Why you should never sign up for an online casino sportsbook free offer

Because it’s risk-free for the casino — not you

Image for post
Image for post
Source: https://www.fanduel.com/

The ads are everywhere — online, YouTube, train stations, billboards, apps, and more. Casinos offering you free initial risk-free bets for their online sportsbooks. You’ll be enticed with offers like these:

  • Bet $1 Get $50 In Free Bets
  • Risk-Free Bet up to $500
  • $500 New Customer Offer
  • Risk Free First Bet up to $500
  • $1,000 Risk-Free Bet Bonus

At first glance, they seem to be an easy and risk-free way to make some quick money. It is the nirvana of gambling — betting with other people’s money with no risk.

But in the irrational exuberance of having the casinos show you their money, most of the betters signing up don’t seem to be taking the time to read the Terms & Conditions (T&C) of what they are signing on and agreeing to. And if they did, they would know rather quickly that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch in the betting world.

And if these offers sound too good to be true, it’s because they are. If these offers were made without the T&C, the casinos would quickly go bankrupt.

The importance of reading the T&C is that the casinos make it eminently clear in them what you are really getting. While it is indeed true that they will give you, say, a $500 initial free bet, what you can do with that, and what you can wager on is often highly restricted.

But even if you do place that initial $500 bet, it’s not like you can just take your huge payout, cash out, and walk away to the next risk-free bet offer. Most of the T&C mandate that you have to bet your bonus before you can cash out. So even though you thought you have $500 in risk-free money, the T&C often make you lose it before you can get it. For example, only by playing through $500 in real bets can you cash out funds from your account.

Casinos have, for the longest time, known precisely what it takes to draw people in. Free breakfasts, cheap lunch and dinner menus, low-cost rooms, and complimentary watered-down drinks were brilliant loss leader strategies used to ensure betters will return to the bright lights and action of the casinos. Now that most casinos are shuttered or operating at a very limited capacity due to COVID, they use the same brilliant marketing tactics to get betters to use their apps or online betting sites.

Many brick and mortar casinos are huge monstrosities with thousands of rooms and countless restaurants. When a gambler knows that their hotel room is a short walk away, their belly full and palate satiated, they will be much more likely to stay in the casino. While they are staying there, they will be opening their wallets and credit cards in abundance. Now that the casinos are closed, things have moved online and onto smartphone apps.

Casino operators know that the $500 risk-free bet is, in fact, risk-free for them. They get people in and understand that the vast majority will keep betting after they run through their free initial bet.

Image for post
Image for post
Source: https://www.betmgm.com

To really understand what you are getting into and the many requirements (time limits, play-through requirements, and much more) is complicated. These T&C were written by lawyers, who use legalese and betting jargon, which makes understanding the intricacies of redeeming these offers quite tricky.

For example, consider these T&C from DraftKings to the Sign up bonus up to $1,000 awarded as risk-free bet + deposit bonus! offer:

  • A user’s first deposit (min. $5) qualifies the user to receive up to $500 in bonus funds in the form of site credits that can only be used on DraftKings.
  • Bonus amount is equal to 20% of that deposit amount, not to exceed $500 (the user must deposit $2,500 to be eligible to receive the maximum possible bonus amount of $500).
  • Bonus funds will be awarded to the user according to the following play-through requirement: for every $25 played on DraftKings in DFS/Sportsbook/Casino, the user will receive $1 in bonus funds released into their player account (e.g., a $2,500 deposit requires a user to play through a cumulative total of $12,500 in daily fantasy contests, sportsbook (-300 odds or longer), casino products, or any combination thereof to receive the maximum possible bonus amount of $500).
  • The play-through requirement must be met 90 days from the date of first deposit to receive maximum bonus.
  • After such date, you are ineligible to earn any additional bonus funds as part of this promotion. Customers who previously made a deposit on DraftKings are ineligible for this promotion. Limit one (1) deposit bonus per user.
  • Promo ends 11/1/20. First bet matched up to $500.
  • Free bet must be used within 30 days of first bet.
  • Free bet amount is not included in any returns or winnings.
  • Free bet is also not redeemable for cash, non-transferable, and non-refundable. First bet promo ends 11/1/20.

If this was confusing to you, consider that this was a relatively straightforward set of T&C. If you want to have your mind spin, look at this set of T&C from Caesars Casino. Note that it must be read in conjunction with the Caesars Casino Terms of Service, Bonus Policy, and General Promotion Rules. And in the event there’s a conflict between the Bonus Policy and/or the General Promotion Rules and the specific promotion terms, the specific promotion terms prevail. In the event of a conflict between the Terms of Service and the specific promotion terms, the Terms of Service prevails. In plain English, these T&C were written to ensure the profitability of the casinos.

All of these T&C are written on the backs of the suckers that fall for these promotions. The casinos know that these betters’ naivete is no match for their lawyers and their well-written T&C.

Anyone who understands how these free offers work would be able to see right through them for what they really are. The sportsbook operators are quite business savvy and not stupid. These are for-profit businesses, and they are not giving away free money. They simply understand the power of marketing and the irrationality of their consumers. The free betting offers come with so many constraints, detailed clearly in the T&C, which are there to ensure that the sportsbooks get their money back and more via these offers.

The importance of reading the T&C can’t be overstated. Because once you do that, you’ll know that you are signing up for what will be an almost certain losing offer.

Image for post
Image for post
Source: https://imgflip.com/memegenerator

I work in information security at Tapad. Write book reviews for the RSA blog, & a Founding member of the Cloud Security Alliance and Cybersecurity Canon.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store