Sports Betting in the USA
Before we go into the numerous types of sports gambling, I will start by examining the current legality of sports betting, both online and offline. State and local laws will vary, but federal laws regarding sports betting and online gambling do not differ between states.
When it comes to betting online, one of the biggest misconceptions bettors have is that it’s illegal to place wagers at an Internet sportsbook or with an unregulated bookie. This is 100 percent false on the federal level and also likely true for the vast majority of states. Some states criminalize online betting along with placing wagers with local bookies, like Utah and the State of Washington, but these jurisdictions are the exception, not the norm. Even in these severely anti-gambling states, no one has ever been charged with a crime for gambling online.
In the vast majority of situations, bettors will face no legal ramifications when they place a wager, whether it is with an online sportsbook or local bookie. Purely from an enforcement standpoint, it would be impractical to go after individual bettors. Tens of millions of people gamble on sports, and trying to track them all down isn’t realistic. For this reason, the offshore sportsbook and corner bookie, rather than the individual bettor, are the targets of law enforcement.
In summary, whether you bet online or offline – you’re almost certainly not going to be a target of law enforcement.
Very Brief History
Sports betting in the United States has a long history, dating back over a hundred years. Betting on sports surely began long before that, and there have been forms of sports betting around for thousands of years. All that is needed is two participants making a bet between friends and any type of competition – and voila, sports betting was born.
In the USA, sports betting started to become commonplace in the late 19th century. By far the most popular sport was America’s pastime, Major League Baseball. During this time, baseball games always had a reputation for being fixed, and much of this suspicion came to fruition when the Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 World Series.
Sports gambling wasn’t legalized until 1931 when the state of Nevada legalized several forms of gambling, including casino, poker, and sports betting. Around this time, thanks to the invention of point spread betting and due to their liberalized gambling laws, Nevada began to lift itself out of the economic woes caused by the Great Depression.
Betting at Online Sportsbooks
Today, citizens have many legitimate online options when it comes to sports betting. For one, Nevada offers a host of sportsbooks, but they are unfortunately only available to those within the state. In addition, sports gamblers always have the option of betting with neighborhood bookies. But the best option nowadays for sports betting is to venture online. The Internet has spawned a new legion of online sportsbook operators that are just a click away.
Online sports betting has changed the way betting markets work. No longer is it wise guys moving the lines at Vegas sportsbooks, but instead, it’s an international market of sportsbook operators, some of whom are taking massive six-figure wagers. Lines across the board can move in a matter of seconds when one of the more prominent online bookmakers moves on a contest.
Of course, the advantage to betting online is the ability to use a variety of different sportsbooks and have access to a massive list of markets. Line shopping, the most important part of becoming a long-term winner at sports betting, can be done to perfection when betting online. The vast majority of online bookmakers also offer deposit bonuses, something that players won’t generally find with a local bookie or the sportsbooks of Nevada. These are excellent cash infusions, especially for those with smaller bankrolls.
The vast majority of bettors will be using online bookmakers that are known as post-up sportsbooks. These sportsbooks require a deposit before they accept wagers. This can be done a number of ways, but the most popular methods are credit or debit card and person-to-person transfer (Western Union or MoneyGram). Some shops also offer bank wire or check by mail.
Out of these methods, we recommend deposit by credit or debit card. Depositing via card is instant and rarely comes with a processing fee. Our second choice is person-to-person transfer. While there will be fees for sending the transfer and it is not instant, it’s still a strong choice. Players will be credited with the funds into their sportsbook account within 24 hours (usually much faster), and the books will generally reimburse players for processing fees if the transfer is $300 or more.
Bettors from the United States may experience difficulties depositing due to the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). This law prohibits banks from processing gambling transactions, meaning your credit or debit card may be declined if the transaction is related to gambling.
There are several ways around this conundrum, however. Players can try depositing with a different processor in a few hours (sportsbook have several different payment processors) or use a different card. They can also buy a gift card at a local store or gas station. These have proven to have a high success rate. Of course, person-to-person, bank wire, and other methods are also still options.
As far as payouts, players have many of the same options they do for depositing – minus the debit or credit card option (although, this is also changing). The most-popular and recommended choice for payouts is by check by mail. From top sportsbooks, checks are usually processed in less than a week.
Even in times of heavy processing requests, players won’t have to wait longer than two weeks to receive check withdrawals. Most sportsbooks will allow players one free check withdrawal a month with no fees. Additional checks usually come with fees between $20–$50 per check.
Other payout choices include person-to-person transfer and bank wire. Person-to-person transfer is the fastest method available for withdrawals. They are processed in 24–48 or less. The drawback is that the fees are high for customers. They can range from $20 all the way up to $150 or so, depending on the amount requested. The fees are high, but if funds needed in a hurry, it’s the top option for speed.
Bank wires normally offer the largest maximum withdrawal amount, making it an outstanding option for high-volume bettors or those looking at five-figure withdrawal requests. They are processed slightly slower than checks, around 1–2 weeks. The fees associated with each wire will vary, but sportsbooks usually charge around $50 per wire. Players’ banks will also charge an additional fee for receiving the wire. The fee for receive incoming wires is around $20.
However, some bookmakers have begun to mail players debit cards for withdrawal processing. This new method is only scarcely available for now but allows players the ability to withdraw funds via ATM and offers all the functions of a regular debit card.
Credit Shop Sportsbooks
The opposite of a post-up sportsbook is a credit shop. These operators allow players to bet without depositing funds and may offer them a line of credit. The sportsbook can choose to select which days to “settle up,” when profits or losses are due to be paid, or set a rule that customers must deposit the funds for their losses shortly after their account goes negative.
Credit shops are quite rare in the online sportsbook world, especially when it comes to the average bettor. The large majority of sites players will see advertised online are of the post-up variety, rather than credit shops.
Some larger offshore bookmakers may offer lines of credit to select clients. This list is reserved for notably wealthy clients and ones that management is almost certain will pay up if they happen to lose.
Credit shops can also be a dangerous proposition for sports gamblers who don’t exercise strong bankroll management or have a tendency to bet more than they can afford. At the very minimum, nonpayment will lead to an account closure at the sportsbook. These sites may also try to charge your personal credit or debit cards if you have them on file with them.
The worst-case scenario, and this is extremely rare, is that the sportsbook will threaten or intimidate players and perhaps physically harm them until they pay up. If you do get in over your head with a credit shop, try to work out a payment plan to pay off your debt at a slower pace.
Choosing the Right Online Sportsbook
For the reasons described above, we recommend players look to deposit in a post-up sportsbook. Again, they’re by far the most common and the most reputable option. They also offer safeguards for both player and bookmaker.
However, choosing an online sportsbook and depositing shouldn’t be a split-second decision. While most of the industry features honest operators, there are a host of sportsbooks with poor reputations and some that are outright scams. Often called “scambooks”, these sites may have a lengthy list of complaints from customers.
The most common complaint is nonpayment or slow payment of players’ winnings. Avoiding sites like these is an absolute must. It doesn’t matter how lucrative of a bonus a site might offer – it’s useless unless bettors can be trusted they will be paid.
This is especially important because there is little players can do from a legal perspective when it comes to securing their balance if an offshore online sportsbook chooses not to pay. The site is not licensed in the United States and the money is being held in a foreign bank account. If a site simply chooses not to pay, there’s extremely little that can be done from the player’s side to compel them to do so.
Sports bettors should use a variety of tools to determine the viability and trustworthiness of a prospective site. Longevity is generally a strong indication of reputation and reliable withdrawals. This isn’t always the case, but it’s an excellent barometer when evaluating a sportsbook.
There are sites servicing US betting markets that have paid players on time for over a decade. These sites are rightfully rated much higher than sportsbooks that have been in operation for just a few years.
Searching Google for complaints about a sportsbook is also crucial. A few minutes of searching can save players from being ripped off by an unscrupulous operator, along with avoiding wasted time and heartache.
Use several sites when it comes to sportsbook reviews. Some sites may mislead players into depositing into what most would call rogue sportsbooks by giving them a strong rating. Sports betting forums are communities where bettors can post their experiences with sites. These are an excellent resource for up-to-date information. Most notably, they provide accurate withdrawal processing speeds from top sportsbooks.
The only state to offer fully legalized sports betting is Nevada. There are several dozen sportsbooks operating in Las Vegas and many more across the state.
Despite being the de facto gambling and sports betting capital in the US, online sportsbooks still generally offer better odds and more markets. This isn’t a slight on the brick-and-mortar businesses in the state but instead more of an ode to the power of the Internet.
Citizens of Nevada and tourists visiting can still bet on every sport in the world. Local sportsbooks in Las Vegas have a long list of markets available for each contest, including not just standard bets, like sides and totals, but propositions, futures, and more.
Placing a bet in Nevada is as simple as walking up to the window and placing your wager. Nevada sportsbooks will have their live odds listed on large boards inside the sportsbook. Each selection will have a corresponding number.
For instance, if a player wanted to bet the Pittsburgh Steelers -3 facing the Cleveland Browns, they would look at the number beside that selection and mention it when placing their bet at the window.
Gamblers can bet any amount they want at the window, but it is customary to bet in amounts that make is easier to account for the oddsmakers’ ten percent vigorish. This usually means betting $11 to win $10, for a full return of $21 if the wager wins. A larger bet would be $1,100 to profit $1,000 from a winning wager.
When you place your wager at the window, always remember to read over your betting ticket to make sure it is accurate. It’s imperative that if bettors wager at the window, they do not lose their ticket. If you drink, ask for a drink ticket after you place your bet. The sportsbooks have a built in edge with the vig, and you deserve a free cocktail to compensate!
Tipping isn’t necessarily expected when it comes placing your wager at the window (but some people still do tip when placing bets), but it is generally regarded as customary when you go to the window to collect winnings.
As we discussed above, the sportsbooks have a built-in edge, so tipping large amounts isn’t a good idea for your long-term bankroll. However, if you have a winning day, giving the guy at the window a few bucks won’t hurt.
Remember, when betting at the window, you must place your bets in person if you’re tourist. If you win you can still collect your money from out of state, but don’t show off your winning ticket until you have been paid; someone can steal the money you won by getting the ticket’s serial number, time and date. Speak to the sportsbook staff about options for payment if you aren’t in Nevada. This usually involves mailing in your ticket from your home state and receiving your winnings in check form also via mail.
In recent years, new laws have allowed Nevada residents to bet online at state-licensed sportsbooks. Bettors who live in Nevada must visit the sportsbook in person to create an online account and provide their identification and social security number. They can then wager online. There are a host of mobile apps for those on the go designed for mobile sports betting in Nevada as well.
Nevada sportsbooks are mostly of the post-up variety, like the majority of online operators. Some sportsbooks may offer credit lines to certain clients, but this is the exception, not the norm. Bettors will have to bring the cash to the window or fund their online account with the book to place a wager.
Although they will never be able to match online betting markets in terms of odds or markets, they provide the best legal climate in the country for sports betting. The security of being paid is one area where Nevada-based sportsbooks trump online sportsbook and local bookies. But if a Nevada sportsbook doesn’t pay a winning ticket, bettors have legal recourse and Nevada gaming laws will back them, provided their play was valid.
Surpassing both Vegas sportsbooks and online sports betting in terms of sheer quantity, the local bookie is almost always available for betting if you’re based around any major city and even most small towns.
Most bettors know of locals around town, but an excellent place to find them is at a local casino or cardroom. Sports bars are a close second. Of course, finding a local bookie is not even half the battle. Many of them are reputable guys who have paid players for years, but others might as well be con men or wannabe bookmakers living in their mom’s basement.
The major risk with using a local neighborhood bookie is that bettors have no legal powers to force the bookie to pay them. Aside from attacking the man’s character in public, there’s little that can be done. We never recommend using violence against another person to collect a debt, regardless of the amount.
If we had to compare locals to their online counterparts, they are extremely similar to credit sportsbooks. They rarely ask for money up front before placing wagers and normally choose a day of the week to “settle up,” that is, to collect player losses and dish out winnings. This is normally Tuesday, due to the last NFL game being played on Monday night.
In fact, local bookmakers or more sophisticated agents, who sometimes work for offshore sportsbooks, will often offer a similar Internet format to online sportsbooks where transactions are handled locally.
These are known as Pay Per Head services. Charging per player, they offer live lines and a website where bettors can place bets online, instead of texting or calling a bookie. There may be other gambling options as well, such as casino games. These sites are hosted offshore, minimizing their vulnerability to local law enforcement.
The mafia likely still makes some money off sports betting, but realistically, the vast majority of bookies aren’t associated with organized crime families. I’m sure there are some instances where a bettor got down big and chose not to play after he was physically harmed, but these situations are extremely rare. This is real life, not the Godfather films. Local bookies don’t want to draw attention to themselves by hiring thugs to break someone’s knees. If clients of theirs don’t pay, they simply won’t take their action anymore.
If you do happen to get into debt with a local and you can’t pay, be honorable about and work out a payment plan. Similar to running up a balance you can’t pay at an online credit shop, bookmakers usually just want to see some effort. Almost all of them will work with you. Of course, the best way to avoid this is not betting more than you can afford to lose.
With all that said, locals may be the hidden gem of the sports gambling world that many online sports bettors have overlooked. They often use outdated lines far from online pricing and allow players to place +EV wagers that almost all online sportsbooks would reject.
Sometimes locals’ lines are several points off from prominent sportsbooks that accept six-figure wagers – these are edges that cannot be ignored. They will often offer much better odds betting against hometown teams of each city than online sportsbooks as well. This is because the majority of action they are taking is being wagered on hometown franchises, forcing them to adjust their lines the opposite way.
As a general rule of thumb, bettors should almost never wager on hometown teams with local bookies. The lines will almost always be shaded against them.
There are several advantages and disadvantages, depending on whether players bet online, in Nevada, or with local bookies in their area. While we favor online betting markets due to their superior odds, bonuses, and reliability, players shouldn’t discount other options.
Sports bettors based in Nevada will be able to bet online with both offshore operators and Las Vegas based sportsbooks. If players can find a reliable local bookie with excellent odds, this is another top-tier choice.
We encourage bettors to explore all options when looking for inefficiencies in sports betting markets, whether it is online or offline. In the end, it all comes down to getting the best price and making sure you get paid.
Author: Savanah Lavinder