5 Lessons Learned When My State Launched Legal Online Sports Betting

Online Betting With Coffee

For football fans from coast to coast, the sun rose on September 9th, 2021. That’s when NFL action made its long-awaited return.

But while the regular season kickoff is always a day to celebrate,
The 9th was extra sweet for sports betting enthusiasts in Arizona, South Dakota, and Washington state. For the first time ever, three American states launched legal sports betting industries on the same day, bringing the number of regulated states in the US to 26. And with major markets like Florida, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Louisiana legalized and awaiting implementation, launch day could be coming to your state sometime soon.

When the time comes for your state’s legal sports betting launch, use these five lessons I learned firsthand to score all the bonus bucks and free bets up for grabs.

1. Take Advantage of Any and All “Pre-Registration” Promotio Offers

During the month leading up to launch day in the state, I reside in (Arizona), locals were inundated with a flood of advertisements on every conceivable platform.

My Twitter feed sprinkled in promoted posts from major online sportsbooks like DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, WynnBet, and Barstool Sportsbook. During every regional sports game and nightly news broadcast, the commercials were sure to tout the arrival of one sportsbook operator or another.

Even the billboards standing sentry along Interstate-17 during my daily commute were plastered with these now ubiquitous pitches from the biggest bet shops.

And in each case:
These ads promised a wealth of bonus money and free bets to anyone who “pre-registered” their account. As I soon discovered, the premier online sportsbooks in 2021 are engaged in a bitter competition to earn precious market share. With so many operators rushing to serve bettors on Day 1, the books roll out a generous slate of promotional offers in the weeks before launch.

Obviously, their goal is to spend a few bucks in bonus offers in order to get new players signed up and registered. Once a sports fan is onboard, the bookmaker counts on the usability of its interface and the viability of its lines/odds to create new loyal customers.

Please Note:
If you’re looking forward to launch day in your state, your best bet is to pre-register with every online sportsbook around. Make sure you jump through whatever hoops are necessary. For example, some sites require new signups to “opt-in” by clicking a particular button. When you do, you’ll earn a ton of equity when it comes to promotional offers.

Barstool Sportsbook, for example, added four $100 free bets to my account, each of which is linked to a local team’s win total in the futures market. And over on DraftKings, fun “risk-free” bets like “Will a Point be Scored in the Cardinals vs. Titans Game?” offered an easy way to win my first wager without a sweat.

2. Fund All of Your Accounts With a Deposit for Additional Bonuses

You’ll definitely benefit from the wide array of no-deposit bonus offers during the pre-registration process. In fact, I started Sunday morning on Week 1 with an amazing $500 in completely free bonus bucks spread across six different sportsbooks.

Even so:
I didn’t hesitate in whipping out my debit card to make real money deposits on all six of those apps, either. Thanks to extremely generous Welcome Bonus deposit matches, spending $50 or $100 to fund my account quickly paid dividends of double and even triple my money.

On every platform, my deposit funds were matched by at least 100 percent to essentially double my starting cash bankroll. Thus, a $100 deposit saw me start the NFL season with $200 to work with. Even better, most sites sprinkled in free bets to spice up their deposit match bonuses.

Bet MGM responded to my cash deposit by immediately adding four $50 free bets to my account. DraftKings made the same $200 commitment, only with eight free bets at $25 a pop. And the Caesars app made sure that I could place $25 parlays within a single game which couldn’t possibly lose.

Well, the wager itself could lose, but when it did, Caesars simply refunded the bet amount right back into my account. Everywhere I looked, it seemed like I was being invited to place bets with no real risk whatsoever. And it was all thanks to making a standard starting deposit.

3. Use Free Bets According to Your Personal Betting Style

As for those free bets, I decided to take two vastly drastically different approaches to utilize them from site to site.

For Example:
On the BetMGM app, I devoted my four $50 free bets to sensible, low-risk plays like 2-leg, 6-point teasers. By adjusting the point spread and over/under total by 6 points in my favor, I was able to create much more favorable odds than a straight bet or parlay would offer.

And wouldn’t you know it, all four of my safe 2-leg teasers cashed in as winners. At (-120) odds, each $50 free bet returned $41.67 in profit. That’s good enough for a nice little start on that particular site.

Over on DraftKings, however, I decided to go for the gusto by using all eight $25 free bets on player-specific prop bets.

I targeted the opening Thursday night game between the Dallas Cowboys and the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, choosing eight different players to score two or more touchdowns individually.

And when Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski hauled in his second TD pass his buddy Tom Brady to put Tampa up 28-19 in the 3rd quarter, I cashed my $25 free bet at (+2200) odds. All told, even with seven losing free bets out of eight, that one longshot winner produced a profit of $550.

It can be tempting to view these free bets as found money, letting it go just as easy as it came, but do your best to devise a smart strategy for deploying these potentially lucrative resources.

4. Always Read the Terms and Conditions Before Claiming a Bonus

Of course, you might just pick a loser and part ways with the free bet fair and square. But in the worst-case scenario, you could let the offer expire without ever placing a bet in the first place.

As a serious online sports bettor
It’s in your job description to read up on all of the rules, regulations, and terms attached to every promotional offer. For the free bets described above, I had seven days to put them in action before they expired.

I did my research, so every bonus buck and free bet was exploited in accordance with the terms and conditions. But I’m willing to wager that significant sums, likely in the six-figures, were reclaimed by the sportsbooks when players neglected to put a free bet down in time.

5. Keeping a Record to Track Your Bets and Bonuses Is Helpful

During the launch day bonanza, I found myself continually toggling between no less than six online sportsbook apps.

Please Note:
With each site seemingly happy to open the floodgates, spreading dozens of promotional offers between them, I inevitably started to get a little lost. To help keep diligent track of every bonus offer and free bet I have privy to, I decided to work up a basic spreadsheet. Soon enough, I knew exactly which bonuses were being enjoyed on which site, while every free bet was logged for easy reference.

You can use any method of organization that suits you best. Just make sure you have a running record handy. Once launch day is in the books, this record will ensure that you have every last penny accounted for.


I’ve always relied on Arizona’s proximity to Nevada to get my sports betting kicks. Annual trips to Las Vegas or Laughlin when trying to save a buck became the norm in order to place wagers which I knew were safe and secure.

I never thought my state’s largely conservative legislature would approve legal sportsbooks. But as every good gambler knows, money talks. The prospect of millions of dollars in annual taxes generated by legal wagering led Arizona’s lawmakers to see the light and boy, am I glad they did!

As you just learned, courtesy of the seven lessons above, the highly competitive marketplace created by launch day gives savvy bettors a leg up. By capitalizing on welcome bonuses, free bets, deposit matches, and referral rewards, you can easily use launch-day offers to build your bankroll when legal sports betting starts up in your state.


Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.

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