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Sports Betting Promotional Offers: Not “Risk Free”

Published: January 30, 2023

It’s been a common sight in Ohio sports betting advertisements recently: a promotional offer to start betting, seemingly for nothing. With legal sports betting having started in the state this month, sports betting operators are using promises of “risk-free” bets to lure new customers to their services. But all bets come with risks, and sports betting can result in a problem with gambling if not engaged in responsibly. 

Promotional offers have become a common practice in the gaming industry and are often used by sports betting operators. When legal sports betting began in New York, operators in the state were offering promotions as large as $3,000 to new customers, according to WCPO Channel 9 Cincinnati

Even though promotional offers in Ohio are smaller by comparison, generally in the $100 to $200 range, they could get bigger as sports betting expands in the state and operators compete for customers. Some operators are even partnering with local restaurants to offer free food and entertainment to people who sign up. 

That competition for customers is costing operators, who are increasingly taking steps to prevent customers from “promotion-hopping,” or taking advantage of the plethora of promotions to get more “free” bets from different operators. According to WCPO Channel 9 Cincinnati, FanDuel said at a recent investor conference that it spent 29% of its revenue on promotion, compared to 44% by DraftKings and 64% by BetMGM.

Even though the lure of free bets might seem enticing, it’s important to remember that no bet is actually risk free. Many promotional offers contain fine print that’s important to review, and any sports betting can result in a problem with gambling if not engaged in responsibly. So as promotional offers continue to take place in Ohio, remember to: 

  • Set limits on your betting, including on the amount you bet, the number of promotional offers you pursue, and the how much time you spend betting. 
  • Recognize that all bets, even ones that seem “free,” come with an element of risk. 
  • Know when the time has come to stop. If you are betting for income, are no longer having fun, or are withdrawing from friends or family, it might be time to take a break. 

The rise of promotional offers is just one of the many changes to Ohio’s gambling landscape since the legalization of sports betting. Before You Bet has adapted by offering a plethora of new resources to encourage Ohioans to engage in sports betting responsibly, including the Pause Before You Play campaign. By clicking the link, you can access a new awareness-raising video PSA and fliers for use at community events. 

And if you think you or someone you know has a problem with gambling, call the Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline now. Help is available 24/7 from trained and understanding specialists who can offer you free and confidential support. Call 1-800-589-9966 or text 4HOPE to 741741.

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