with bonus funds. A common restriction among sportsbooks prohibits bettors from placing bets on heavy favorites at -200 odds or shorter. Additionally, bets that customers cash out early and lines with boosted odds may not count toward the rollover.

In horse racing, only “To Win” bets may contribute 100% to the wagering requirements. Bettors should be aware of which bets contribute to the wagering requirement before opting in to any bonus.

How To Claim A Signup Deposit Bonus

Claiming signup bonuses is a straightforward process:

  1. Download a mobile sportsbook or horse racing betting app – or visit its website from any desktop
  2. Register for an account. The sportsbook may ask for sensitive information such as the user’s date of birth and the last four digits of their SSN, but state law requires operators to collect such information to verify the identity of every customer. Additionally, licensed betting apps may not share private information with third parties.
  3. Once validated, log in and visit the cashier.
  4. Claiming the bonus varies from one betting site to the next. Many betting sites issue welcome bonuses by default to all new customers. Others may require them to enter a promo code when signing up or depositing. Yet others may require customers to log in, visit the “promotions” tab, and opt-in.
  5. After making a qualifying deposit, the bonus funds should arrive shortly, if not instantaneously. Sportsbooks typically allocate the bonus funds to customers’ bonus balances, not their cash wallets.
  6. Start wagering to clear the bonus for withdrawal

The Best Sports Betting and Horse Racing Deposit Bonuses

Tipico Sportsbook: 100% Match Up To $750

Newcomer Tipico offers first-time depositors the best bang for their buck. Its current offer is a 100% deposit match up to $750, with only a 3x wagering requirement.

Unlocking the maximum bonus only requires bettors to wager $2,250, and they have a generous 90 days to do it.

The only real negative is that wagers on heavy favorites do not contribute to the wagering requirements. The cutoff point is -200 American odds. So, -150, +100, and +400 odds qualify, but lines at -250 or -210 odds do not.

BetRivers / Play SugarHouse: 100% Match Up To $250

The BetRivers bonus is famous for its 1x wagering requirement, one of the best in the business. Outside of cash-in-hand, a 1x rollover is as good as it gets.

First-time depositing players receive a 100% match up to $250, which unlocks after wagering the initial deposit amount one time.

Unfortunately, the monetary cap is among the lowest in the sports betting industry. Given the other generous terms, that’s forgivable.

BetRivers Sportsbook should be one of the first stops on a new bettor’s journey, especially if they’re on a limited bankroll.

DraftKings Sportsbook: 20% Match Up To $1,000

The DraftKings bonus is the only promotion from a major sports betting with a sizeable upper limit, giving new users up to $1,000 extra.

Size aside, DraftKings’ welcome package has some issues. First, the match percentage is only 20%, so bettors will have to make a hefty $5,000 deposit to take full advantage. Additionally, the wagering requirement is a very steep 25x.

The upside is that the bonus unlocks incrementally. Bettors don’t receive their bonus upfront but get $1 in cash per $25 wagered. This ensures that bettors receive at least a partial bonus and protects them from having their bonus funds stripped away if they’re unable to complete the rollover before the offer expires.

TwinSpires Horse Racing: $200 Bonus Money

Horse racing betting sites also offer match bonuses to new players. For example, new customers at TwinSpires receive a $100 bonus per $400 wagered. Bettors can repeat the process once again for a total of $200 in bonus funds.

That works out to a modest 4x rollover requirement. But the real beauty of the TwinSpires bonus is that it doesn’t require bettors to make a minimum deposit. As long as they meet the wagering requirements, it doesn’t matter if their initial deposit is $100 or even $20.

The timeframe to take advantage of this offer is also quite generous, clocking in at 30 days.

Deposit Bonus Offers: New Bettor Tips and Strategies

  1. Claim multiple bonuses: Sports betting and horse racing are subject to high degrees of variance, so bettors will want to reduce it as much as possible. Claiming multiple bonuses ensures that a bettor’s actual profits will be reasonably close to their expected value. Not to mention, the more welcome packages claimed, the more bonus funds a bettor will receive.
  2. Don’t claim every bonus: If a bonus has a ridiculously high wagering requirement or has other damaging terms, skip it. Straight bettors shouldn’t bother if the wagering requirement is over 25x. Generally, parlay bettors and horse racing aficionados should only claim bonuses with a 10x rollover or less.
  3. Make smart wagers: Just because bettors receive bonuses doesn’t mean they should squander them. Favor straight bets like spreads, totals, and moneylines that aren’t juiced into oblivion. For bettors that can’t resist the urge to bet parlays, limit the number of legs to two or three, or bet round robins.
  4. Spread the wealth: Don’t plunk don’t the entire bonus on one bet. When playing with an advantage over the house, it’s almost always a good idea to mitigate risk. Save the riskier ventures for after the bonus is unlocked.
  5. Claim the full bonus amount (if possible): As long as bettors’ bankrolls can support it, they’re encouraged to claim the maximum bonus amount. Signup bonuses are one-and-done opportunities, so don’t waste them. Bettors on small bankrolls should start by claiming bonuses with lower monetary caps and work their way up the ladder.