Sports betting bonus

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The online gaming business is highly competitive and the key to gaining and maintaining market share is the acquisition of new customers and keeping the loyalty of existing ones. Sports bettors are generally fickle and will take their money to an operator that satisfies their short term objectives. All the iGaming companies are trying to get new accounts and then encouraging new customers to make a deposit and bet. Offering a sports betting bonus is a significant part of this business model.

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*Place a sports bet of up to £10 at odds of 1/1 (2.0) or greater. If the bet is lost, receive up to £10 money back as a FreeBet.
Min deposit £10; Max stake £10; Min Odds 1/1 (2.0); Max free bet £10; New players only; Players must be located in the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland; +18; T&Cs apply.

Betting Margin

Very few sports bettors have just one betting account. A typical customer will have two accounts and will be willing to open a third. Subsequently, despite some saturation, there is still a base of existing sports bettors who are open to bonuses for new customers. The bonuses on offer is one of the factors potential customers consider when looking at opening a betting account. A sports betting bonus is a key weapon in increasing market share.

Betting margins, the range of sports, available markets, and the quality of the website are major factors customers consider if they are looking for an online bookmaker. Bonuses have a key role in this decision making process. In press, advertising promotions are highlighted while margins, the depth of the product, and the usability of the website are left unsaid and assumed. Customers expect a site that functions effectively and few bookmakers compete on the basis of the quality of their site.

The most important factors that are considered in choosing an online bookmaker have been identified as follows:

  • Free bet offers: 46%
  • Brand reputation: 37%
  • Best odds: 27%
  • Quality of website: 25%
  • Others

Bookmaking advertising has only been allowed on commercial television in the UK since The Racing Post is the daily racing and sports betting publication in Great Britain. Online bookmakers use both media extensively to promote their odds and offers. The focus is more on attracting new customers than servicing the current ones. Spending money on advertising bonuses is a major part of a successful operator’s business plan and with consolidation in the industry that will continue.

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Objectives of Bonuses

Bookmakers are in the business of taking money on bets and returning less. Their profits are based on the difference between what is staked and what is given back. Betting margins mean that over time, given accurate odds, most customers will lose. That means bettors must be encouraged to bet, but before that they must open an account. Acquiring players and maintaining their interest are key elements of running a successful sportsbook. Statistically over 90% of sports bettors will not make a profit so enticing potential gamblers to open an account and bet are key objectives.

Think about your bonus

Every major online bookmaker has an opening offer for new customers. Getting them through the door is the first stage in the journey that culminates in bets being placed. There is a huge and growing base of floating customers who are open to opening a betting account. A sports betting bonus, fully promoted in the right media, has a significant role to play in converting potential customers to new players. The most important objective of a bonus is client acquisition.

When a customer opens a new account there may be some stalling in making a deposit and placing bets. Dormant accounts do not contribute to the bottom line, so existing players must be encouraged to bet with one company rather than another. Specific bonuses centered around a match or tournament are used to prompt customers to make deposits and bet again. The objective of an offer for current account holders is to entice them to start betting.    

Types of Bonus

There are several distinct types of a sports betting bonus:

  • New customers making initial deposits
  • Existing customers with betting funds
  • Event specific
  • Mobile designed
  • Enhanced odds

New Customers

The majority of sports betting bonus offers are only valid for new customers. For example, adverts in the Racing Post for online accounts feature the words: ‘UP TO £200 DEPOSIT BONUS FOR NEW CUSTOMERS’ An asterix (*) directs readers to the small print at the bottom of the page. The conditions clearly state that only new account holders are valid for this offer. Clearly, the customers must make a deposit to enjoy the benefits of a new customer deposit bonus.

Potential new customers must follow a procedure which involves entering personal and account details. A promotional code is optional, but is required for users who wish to take advantage of a sports betting bonus, having been directed from an affiliate site. The new customer offers are generally more stringent when it comes to odds and turnover restrictions. Processes are also in place to ensure that one individual cannot open multiple accounts and take advantage of the bonuses more than once.

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Existing Customers
Bonuses for current account holders are generally less lucrative than deposit bonuses, but conversely less restrictive. Staking is required using existing funds and a deposit is not necessarily a condition. Offers for existing customers are designed to maintain loyalty. However, if each bookmaker is constantly offering bonuses to existing customers, their effect is negated. This means customers will go from site to site to pick up all the bonuses and spread their betting across a number of operators.

Bonuses for current customers are generally more involved than new customer offers. Bookmakers tend to offer the same bonus for new customers, but vary the terms for what they offer their established clients. They look to promote offers for a variety of sports and markets, rather than the generic type of deals for potential players. Existing customer offers generally have a time limit while new account details are valid on an ongoing basis. Offers to existing customers are often related to a particular event.

Event Specific
Live television coverage of sporting events increases betting interest and turnover. Live streaming has been introduced to take advantage of people more likely to place a bet when they can see the action. Bonuses that are related to one-off fixtures are more successful when there is live TV coverage. Some channels are more open to mentioning betting in their transmissions and this has another positive effect on betting. A bonus will be offered generally on the day of the match or race.

For example, a leading online sportsbook has regular in-play free bets for high profile televised fixtures in the English Premier League and Champions League. All customers can get a free in-play bet for up to £50 on a big match after placing a bet on the same fixture before the match begins. The free bet matches the value of the original bet up to a maximum of £50. Once the match is over obviously the free bet is no longer available. Televised football and horse racing are well suited to this type of promotion.

For the first time, more bets are were placed on mobile devices than desktops, in 2016. Over the last few years there has been a move towards mobile betting away from betting at home. Every major online bookmaker has a betting app, designed for major devices and specifically for gambling on the move. Some bookmakers offer bonuses specifically for mobile users and these are generally for new customers.

The new breed of mobile gambler has a different profile than a desktop bettor. Bets are generally more spontaneous and less likely to be successful. Most sports bettors lose money over time, but those betting on a mobile app are likely to lose more. Some bookmakers reward customers who download an app with bonuses above and beyond those on offer through the desktop version. Mobile specific offers can be designed for new and existing customers.

Enhanced Odds
Enhanced odds are often added for a specific market in a sporting event. In a soccer match this might involve one specific team to win a match or a player to score the first goal. This type of sports betting bonus is most common for a live TV fixture and the offer is advertised in the Racing Post. There are time and stake restrictions put on these bonuses and they are generally aimed at existing customers and mobile users.

For example, Ladbrokes boost odds for one team to win a match and both teams to score. The offer cherry picks a popular market and can enhance odds by 25%, such as from 4/1 to 5/1. The bonus might be solely for online and mobile customers, and shop customers may be offered different odds. A player to score and his team to win are related contingencies, so the odds on offer are adjusted accordingly.

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Odds and Turnover Restrictions

Bookmakers make a business decision to offer a bonus and will only embark on a promotion with the odds still in their favour. When customers see an offer the common reaction is to try to maximise the benefit. If there is a turnover requirement, the natural thought process is to place a bet on what is perceived to be a certainty. Long odds on propositions do lose but in some cases in realty this is impossible.

For example, if Novak Djokovic plays someone ranked 200 in the world even 1/100 is not short enough. Something bizarre could happen but the odds do not adequately express the probabilities. Bookmakers are wise to customers meeting turnover requirements by backing good things, so they apply an odds restriction. This means bets to make up the rollover can only be placed at certain odds or higher, usually no less than 1/2 (1.50). This price has been worked out to maintain the bookmaker’s edge even if they are providing free bets.

Most bonuses involve turnover rules by which the value of the initial bet, the bonus, or both must be rolled over a specific number of times before a withdrawal can be made. Some offers require a high level of betting in a short space of time, so they should be avoided. These terms are clearly stated on the website and it is the responsibility of customer to be aware of the restrictions and bet accordingly.

Another condition that can be hidden away is that certain bets and markets are not valid when building up turnover. These can be often match winner markets with only two potential outcomes. For example, in the past, bet365 would not allow baseball match winner bets as part of turnover requirements for the £200 introductory offer. Bookmakers analyse the profitability of specific bets and will restrict the use of those that are least lucrative for rollover requirements.

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Matched Bonus Bets

Shrewd bettors realized that matching free bets with exchange bookmakers, or other traditional bookmakers, could guarantee a return from free bets and bonuses. Sites have appeared that advise bettors how to use offers to make money without risk. The basic principle is to use the free bet for a back bet and then place counter bets by laying the same option or backing the other potential outcomes with other bookmakers.

Subscribers are notified of a free bet opportunity and provided with detailed instructions about which bets and the odds to place. In some cases there are time restrictions. The in-play offer mentioned earlier requires bets to be placed in stable markets, generally at half-time when nothing can happen to affect the odds. Profits are guaranteed, and these offers appear regularly and existing customers are eligible. It really is a case of a risk-free return as long as the instructions provide by Bonus Bagging are followed accurately.

In matching bets bettors are basically trading to ensure a winning position whatever the outcome of the fixture. The bonus is counterbalanced by opposite bets so all eventualities are covered. Bookmakers are aware that this happens and still continue to offer the bonuses as it is commercially viable. Laying a free bet with another bookmaker is a relatively new concept and has only become a potential strategy with growth of betting exchanges. They are designed to match bets when customers with opposing views trade at a mutually agreeable price.

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Sports Betting Bonuses Advertising

The Gambling Act passed by the British parliament led to the relaxation of betting advertising rules. Betting companies can now advertise on commercial television, though a watershed of 9pm has been introduced as part of a campaign for responsible gambling. Placing an advert at peak time is expensive, so the bigger concerns gain more market share from their TV adverts. They promote in-play betting but with a subtle reference to responsible gambling.

From 2013 to 2017 Channel 4 has been the sole broadcaster on terrestrial television of British horse racing. However, this is perceived as a minority channel and viewing figures have dropped significantly for the major meetings and races other than for the Grand National. The BBC is the state broadcaster and cannot run adverts, so the racing authorities have given the latest contract to the Independent Television which is a commercial broadcaster. Some minor meetings will be shown on its secondary channel but the major occasions will be broadcast on ITV1. Regular commercial breaks will be probably dominated by bookmakers promoting their free bets and bonuses.

ITV was chosen because it is a mainstream channel which can cross-promote racing during programmes that attract good audience figures. However, the channel can also advertise gambling products and that provides a good income stream. The betting companies will have an outlet for the promotion of their sports betting bonuses. A leading operator currently gives customers a free bet if they have a winner at 4/1 or greater in any race televised on Channel 4. Something similar is expected when the coverage moves to ITV and a much bigger potential audience. Best odds guaranteed for British and Irish racing is also heavily promoted in the racing press.

One major online company takes out a full-page advert in the Racing Post to promote their in-play offer. They focus on matches in the Premier League and Champions League that are televised live. ITV lost the contract to show live matches in the Champions League which are now broadcast on subscription-based dedicated sports channels. The audiences are much lower than on the mainstream ITV channel, but the Racing Post readers are more likely to pay for subscription sports channels than non-readers. The free £50 in-play bet is probably the most well-known bonus in the industry. Press and TV advertising has played a major role in its impact on bettors.

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Generic Bonuses

The most popular type of generic bonuses are described below, as exemplified by the Ladbrokes’ offers:

Sign Up
For the most well-known sports betting bonus in the industry, new account holders must make a deposit and the amount deposited will be matched in the form of betting funds. However, customers must turnover three times the total of the deposit and bonus, for example. To receive the maximum of £200 in bonus new customers must stake £1200. To prevent bets on short-priced favourites there is an odds restriction of 1/2 (1.50). This turnover requirement must be completed within 90 days of entering the bonus code.

Matched Bet
New customers must open an account using an optional promotional code. Once a deposit is made and a bet placed of £5 the bookmaker will match the first bet in the form of a matched bet up to a maximum of £50. There is an odds restriction of 1/2 and only the win element of any bet will qualify. This offer is available for all new customers who register online or using a mobile or tablet. The free bet must be completely used within seven days of the appearance of a new market on the Ladbrokes sportsbook.

Deposit Bonus
New customers who register will have their deposit doubled. After an initial deposit of £10 or more the company will credit customer accounts with a bonus for the same value. The terms and conditions that apply include an odds limit of 1/2 (1.50) or higher and a turnover requirement of four times the deposit and bonus. Qualifying bets must be settled within 14 days of the bonus being credited to a new account.  Any cancelled or voided bets resulting in money being returned do not count in the context of the rollover requirement.

Free Bet
When new customers make an initial deposit and place their first free bet of £5 or more they will receive £20 in the form of a free bet. Qualifying bets must be placed at odds of even money (2.0) or greater. Free bets can be used in any won or each-way market, but not as part of any other sign up offers. Internet and mobile customers are eligible for this offer. Additionally players can receive £5 free each week after spending £25 each week after opting in to a betting club.

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Best Bonuses by Sport

Here are some examples of sport specific bonuses:

Free £50 In-Play Bet
One bookmaker offers a free in-play bet for up to £50 on a selection of high profile fixtures for all customers who place a pre-match bet on one of the matches. The fixtures that are chosen for this bonus are key meetings in the English Premier League and Champions league that are shown live on television. Customers can place opposing lay bets with a betting exchange to guarantee a profit of £35 regardless of the outcome of the match. There are no odds or turnover restrictions and any winnings from the free bet are credited promptly after the qualifying match finishes.

American Football
Treble Odds For TD Scorer
The NFL is the most globally watched American Football league and has a good following in the UK and other parts of Europe. A small number of fixtures are played at Wembley Stadium each season and there has been talk of a UK based franchise. Matches are shown live, and Betfred are using the interest in the sport by offering a concession on selected matches. All customers who back a player to score the first touchdown will be paid out at treble the odds if the backed player scores first and then adds another two touchdowns during the rest of the match.

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Horse Racing
Free Bet If Horse Finishes 2nd to SP Favourite
Racing is traditionally the main betting sport in betting offices in the UK. Before the growth of sports betting, virtual racing, Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, and numbers games, racing accounted for about 80% of shop turnover. Online customers bet less proportionally on racing, but the sport is still an important element of the overall product range. Paddy Power offer a concession of a free bet if a backed horse is second to the starting price favourite in races at a specific meeting. The refund comes in the form of a free bet and the maximum stake each race is £25.

Mobile Free Bets
Betting on golf tournaments appeals to some customers because a golf bet on the outright winner could take four days before expiry. However, if a player misses the cut the bet is a loser after two rounds otherwise a player in contention provides interest over the weekend. Head-to-head bets over 18 holes are also popular and some bettors prefer 72 hole match betting. Winner offer current account holders a free bet up to 10% of the total staked with a maximum value of £25 when they place 3 match golf bets at odds of Evens or more using mobile devices. The minimum stake is £10 and the most that can be staked is £20.

Acca Insurance  
Tennis is the second most popular betting sport after football, especially in the live environment. Online bookmakers offer a full range of match markets for the two main tours and Challenger and International Tennis Federation tournaments. Sportingbet will refund stakes up to a maximum of £25 when a customer has just one loser in a multiple of five players or more to win their respective matches. Each selection in the accumulator must be backed at odds of 1/4 (1.25) or more and refunds in the form of a free bet will be credited within 48 hours of the bet being settled. Each option in the multiple must be settled on the same day for the free bet to be valid.

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Exchange Bonuses

One company dominates the betting exchange market by offering the widest range of sports and leagues and a high level of liquidity. The efficient running of an exchange needs many backers and layers betting into a market to generate liquidity. Bets are more likely to be matched when players with opposing views agree to trade at mutually agreeable price. In some instances bets are part-matched but can be kept in the market until they are cancelled, an event begins and the market closes or the rest of the bet is matched. Smaller exchanges try to compete on commissions.

Here are some examples of sports bonuses offered by exchange bookmakers:

Acca Edge
One of the leading exchange bookmakers on the market are trying to attract new customers and maintaining the loyalty of existing ones with a promotion called Acca Edge. This bonus applies to multiples with three or more selections but doubles do not count. The offer applies to any sport and pre-match and in-play bets count. This is not a deposit bonus because existing betting funds can be used.

The offer is free of odds and staking limits which makes it more attractive than those that specify minimum odds and stakes. The amount staked on an accumulator involving three selections is returned in the form of betting funds if one of the picks does not win. The offer is not valid for each-way bets or system bets and free bet tokens cannot be used. Valid bets can be cashed out but they then do not count for the refund.

Back and Lay Welcome Bonus
Another popular exchange betting related bonus is the back and lay offer. This is valid for new account holders and existing exchange customers cannot take part. The bonus is linked to an initial deposit and a back and lay bet of the same amount must be placed. If either bet loses the relevant element is refunded as bonus funds. However, both types of bet must be placed in order for a customer to qualify.

Any back or lay bet placed independently will invalidate the offer. If both bets win bonus funds will not be credited to a new account. The bonus has restrictions in terms of the maximum stake and bonus and the odds for the back and lay bets. Back bets are allowed at a higher price than lay bets and the bonus is based on the first bets placed and not settled. Customers will receive the bonus funds within 48 hours of the qualifying bets being validated.

Free Bets
Another type of exchange bonus involves the awarding of free bets for new customers. The amount credited is dependent on points earned by placing back and lay bets. In keeping with many other promotions a promotional code can be entered to ensure new customers can qualify. A free bet of £25 is awarded after 4 commission points have been earned. One point equates to £25 won or lost on an exchange, but a minimum of £100 must be involved.

The offer only counts when commission points are earned within the first six months of the account being opened. After this period backing and laying totals are converted into points, so there will be no free bets, and the funds granted must be used within 14 days or they will be lost. The free bet funds cannot be taken out as cash and they must be used on selections at odds of 1.5 or higher. The free bet funds cannot be used for multiple bets or transferred to bet on games products.

Low Commission Rates
Commission rates affect the overall profit position of a reader on an exchange. The traditional bookmaker model is based on profiting from the balance of the amount staked and returned as winnings. Exchange bookmakers don’t make money from betting margins which means they can offer more attractive odds. Liquidity determines maximum and minimum stakes and, in theory, there is no limit to the upper and lower levels. If a layer accepts a bet the backer is accommodated.

The exchange bookmakers that have entered the market relatively recently do not attract decent liquidity over an extensive range of sports and markets. They try to attract customers by offering relatively low commission rates. Back and lay returns are adjusted and the percentage levied varies for each exchange. Low commission rates are a good concession, but will not always compensate for a lack of liquidity.

The benefits of low commission rates may be negated by not being able to get a bet matched. Lower rates are irrelevant as the level of liquidity in a market is not big enough to attract backers and layers who have a different opinion and are prepared to back their reading of a sporting event.  Low liquidity equates to unmatched bets and matching bets is the whole point of the exercise.

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Spread Bonuses

Spread betting is another strand of online betting that expresses odds in a different way to traditional and exchange operators. The basic theory is that the more you are right the more you will win and the more you are wrong the more you will lose. The returns from a spread bet are based on the accuracy of the prediction. A spread is a range of outcomes and customers fundamentally bet on whether the outcome of a sporting event will be above or below the spread. The number achieved in the final outcome determines how bets are settled. The distance from the make-up determines how much is won or lost.

Spread betting has more risk than fixed odds and exchange betting because liabilities are not restricted by the initial stake. Potential gains or losses can significantly exceed the level of the wager. The basic objective of a spread betting firm is to create a market with players on both sides of a proposition. Customers bet on the side that they feel will reflect the final outcome. The bookmaker takes bets on both sides of the market and charges a commission for providing this service.

Spread betting firms compete with fixed odds and exchange bookmakers for the betting pound. Spread betting provides a different way ob putting money on a projected outcome. The mechanics are different, but fundamentally customers are betting on the outcome of a sporting event. Losses are limited by the final outcome, but stop losses can put a cap on the most that can be lost. Spread betting firms use free bets and bonus to maintain and increase their share of the sports betting market.

A common spread betting sports bonus is described below:

Free Funds to Get Started
Sports spread betting in the UK is dominated by one company, though other spreads forms provide a financial spread betting service. The  best players for each sport promote bonuses, and offers are shared in the Racing Press, and on television, as well. A typical welcome offer provides up to £100 in betting funds that can be withdrawn once certain conditions have been met. New customers are valid and existing customers can take part in a spread betting promotion.

Customers must open a new account and will then immediately receive the free betting funds. The credited money can only be used within 7 days of it being transferred onto a new customer account.  Customers must be careful with spread bets because losses will be covered for up to £100 and any amounts above this limit must be paid by the customer. The trading credit might not be sufficient to cover a losing bet and it is the customer’s responsibility to ensure free losses are capped.

After a seven day period a customer can keep the net profits but withdrawals are limited by the amounts deposed by the new customer. If a customer just trades with the free betting funds it will not be possible to make a withdrawal. This promotion is not valid when used along with other promotions  and any funds not used in the initial week of trading will be lost.

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Mobile Bonuses

Mobile betting is becoming increasingly prevalent with the more widespread use of smartphones to perform daily tasks and functions. A new generation of new bettors is more likely to feel comfortable using apps on mobile phones than the older generation who still bet in cash or over the telephone. The internet gave rise to online betting and gambling is one of the success stories.

The growth of dedicated sports channels in the UK led to more events being shown live on TV. Live video streaming of the major betting sports also contributed to a growth in in-play betting. Mobile technology is suited to betting on the go and more spontaneous staking decisions. Spontaneity leads to less rational gambling and more profits for the bookmakers. The live betting environment away from the more disciplined desktop home-based betting leads to more losing bets.

The shift from desktop to mobile betting means that, in 2016, for the first time, more sports bets have been placed using a mobile device than a desktop one. Sports betting bonuses is one area in which potential new account holders consider before opening a new account. Bookmakers target the mobile business by offering bonuses that only apply to new mobile customers. These bonuses have similar staking and odds conditions to the website sports betting bonuses, but can, in some cases, be more favorable, as the bookmakers want to shift their users to mobile betting.

Mobile specific bonuses usually require a deposit and are designed for new customers. The aim is to get a potential new player to download an app, open an account, make a deposit and start betting. Once that journey has been made bookmakers try to encourage loyalty with special offers and bonuses, some of which are only available to mobile customers.

Betting from a mobile phone has become increasingly common and the gaming companies have developed apps and mobile version websites. Usually a mobile bonus can be combined with a regular betting bonus and they can apply to new and existing customers. Mobile bonuses are designed for each type of smartphone and can be claimed on tablets like the iPad.

The following mobile specific bonuses were on offer at the time of writing:

  • 100% bonus up to £50 requiring staking of six times the bonus at odds of 1/2 (1.50) or greater
  • £10 free bet at odds of even money (2.00) or greater
  • First mobile bet risk-free, needing turnover of eight times the bonus amount at odds of 7/10 (1.70) or higher
  • £10 mobile refund requiring staking of six times the bonus at odds of ½ (1.50) or greater
  • £10 free bet with withdrawal following turnover of seven times the bonus at odds of 3/5(1.60) or more

Today most established bookmakers offer mobile betting with deposits available to one account across all devices. Some mobile bonuses are free to use even for customers with an existing account. Mobile bonuses are targeted at bettors who are comfortable placing bets from a smartphone or other mobile devices. Television advertising during live events promotes the mobile betting experience.

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Cheltenham Festival Bonuses

The Cheltenham festival is a four-day race meeting in mid-March at a track in Gloucestershire in southwest England. The meeting brings together the best chasers and hurdlers in 28 races that comprise championship and handicap contests. It is the biggest National Hunt meeting of the season in the UK and the most prestigious in the world. It is the jumps-racing equivalent of Royal Ascot and having a winner or even a runner at the Cheltenham Festival is the ambition of most trainers and owners.

No one event dominates a sport like the Cheltenham Festival dominates National Hunt racing. One of the many subplots is the involvement of horses trained in Ireland. The meeting has been described as the Olympics of the sport and winning a race at Cheltenham in March is the pinnacle of jumps racing. The Racing Post do an annual survey of the top 20 races in the UK for betting turnover. The Grand National is by far the most popular, but at least 10 races at the festival are in the top 20 for betting.

The current host broadcaster of racing in Britain televises five races each day. They are not allowed to show the later races because a subscription-based channel has the contract to show every race and like to keep some exclusivity. The Racing Post feature Cheltenham prospects from six months before the meeting and bookmakers offer ante post odds for every race at the meeting for up to a full year ahead of the races. Trials races are analysed and bookmakers promptly offer amended prices after a particularly strong or weak trial for Cheltenham.

Bookmakers target new customers during Cheltenham week with lucrative and generous bonuses. These offers are available for shop customers and have led to the practice of sharbing. This involves going from shop to shop to take advantage of arbitrage situations created by free bets and bonuses. The market is more competitive online with great offers for new customers. Several weeks ahead of the festival, bookmakers offer non-runner/no bet for the championship races.

Bookmakers have offered the following bonuses specific to the Cheltenham Festival in recent years:

  • Returned stakes if your horse finishes second to the starting price favourite in the first race of the 2015 meeting
  • Enhanced odds for Sprinter Sacre to win the 2013 Champion Chase
  • £50 free bet at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival
  • Bonus cash for betting from January until the meeting
  • Non-runner/no bet for the championship races
  • Enhanced odds for major handicaps at the meeting

Bookmakers offer bonuses all year round, but their efforts are increased leading up to and during the Cheltenham Festival as it is the biggest meeting of the year for betting interest and turnover. Annual profits can be influenced by favourable results and signing up new customers is a key objective of the specific bonuses. Media coverage of racing goes up a level in the racing press and regular newspapers.

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Soccer Match Bonuses

Soccer, or football as it’s generally known in the UK and the rest of Europe, is the most popular betting sport in the world. It truly is a global sport and apparently there are more members of FIFA than the United Nations. The Superbowl attracts huge audiences in the United States, but other than that the major soccer matches have the best viewing figures for a sporting contest.

Soccer is hugely popular for betting because of the sport’s global reach and the simplicity of the scoring system. The World Cup attracts massive audiences around the world, but that tournament only takes place once every four years. Bookmakers focus on the major matches in the English Premier League and Champions League on a week-by-week basis. These fixtures are televised around the world and live TV coverage increases betting interest.

In the UK Sky Sports and BT Sports are the subscription-based channels that show football matches live. The terrestrial channels are left with highlights packages which are redundant for in-play betting. The subscription channels often mention the match odds. Since the advertising of gambling was first allowed in 2007, commercial breaks have become dominated by betting companies. Live odds updates are featured in the adverts and popular actors and celebrities add some kudos and glamour to betting.

Several Premier League clubs have betting firms as shirt sponsors. All the major clubs have partnerships with bookmakers who are major contributor to the finances of football in the UK. For example, one major online operator are Stoke City’s shirt sponsors and financed the building of a new stadium. Match fixing is an issue in some leagues, but betting has to be seen to be fair on the Premier league because bookmakers have vested interests.

Bonuses are well suited to football because bookmakers offer over 100 markets on the major fixtures. A sports betting bonus can be framed around different aspects of the game and football is about numbers and statistics, so placing bets can be varied and based on extensive information. Goals and bookings averages can be used to make betting decisions and many websites monitor the relevant statistics.  Many matches are shown live on TV or live streamed on bookmaker websites.

In recent years, online bookmakers have offered the following football fixture specific free bets and bonuses:

  • Live £50 in-play bet after a pre-match bet for the same value
  • Enhanced match odds
  • 100% bonus on successful multiples with three or more selections
  • Money back if team leads and fails to win
  • Acca insurance if one team in a multiple loses
  • Improved odds on both teams to score
  • Enhanced odds for a named player to score and his team win
  • Money back if first scorer scores again
  • Free bet for headed or early goal
  • Free bet for goal in the 90th minute

The scope for offering bonuses related to football matches is extensive and bookmakers use football betting bonuses more often than any other sports betting bonus.

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Most sports betting bonuses apply to customers with online accounts who are based in the UK. American players are generally restricted and some countries do not allow customers to be given free bets or promotions. The United Kingdom has a mature and regulated betting industry with a tradition of telephone debit and credit betting and licensed betting offices. Due to advantageous tax, all the major UK operator’s have premises off shore in jurisdictions that promote the regulation and control of online gambling, such as Malta, Gibraltar and certain parts of Asia.

The tax system has changed in Britain, so that betting taxes are now levied on the point of consumption rather than where the licence is held. The new regime means that a bookmaker who takes a bet from a UK customer will be liable for tax regardless of where they are licensed and regulated. Paying more tax has affected the bottom line and that means the industry has become more consolidated. Marketing budgets have been examined closely, so free bets and bonuses have to pay for themselves in the form of new accounts and losing customers.

European countries are becoming more progressive and regulated and Spain and Italy in particular are more open to online gaming. For example, at the time of writing there were 15 Italian online sportsbooks offering markets in English and Italian and accepting Euros or US dollars. One leading company has an Italian language service, but players from Denmark, France, Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States are restricted. Free bets and bonuses are more suited to the UK market, so Pinnacle Sports, for example, does not offer a new player bonus, but focuses on low betting margins as an alternative.

Future Gaming Developments

The online and cash betting industry in the UK is becoming consolidated as the major firms strive for economies of scale. The sector will be soon be dominated by a small number of major operators and small independents will be marginalized. A merger in 2016 to create the biggest bookmaker in the world brought together a major player in exchange betting and a leading high profile fixed odds bookmaker.

Online, the new company would be number two behind the best known company in internet betting with customers all over the world. The new concern involves leading operators based in Britain and Ireland. It will be interesting to see how generous this merged outfit is in the context of free bets and bonuses. One partner has become renowned for tasteless advertising while the other signatory to the deal is a well respected brand.

Industry experts are saying there should still be enough competition for bettors to be able to find value and cherry pick the best offers. Punters will still be well-served by an extensive range of bonuses associated with Cheltenham Festival and major football matches. New online companies will not be excluded, but will have to put a lot of money into marketing to achieve any significant market share.

Bonuses are important for customers when they open a new account and the bigger organisations will continue to acquire new players through offer and free bets. The smaller groups will struggle to keep up with businesses with a healthy budget for marketing and advertising. Horse racing has moved from a minority broadcaster in the UK to ITV, which is the second most watched channel in Britain behind the state broadcaster.

Independent Television will be able to cross promote racing during its mass viewing figure programmes. Bookmakers will look to promote their bonuses during sporting events and other programmes that are not sport related. Less competition usually means less care for the customer and could lead to fewer lucrative offers as incentives to open an account or bet with a dormant account. However, betting bonuses are likely to become part of more mainstream advertising and the sector could become more competitive.

The shift away from desktop to mobile betting is likely to have an impact on bonuses. More mobile specific offers should become more prevalent as bettors and young people run more of their lives on a smartphone. In-play betting will continue to grow in response to a huge appetite to this form of gambling. Football related bonuses will continue to dominate with horse racing to a lesser degree.  Free matched bets for major soccer matches will remain part of the betting landscape.

Match fixing in tennis and cricket are stigmas that will be difficult to overcome. Football has to deal with corruption in FIFA off the field, but there is no question whether matches are played honestly and genuinely, despite a small number of exceptions.  Free bets and bonuses will probably become more prevalent with football and racing and less so with the more minor betting sports.

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History of Sports Betting Bonuses

Online betting and advertising opened up the free bets and bonuses sector. The UK gambling market has traditionally been dominated by a small number of operators who offered telephone debit betting and cash betting in shops. Some leading internet bookmakers do not have a presence on the high street so can focus on offering a good online service. Regulations have been relaxed so operators from different parts of the world have entered the industry.

Bookmakers were leading players in the growth of using affiliates to attract visitors to their sites and sign up new customers. Part of an affiliates’ content revolved around promoting a bookmaker and their free bets and bonuses. Key factors in opening an online account include betting margins, the quality of the website and brand awareness but over time the quality of the bonuses has become the most important. Customers are generally fickle and will take advantage of a free bet and move on. Bookmakers had to become more creative and generous with their free bets.

More live TV helped to foster bonuses as the major companies used national advertising to put across their message that a new customer will receive a free bet. Mobile technology has improved and that has been another driving force behind the introduction of so many new account offers. An audience more in tune with gambling since the launch of the National Lottery are good targets for sports betting bonuses.

Concluding Comments

In the bookmaking industry one of the major methods of attracting new customers and keeping existing ones is to offer what appears to be something for free. Most bonuses are generous but in some cases the restrictive turnover requirements negate all the benefits. New customers really must read the small print before making a deposit and betting the required turnover. In some cases a ridiculous amount of betting must be done in a short space of time.

All the leading firms offer something to new account holders and now it’s almost to become expected. Operators that don’t offer a welcome bonus are now the exception and all must do it to keep up wither rest of the sector. The genuine bonuses that are realistic will continue to appear and the poor ones will be identified on review sites. Bad reputations can soon be picked through social media and blogs and forums. Offering poor value in a bonus will be exposed relatively quickly and do damage to a company and their appeal.

If you wish to see an example of a sports betting bonus review, you can find one about Sportingbet on our website.

The free bet and bonus are now established in betting in the UK. Some websites offer a service to identify and take advantage of them with matched betting. Recent and future trends indicate that these offers are not going to disappear and could become more lucrative because the small number of dominant firms can afford to spend more in acquiring new customers and ensuring the loyalty of existing ones. A sports betting bonus is not going anywhere, and it is here to stay.

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