Published: 15 November, 2021

Sports betting: navigating promotion limits & bans

The Game Day delves into the world of sports betting marketing, from why sportsbooks ban customers, to marketing honestly to new bettors

The ever-growing whale of legalised online and mobile United States sports betting offers a seamless opening for marketing. Promotions, giveaways, and "free bets" seem to fly daily toward a population that’s already experienced or seeks to join the party.

However, along with ads to win big come restrictions. The sportsbooks may eventually limit or even permanently ban successful sports bettors if they meet certain criteria for blacklisting.

Meanwhile, affiliate marketing companies are enthusiastically leaping into a paradoxical position to make money from sportsbooks while helping customers make smart bets at those outlets - and maybe turn some into bettors non grata if they become too savvy.

How do sports marketers preserve partnerships with sportsbooks while advising subscribers on how to defeat them?

Why sportsbooks limit or ban customers

Malicious, illegal attempts to defraud a sportsbook (joining at younger than 21 setting up multiple accounts at the same book, etc.) are not typically the most difficult hurdles to policing a sportsbook. Those are often easily stopped. In the same manner by which casinos handle card counters, sportsbooks more frequently turn away sharp (informed) betting to protect their house advantage. They aim to shut down open secrets in betting like eyeing closing-line value (tracking positive line movement), "chasing steam’ (following sharp money going into a particular bet) and "middling’ or arbitrage plays (finding ways to bet both sides of a line for "riskless betting").

"It’s not a free market. If you truly win enough you get capped," said Kevin Davis, a sports bettor and writer for The Game Day.

Anyone trying advanced or underhanded tactics is already paying a premium, even if it’s smaller than what it previously cost. Sportsbook trading departments also bake a "house advantage" fee into their bets called the vigorish (known as "vig" or "juice"), so most attempts to gain an advantage are fruitless.

"With promos, the goal is to engage you as a customer," said Davis. "If you’re losing money, you will get a boost - and then lose it back. But if you lose $4.55 cents per $100 bet and you get a $200 promo, you need to make $4400+ in bets for the sportsbook to make a profit off you."

Does banning bettors hurt the industry?

Aside from a desire to "take down the house," many pro bettors view this banishment of sharps as detrimental to growing the pastime as a whole - as something that could hinder the sustainability of a popular activity among the general public. After all, seasoned bettors can take customers with them on specific bets as "tailers" and increase that bet’s handle. Even if they’re banned, pros will find a way to get their wagers in. (They have plenty of relatives and friends to ask). "You can shut the door on sharp action, and it’s just going to come in through the window," pro bettor Captain Jack Andrews wrote in a US Bets opinion piece.

Plus, as Andrews notes, when sharp money floods toward a bet, it often levels out potential losses and acts as a natural hedge for the operator.

How to market honestly to new bettors

Sports betting marketers must (1) send potentially productive traffic to their partners, and (2) strengthen trust with their potential customers that their intentions are sincere, even in a venture to create revenue.

Aim to create loyal sports betting customers, but be there to help their upward movement as a bettor that may encounter hurdles - even those beyond the inherent risks of the hobby (encourage responsible gaming).

Betting info sites must not sink to becoming mere soulless link farms that blindly scream calls to action. They carry a responsibility to educate recreational bettors on the risks and possible benefits of diving headfirst into an oversaturated competition with their hard-earned funds.

Just as the sharp tactics are open secrets, so is the tacit agreement that sportsbooks are fine with you advertising ways to beat them - to a certain point. You can write generally about advanced tactics without pointing to specific offers to capitalise on.

A successful bettor typically tops a 50% win rate, so with a wide population of bettors, most books are okay rolling along with your messaging of "beat the books" with the goal of attracting money to a competition they can control. Bettors generally acknowledge the risks at hand. However, to act as a safe haven for potential bettors, avoid sensationalised language promising "huge wins’ from betting promotions will help set rational expectations for casual bettors - or at least make the details ("the catch") readily visible in rules explanations.

To prevent customers from growing frustrated with any limits on promotions, cast a wide net of partnership opportunities - and promote emerging sportsbooks who may be aggressive with promotions and offers and more welcoming with giveaways.

Most of all, endeavour to become a teammate in your community’s betting, so you have their next steps ready if sportsbooks close a door.