Well in a way it is free money. You can bet with it and win with it. In many situations you will want to take it with both hands.
But not every situation. There are some drawbacks to be aware of.
The Drawbacks With Bonuses
These appear mainly in the form of rules around when you can and can't withdraw any cash you may have won, but they may also impact you with restrictions on the betting selections themselves.
In a minute we'll look at some real situations why you may follow the wrong course by accepting a bonus with a new sports book.
First though it may help to consider why the firms are offering bonuses in the first place......
So why do they?
There is of course a simple answer. The operators make money from punters. It's a lucrative business. Plenty of us will make winning bets. Some of us will be able to do it consistently. But many of us will have more losers than winners, and over time will lose money.
That said, the bookies are always on the lookout for ways to make more profits though.....
And one of those ways is by enticing more punters to sign up. That's where the bonuses come in. They're a promotion designed to get you to register an account and place bets. It's also worth noting that many operators offer what are known as loyalty bonuses where they'll give existing players a small bonus around once a month. Clearly it's not lost on them that it costs a reported 5x less to keep an existing bettor than find a new one! (source : report by enteractive.se)
Now consider this.....
If a sports betting operator exists to make money, they're not exactly going to be giving it away for nothing are they?
This one fact should get you thinking about how they can give bonuses away without being exposed to potential losses, and they generally achieve this by a combination of the way we work as punters, the fact that most of us lose over time, and the restrictions/rules around the use of the bonuses they offer.
There are ways to minimise the impact on your level of betting success, of course. But still all this often works in favour of the bookmaker.
Exploring The Reasons Why Taking a SportsBetting Bonus Might Be a Bad Idea We've covered how betting bonuses work elsewhere on winmoney101, and gone into the subject of casino bonuses in particular on a dedicated page too. So it won't surprise you to hear (if you didn't already know) that all of the major sports betting firms offer bonuses too, with many of them coming in the form of free bets which can give a lot of value if used carefully.
There are a number of different types, and you'll find them explained and listed on hundreds of websites. If you want to know more over and above what's been written here before there's no need to sift through them - there's an exceptionally well written page that explores the different types of sports betting bonuses at Hightechgambling.com, along with a few of the best value offers. The video just below is worth a look too.
What I will cover here though is why you should or more to the point shouldn't use them. There's a dark side to bonuses that's not immediately apparent.
I don't need to say a lot about why you should take advantage.
It's obvious right?
Extra money in your betting account to wager with. Kind of 'free'. What's not to like?
Rules/Restrictions Around The Use Of Bonuses
There's no need to cover this in depth here. Take a look at this video below for a walkthrough.
Essentially though, there are two main types of restrictions - the playthrough and bet limiting.
Playthrough rules are designed to prevent you from withdrawing money won with a bonus for as long as possible - ideally so that you'll lose the lot before you get to the point of making a successful withdrawal.
Bet limiting works in tandem with playthrough and generally prevents betting on low odds, high chance of success selections.
3 Situations Where Taking The Bonus Is A Bad Idea
By now you'll probably be forming some understanding of why bonuses might work against you in some circumstances. Let's take a look a few examples that illustrate the point.....
1. You're a one-off punter
Let's say you're not a regular bettor. Maybe you're just having a bet on a big race like the Grand National. You want to place the bet and collect your winnings if it comes in.
Now remember the rules around playthrough. Let's say you place your bet and it wins. But you accepted the bonus too. This may have put you in the position of having to bet through (or wager) the amount of the bonus multiple times before being able to withdraw.
The precise requirements vary from sportsbook to sportsbook, but you can see you'll need to think carefully in this situation. Of course if you're just happy to have a few more bets and try to win again, then no problem. Fill your boots, but just recognise the risk.
2. You have a nailed on certainty in mind
Let's say you've had a tip. There are great odds on offer with a bookie you haven't used before, and they also offer a sign up bonus. You don't really want a longer term account, you're already happy with other bookies you use and they normally offer good odds.
In this case, if you land the bet and took the bonus, then again you'll potentially be tied in till you've bet through the bonus amount.
3. Bet through rules? Who cares? I'll just bet odds on favourites
So you're first bet has gone in, and you now need to bet through the bonus. Easy right? Just back selections at very low odds that look to have a true heavy favorite's chance.
Well first off here, remember that odd against favourites do lose. Often enough in fact that betting them will most likely (but not always) put you in the poor house over time. But that doesn't matter anyway...because the bookmaker you're working with will probably have a restriction that disallows bets below certain odds from counting towards playthrough.
Of course these are just a few examples of why not to take advantage of a bonus offer. There are a few more variables to take into consideration.
All in all though, bonuses are great. Particularly if you're a longer term punter who bets regularly. With carefully placed bets you can make it all work in your favour. In fact there's a whole mini-industry in this which is known as match betting, plus there are options for an astute punter to use bonuses to advantage in arbing or no lose betting activities.
As with all betting activity, it pays to be aware of what may or may not go wrong. Longer term it'll be attention to detail, specialising in certain types of bets, and building your knowledge and experience of all things betting-related which will mean the difference between winning or losing. At least for now you'll have some awareness of what part using bonus offers may play in that process.