Online sports betting is a huge part of the online gambling industry, which is hardly surprising once you realize how eager the fans in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia are to bet on their favorite teams. In fact, many of the major online gambling portals that offer casino games, poker, and bingo started off as sports betting sites.
As a result, bettors have plenty of quality sports books to choose from, especially since the regulations pertaining to online sports betting tend to be rather soft when compared to the laws dealing with the other, less popular forms of gambling. Even better, online sports books tend to offer a wide array of betting propositions, giving you significantly more freedom than their land-based counterparts in picking the games you want to wager on.
How Online Sports Betting Works
Sports Betting Odds
Even though virtually every quality sports betting site will allow you to view the odds using all the popular formats, it’s still advantageous to know how each of them works. American odds are always expressed with an integer – a plus means that you’ll have to wager $100 to win the amount listed, while a minus means that you’ll have to put it at risk in order to win $100.
European odds, also known as fractional odds, are also simple to understand, as they simply represent the amount of money that you’ll be able to win in relation to your bet. For example, a 3/2 wager means that you’ll be able to win $300 for every $200 you risk. Decimal odds are expressed with a number that indicates how much you can win in relation to the bet you place. Consequently, a wager listed as 1.50 will pay $150 for every $100 you put at stake.
How Online Sports Books Earn Money
Online sports books generally rely on over-round as a means of generating their income. What this means is that they maximize the probability of turning profit with every possible outcome by offering asymmetrical odds that amount to more than 100% – usually 120% or more. This allows them to generate revenue even if most of the bettors bet in correlation with the odds.
This can have some serious implications for serious, profit-oriented bettors, as the odds listed on a sports betting site won’t be the same as the true odds for the sporting event in question. Quite the contrary — hiding the real odds is a great way of maximizing the sports book’s income. If you really care about maximizing your own winnings, you should at least compare the odds on all the sports betting sites or, better yet, handicap the games on your own.
Fairness and Security
All things considered, the vast majority of the online sports books available on the market these days can be considered 100% safe to play at. Each site is very careful about protecting the personal information of its customers, which means that every financial transaction or other exchange of sensitive data is coded using a 128-bit SSL encryption key.
Basically, transferring any money to your sports book account is no different from sending it to any financial institution, such as a bank account. Even better, unlike with competitive gambling sites, customers don’t have to worry about player on player cheating, which is pretty much rampant on some of the less trustworthy poker rooms. It is worth pointing out that sticking to major websites increases the safety of your data and your money even further, especially since no major sports book will risk losing its reputation by delaying your cash outs or canceling your bonuses for no reason.
Basic Bet Types
Even though the rules of online sports betting aren’t really all that complicated, many beginners may feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of the available bet types. The following list has been designed to help you understand these rules and avoid all the initial confusion.
Placing a Straight Bet means that you wager on which team will win. The favorite is almost always indicated by a minus sign and the underdog by a plus sign. This information is followed by the spread amount, unless the game has been deemed even money. If you opt to bet on the underdog and the favorite wins by the number of points which is greater than the spread, you lose. If the difference is equal to the spread, the wager is deemed a tie and you get a refund. In every other case, you win the bet.
Over/Under bets allow you to wager on the combined final scores of both teams. Betting on the Under means that you win if the total scores are lower than the figure provided by the sports book, while betting on the Over means that you win whenever the combined score exceeds that amount.
Parlays allow you to consolidate multiple Straight Bets into a single wager. The catch is that all of your bets have to cover in order for you to receive a payout – even one loss in a Parlay means that the entire bet is lost. Most major sports books offer 2 Team Parlays up to 12 Teams with the payoffs ranging from 13/5 all the way up to 700/1, or even more.
Teasers are a variation of Parlays that allows you to adjust the point spreads for the games involved. However, you have to keep in mind that you still have to get all the games correct in order to win a Teaser. As you’d expect, Teasers offer a lower payoff than Parlays.
If Bets are simply a series of Straight Bets connected by an “If” clause. Consequently, the bet will progress to the second selection only if the first condition complies with the condition; if the second selection complies with the condition, than you will be able to advance to the third selection and so on.
Future bets are wagers placed on the outcomes of pre-scheduled major events a few weeks or even months in advance. The most popular Future bets allow you to wager on the winner of the season before the first games actually kick off.
Proposition bets allow you to wager on a very specific outcome of the match or a specific event that is supposed to transpire during the game. For example, one of the most common propositions in soccer is whether a particular star player will manage to score a goal during the match or not.
Much like standard Parlays, Progressive Parlays involve multiple bets with a massive payout. However, in this case the bettor will still receive some winnings even if some of his bets lose.
High and Low Stakes Sports Betting
Even though most sports betting sites give you a lot of freedom when it comes to determining the size of your bets, it’s important to remember that certain restrictions will always apply. In most cases, the minimum accepted bet is $1, but the maximum bet tends to differ from one sports book to another – generally speaking, you shouldn’t expect less than $2,000 and more than $10,000 online and more than $20,000 by phone following a managerial approval.
Many sites prefer to limit the amount of money you can win throughout a single day – in such a case, the maximum winnings are usually set between $100,000 and $200,000. Another thing you should keep in mind is that many sites tend to lower their limits for professional, price trading bettors. If you’re a beginner, the odds of something like that happening to you are pretty much non-existent, but if you’d like to turn sports betting into a major source of income, you should be very careful when selecting your sites.
Live In-Play Betting
Many sites allow their customers to place bets while the event is still in progress. Usually, those wagers will come with lower betting limits and rougher odds, but they allow you to immerse yourself into the action by reacting to what’s happening in the field. Even better, many sites offer video streams of the matches they cover, which are available exclusively to their customers. The odds and the propositions are frequently updated, so you should always keep track of your sports book as you watch the match if you’d like to get the maximum value out of this feature.
Sports Betting Sites
Sports betting enthusiasts have many good sites to pick from due to the sheer popularity of this form of gambling. However, there’s no reason to settle for good, as there are a few absolutely great sites that combine amazing odds, generous bonuses and reliable banking to create a nearly perfect package. Below, you will find a list of the top online sports books as well as a few guidelines that should allow you to pick the one that will be best suited for your personal sports betting needs.
- 50% Free Play up to $250
- US-based bettors only
- Numerous Betting Options
- 24/7 Customer Support
- Limits lowered for professional bettors
- 100% First Deposit Bonus of up to $200
- 50% Parlay Bonus on US Sports
- Doesn’t accept bettors from the US, France and Netherlands
- Limits lowered for arbitrage players
- $1,000,000 Maximum Bet on Soccer (varies by market)
Playing for Real Money
Sports Betting By Region
In most countries, the regulations pertaining to online sports betting aren’t as strict as the ones dealing with casino games and other forms of online gambling. However, there are quite many exceptions to this rule, which means that every bettor should consult the local laws before registering at an online sports betting site in order to avoid possibly very unpleasant situations.
This also means that many quality sites refuse to accept players from certain regions, which shouldn’t be all that surprising if you consider the fact that most gambling laws focus on punishing illegal gambling operators instead of the participants of the games.
According to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, transferring money from banking institutions to online gambling sites is illegal in the United States. Consequently, most of the Europe and Australia-facing sites prefer not to accept American bettors. Furthermore, every state has its own gambling laws, which means that wagering on sporting events might be perfectly fine in one state and land you in jail in another. I’d advise all US-based players to consult their local regulations and possibly contact a lawyer when in doubt before joining one of the few US-friendly sites.
Even though the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 makes it illegal to offer most types of real money online gambling products to Australian citizens, there are no regulations that make it unlawful for them to join the games. Even better, online sports betting isn’t one of the prohibited forms of gambling, which means that Australia-based bettors have access to quite a few regulated local sites.
The French Gambling Act of 2010 requires all the sports betting sites wishing to operate on the country’s gambling market to obtain a local expensive license. Consequently, the number of regulated online sports books available to French bettors is fairly high. This also means that the sites that didn’t bother with getting licensed are quite likely to refuse to deal with France residents.
The German Interstate Treaty on Gaming of 2008 banned all forms of online gambling with the exception of horse race betting. However, it is worth pointing out that Schleswig Holstein joined the ISTG as late as 2013, which means that numerous sports betting sites still hold a valid license that allows them to offer their real money products to Schleswig Holstein residents.
Sports betting is illegal in the state of Maharashtra because of the Bombay Wager Act, but the remaining states don’t have any clear online gambling regulations. However, keep in mind that the Federal Information Technology Rules allow the Indian Internet Service Providers to block any known gambling websites.
The United Kingdom has excellent gambling laws, so it should come as no surprise that many quality sports books like William Hill and Ladbrokes are actually based there. If you’re a UK resident, the only thing you should worry about is finding the best odds and bonuses.
Depositing & Withdrawing
Most online sports betting sites support a wide range of ways of funding your account. The most reliable and fastest payment methods include credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid cards. Another great way of making a deposit is to use an e-wallet service like PayPal, Neteller, or Skrill, but keep in mind that those aren’t available for US-based players. A few sites will also accept a bank wire transfer, as well as Western Union and MoneyGram, but keep in mind that if you opt to go with a cash transfer, the entire process might take up to ten business days and you will usually be required to cover the fees.
Most sports books prefer to handle cash outs via a bank wire transfer or an e-wallet payment, with the latter option being unavailable for American bettors. A few sites might allow you to withdraw via a check by courier depending on your area of residence. Finally, if you deposited using a Western Union/MoneyGram, you’ll usually be permitted to request a money order payout.
Bonuses and Promotions
Most of the bonuses available with online sports books aren’t as generous as the ones offered by poker and casino sites. When choosing your sports book, you should generally forget about the promotions and focus on the betting limits, odds, and live in-play betting instead. Quite obviously, there are some exceptions to this rule, as a great reduced juice promotion can significantly improve your odds, making it more profitable to play at the site offering the bonus in the long term.
a) Free Play
Free play offers are available at pretty much every online sports book, so you’ll be able to get some additional money to place your initial wagers after making your first deposit with the site. As mentioned above, those bonuses aren’t particularly high – you shouldn’t expect anything in excess of $1,000. Usually, you’ll be allowed to grab up to $200 with a 25%-30% match on your payment. However, a few sites might offer better promotions, like $500 of free play with a 40% match.
b) Reduced Juice
Reduced juice promotions are exceptionally rare, since they allow you to gain a long-term edge when betting on the sports listed in the terms and conditions of the bonus. Whenever you have a choice between free play and a reduced juice offer, you should go for the latter, as reduced juice means that the sports book will indefinitely decrease the over-round on your wagers. Reduced juice promotions will allow you to cut your losses and maximize your profits, especially if you’re planning to be an active bettor.
Much like Free Play, Reload Bonuses allow you to grab some free cash when making a deposit. However, these bonuses become available after you make your initial payment and can be used multiple times. Typically, Reload Bonuses are significantly lower than the first deposit promotions and offer a lower match on your payment. Furthermore, some Reload Bonuses might have additional requirements and won’t apply to bettors who filed a withdrawal request in the recent past or deposited less than $100 on their most recent payment.
Sports Betting Guides by Category:
Super Bowl Betting
College Football Betting
Sports Betting Tips