The Rise of “Free to Play” Sports Betting

The popular maxim in the business world is that “there’s no such thing” as a free lunch. But is there such a thing as a free sports bet? In theory, the answer is yes. There are ways you can make actual sports bets without risking a single penny from your bank account and even earn a real cash return for making a correct wager. It just depends on the type of bet you’re making, and the type of sportsbook you’re using in order to make that wager.  Here are three methods contributing to the rise of “free to play” sports betting.


Pick’em Contests

One of the main ways you can make risk-free wagers is through free play sports betting contests. These contests are effectively a pool of bettors who compete with each other over a period of time, accumulating points based on accurate prognostications. Those can be anything from correctly picking the winner of a game, correctly predicting the outcome of a game in general (moneyline picks), and possibly even predicting the outcome of a game in progress (i.e., picks based on the spread or result of a game that’s already taking place).

As is the case with wagers made at a sportsbook, in many of these contests, you’ll receive more or fewer points based on the risk-level of the pick (getting more points for correctly picking the underdog or least-likely outcomes). Further, some of these contests allow you to make bets using a fixed amount of imaginary currency or units you’re assigned when you first enter the contest. In other words, you get a certain bankroll when you sign up and based on how you manage said bankroll, you’re able to make larger wagers, and cash in on more points based on correct outcomes.

At the end of a contest, a certain number of participants will actually win real cash prizes. That number of participants rewarded is usually based on how many people are in the contest, and/or how much money is available to be rewarded. In the case of “risk-free” free play sports betting contests, since the organizer isn’t making money on entry fees, many of these contests are funded by online or brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.

In some cases, that’s the “catch” with these types of contests. While you do earn a monetary reward for finishing within a certain range, some of these contests reward you in the form of money or credits that you’re only able to redeem at one of the sportsbooks funding the contest. So, if you won $100 in the contest, that $100 would immediately be available for you to use for “real” sports betting. Sure, you could try and immediately withdraw that $100, or whatever money you earned, when the money is made available through the sports books, but the sportsbooks often have rules in terms of when and how withdrawals are eligible to be made.

In the cases where a sportsbook does not bankroll such contests, you may see platforms where the organizers themselves will be responsible for delivering the prizes. In these instances, the funds that are paid out are usually from the company themselves.  This website, Duelo, has one of the most intriguing models (yes I’m bias).  Thousands of users play free pick’em or parlay contests every day for a chance to win a cash prize.  This is the only site I’ve seen with daily contests, daily cash, and daily winners. Many of the sites out there drag their contests out.  With Duelo, most contests are start and end the same day.

Lastly, for those who recognize that they’re able to play for free, and simply enjoy making wagers on games for the thrill of it, there are contests which reward players in the form of various prizes, in the place of cash payouts. These prizes could be anything from gift cards to companies who sponsor or partner with the organizer, or maybe just some “swag” – “stuff we all get” – like t-shirts, drink koozies, or things along those lines. These giveaways actually serve two purposes, in that they serve as prizes for the players (who doesn’t love free t-shirts?), but also indirectly market the company itself.


Social Wagering

Find any group of friends at your local watering hole or any number of sports fans around the water cooler at work, and you’ll frequently hear them discussing which teams they like to win a particular game, or which point spreads are ripe for the taking. But in many instances, these individuals aren’t really motivated enough to place any actual money on the outcome – they just like the idea of being able to identify which teams will win, and by how much, and then debate those picks with their friends and colleagues.

For that crowd, there are a variety of companies and apps which are offering “social betting” applications. Think of it as a fantasy sports league, but for sports picks. A group of people can get together and form a “league” of sorts on a given platform, or compete against any number of other users on the platform, by making picks on the outcome of games. From there, players are rewarded and ranked based on the number of correct picks they make. In some cases, there are also gamification components to these platforms – players are rewarded for their level of engagement with the platform, including the number of days the login, the number of picks they make, the types of picks made, and so forth.

For those well-funded companies, the highest performers are sometimes rewarded with prizes we previously mentioned, ranging from cash to gift cards to swag.


Play For Free Promotions

In some cases, a sportsbook — usually one that’s not well known — will actually offer you a fixed amount of money or bets in exchange for merely trying out their platform. While almost every sportsbook offers some deposit matching promotion, these sportsbooks will hand you a free bet without you having to put any money in upfront.

For instance, some sportsbooks will give you one free bet up to a fixed amount, which you can use to make a wager on their platform. Of course, the catch is two-fold: most of these sportsbooks require you to have a certain amount accumulated before you can withdraw funds, or they will require you to make some monetary deposit of your own before you can withdraw anything.

Regardless, a lot of sportsbooks refer to these as “no lose” promotions, because there is literally no risk for you to make an actual and substantive wager on a game – if you lose, no money comes out of your pocket.