How Does a Risk-Free Bet Work?

A man poses for a photograph with the online gambling website Bet365. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS / AFP)

A risk-free first bet is the most common welcome bonus found at the legal sportsbooks springing up across the United States. It sounds very appealing, but what does it entail, and is it genuinely risk-free?

How to Claim a Risk-Free Bet

Many of the best sportsbooks in the country provide prospective customers with a risk-free bet as an incentive to register. FanDuel and BetMGM both offer a risk-free bet worth up to $1,000, while PointsBet offers risk-free bets worth up to $2,000.

To claim your risk-free bet bonus, you can click on the link found at, sign up for an account, make a deposit and place a bet on a sporting event.

Some sportsbooks allow you to bet on any game, whereas others impose minimum odds requirements. For example, you might be required to place a bet at odds of -200 or greater.

If your first bet wins, you get to keep the money. However, if it loses, you will be issued a full refund.

How Does the Refund Work?

Your refund is normally paid in site credit. That means you cannot instantly withdraw it. The site credit invariably has a 1x playthrough requirement attached to it.

You, therefore, need to use your bonus credit on a wager. If your wager is successful, any winnings you earn will be paid in cash.

Your stake (risk amount) will not be returned. For example, if you get a $200 refund in bonus credit, and you place a successful bet at odds of +150, you will get $300 in profit, but your $200 stake will not be part of the payout.

Most sportsbooks require you to use the refund all in one go. However, others will pay it in increments. For example, if your refund at BetMGM is $50 or larger, it will be paid in 20% increments. If your first bet worth $300 were to lose, you would receive five free bets worth $60 each.

There is one outlier on the market. Hard Rock Sportsbook offers a risk-free bet worth up to $100 for new customers.

It does not sound as impressive as some rival promos, but it is a genuinely risk-free bet because if your first wager loses, you will be fully refunded – up to a maximum of $100 – in cash. You can then immediately withdraw it and walk away if you like.

Is a Risk-Free Bet Superior to a Match Deposit Bonus?

A risk-free bet will only benefit you if your initial wager loses. It might encourage you to place a bold bet, safe in the knowledge that you will get another go at landing a winner if it fails, so it can be valuable if your bold bet pays off.

However, if your first bet loses and you get a refund in site credit, your second bet needs to be successful at odds of +100 just to break even.

A risk-free bet is certainly an appealing offer, but a deposit match is even more attractive because you benefit no matter how your first wager performs.

That could explain why Caesars Sportsbook recently ended its $5,000 risk-free bet offer and changed it to a 100% deposit match bonus worth up to $1,001. The headline figure is smaller, but it might actually be more attractive because it is not dependent on your first bet failing.

FanDuel is also starting to veer away from its $1,000 risk-free bet offer. It still promotes this sign-up bonus, but it often provides an odds boost welcome bonus on NFL games as an alternative at the moment.

It is worth stressing that you can claim multiple sign-up bonuses from rival sportsbooks by signing up with several of them, ensuring you benefit from match deposit offers and risk-free bets.