Wagering requirements are one of the most confusing and misunderstood concepts in online sports betting and gambling. They’re also one of the most important to understand.

Whenever bettors claim a deposit bonus or free play from a betting app, they are entering into a contract. Wagering requirements are far and away the most pivotal aspect of this contract. They dictate how much action bettors must generate before their bonuses convert to withdrawable cash.

Many new bettors have lost their entire bonus because they didn’t understand how wagering requirements work. This is of no fault to them, as wagering requirements are often intentionally confusing and may be buried deep within the terms and conditions.

This guide will demystify wagering requirements by explaining what they are, how they impact bonuses, and identifying red flags.

What Are Wagering Requirements?

Wagering requirements are intricately tied to deposit match bonuses offered by online sportsbooks, online casinos, and horse betting apps. They represent the exact amount bettors must wager to clear the bonus.

That amount is always a multiplier of some sort, which is why betting sites often denote wagering requirements as “5x rollover” or “10 times”.

They exist as a necessary evil. Without wagering requirements, otherwise known as turnover or rollover requirements, there would be nothing preventing bettors from immediately withdrawing their bonuses. As a result, bonuses without wagering requirements would be unsustainable for operators.

If wagering requirements are a hurdle, then their structure decides the size of the hurdle. The following is a list of conditions that bettors should analyze before accepting a deposit bonus.

The Wagering Multiplier

Generally, the smaller the wagering multiplier, the better the bonus.

If a sportsbook awards a 100% match up to $200 with a 5x wagering requirement, bettors who claim the entire bonus amount will have to wager $1,000 (5x $200 bonus) to convert their bonus to cash.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that bettors only wager on -110/-110 NFL point spreads. The vigorish on these bets is approximately 4.55%, meaning that for every $100 wagered the house keeps $4.55 on average. If bettors must wager $1,000, they’re expected to lose $45.50 before clearing their bonus, netting $154.50 in profit.

If that same bonus had a 10x rollover requirement, they’d have to wager $2,000. These less fortunate bettors would lose $91 on average before converting their bonus to cash, cutting their profit margin down to $109.

At a 25x wagering requirement, the bonus would result in a net loss of $27.50.

Deposit, or Deposit + Bonus?

Some betting apps like to get sneaky with their bonus structures. They may claim that the wagering requirement is only 5x, but it’s actually 5x the deposit plus bonus amount. It’s a slight distinction, but it can have a massive impact on the bonus’s value.

Consider a 100% match bonus up to $500. If the wagering requirement is 5x the bonus, bettors must wager $2,500 ($500 x 5) to transfer the bonus to their cash wallet. However, if players must rollover the deposit ($500) and bonus ($500) 5 times, the wagering amount doubles to $5,000. What looks like a 5x rollover effectively becomes a 10x wagering requirement.

It gets extra dicey if the bonus match rate is less than 100%. Reload bonuses are often 50%, 35%, or even 20% matches. A 20% match up to $100 means bettors will have to load $500 to claim the full bonus. If they must wager the deposit plus bonus amount 5x, they’ll have to wager a whopping $3,000 to clear $100. That’s a 30x wagering requirement.

Always be on the alert for the language of a wagering requirement. It could mean the difference between a great bonus, and one where you’re expected to lose your entire bonus and then some.

Game Limitations and Time

Game limitations mostly apply to online casino offers, but it isn’t unheard of for an online sportsbook to restrict the type of wagers bettors can place when clearing bonuses.

For instance, a sportsbook may prohibit bettors from wagering on heavy favorites with their bonus funds because doing so allows them to significantly negate risk. More commonly, bets settled with the early cash out feature do not count toward the wagering requirement.

Likewise, many horse betting bonuses may only allow “To Win” bets.

Betting sites also require customers to meet any wagering requirements within a certain timeframe. It could be as few as three days or as many as 90. If a bettor is unable to clear a bonus before time runs out, they forfeit any remaining portion of the offer.

It is also important to note the order of funds used when customers with active bonuses place wagers. For example, consider a bettor with a $500 cash balance and $500 in pending bonus funds. If the bettor loses $200, the sportsbook will deduct $200 from their cash balance, leaving them with $300 in cash. If the bettor loses another $400, the sportsbook will deduct the remaining $300 from their cash balance and $100 from their pending bonus funds.

This nuance is why it’s so important to complete wagering requirements before the clock runs out. Bettors rely on converted bonuses to replenish their cash balances.  

Are wagering requirements common on online sportsbooks?

Most online sportsbooks don’t offer deposit matches to new players. Instead, they tend to offer risk-free bet promos that refund customers if their first bet loses. Sportsbooks usually issue refunds in the form of free bets or site credit.

In most cases, bettors must wager site credit 1x before they’re eligible for withdrawals. So technically, risk-free promos can also be subject to wagering requirements. FanDuel Sportsbook takes this approach with its $1,000 risk-free bet offer for new customers. FanDuel issues the refund as site credit that bettors can spend however they like. Bettors must roll over the refund 1x before they can withdraw it.

Free bet offers also come with 1x rollover requirements. The difference is that free bets do not return the initial stake on winning wagers – customers only receive the net profits from free bets.

There are a few sportsbooks that do offer traditional deposit match bonuses. BetRivers is a good example. Its sign-up bonus is a 100% up to $250 first deposit match with a scant 1x wagering requirement. With a rollover requirement that low, the bonus is nearly as valuable as cash in hand.

DraftKings Sportsbook places an interesting spin on its sign-up bonus. On paper, it’s a traditional deposit match of 20% up to $1,000, but bettors do not receive the entire bonus amount upfront. Instead, DraftKings releases the bonus incrementally.

Customers unlock the bonus at a rate of $1 for every $25 they wager, which is the equivalent of a 25x rollover requirement. To unlock the full bonus amount, bettors must deposit $5,000 and wager $25,000. Those are hefty numbers, but the upside is that DraftKings allows customers to claim part of the bonus if they are unable to clear it in full.

Do horse racing betting bonuses have wagering requirements?

Wagering requirements are an essential component of many online horse betting bonuses, especially sign-up bonuses.

A good example is the TwinSpires welcome bonus, which offers customers $100 in bonus funds if they wager $400 or more within 30 days of signing up. Bettors can claim an additional $100 if they wager a another $400 within 30 days of registration for a total of $200 in bonuses. As a result, the wagering requirements on the TwinSpires bonus are effectively 4x.

Notice the TwinSpires offer is not a deposit match because it simply requires customers to wager $400 to unlick the bonus. If they run hot, customers could in theory clear the entire bonus on a deposit as little as $10 or $20.

Calculating the Value of Wagering Requirements

The best way to determine whether a bonus is worth taking advantage of or better off skipped is to first calculate its cashback rate. Bettors can do so with the following formula:

Cashback % = 100 / total wagering requirement

Readers should also remember that if the wagering requirements include the bonus plus deposit amount, they need to account for both. A 5x rollover on just the bonus is simply 5x, but if that same bonus requires bettors to wager 5x on the bonus + deposit amount, it is effectively 10x on a 100% match offer, 15x on a 50% match, and 25x on a 20% match. A simple change in language can make a huge difference, which is why we emphasize “total wagering requirement” in our equation.

For example, imagine an online sportsbook is offering a 100% match up to $500 with a 10x wagering requirement on both the deposit and the bonus. There are no other restrictions. A bettor who claims this offer and deposits the full $500 must wager the deposit amount of $500 and the bonus amount of $500 ten times. This works out to a grand sum of ($500 + $500) x 10 = $10,000. $10,000 divided by the $500 bonus amount is 20. There’s our total wagering requirement.

The cashback percentage is 100/20 or 5%. By claiming this offer the book is effectively throwing bettors 5% cashback on their first $10,000 in wagers.

Whether this is enough to give them an edge or not depends on the bets they’re making. If they’re betting -110 point spreads with a house hold of 4.55% then they can expect 95.45% raw cashback. Add 5% cashback to this and they’re at 100.45%. The bonus has flipped the expected value from negative to just barely positive. If the wagering requirement was only 5x, then the cashback rate would be 20%. A point spread bettor would be playing at a whopping 115.45% for the duration of the bonus.

Wagering Requirements: Tips for New Players

  • No-deposit bonuses, deposit bonuses, free play, and site credits are subject to wagering requirements.
  • The lower the wagering requirement, the better.
  • Always make sure to check if the wagering requirement is on just the bonus amount or the deposit plus bonus.
  • A 20x wagering requirement is low enough to give most sports bettors a temporary edge. An exception is parlay bettors, who may want to seek out bonuses with 10x wagering requirements, or lower.
  • A 10x wagering requirement is enough to significantly trim the high house edge on horse racing. 5x is low enough to flip it on its head.
  • Try not to cancel or forfeit bonuses. Bettors who are up big can wager conservatively until the bonus clears.
  • Always complete the wagering requirement before the bonus expires. Otherwise, the entire bonus will disappear in most cases.
  • There’s no hard rule that states bettors must claim an entire bonus. If a deposit bonus is capped at $500, and you only feel comfortable depositing $200, that’s fine.