How to Pick Your First Online Sportsbook

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Picking the Top Online Sports Betting Sites

Let’s face it, you can’t start betting on sports if you don’t have a solid place to play. As a recreational gambler, picking your ideal online sportsbook is often very different than it would be for a professional bettor.

Choosing an online bookmaker isn’t all that different from choosing a game winner – it requires a lot of careful contemplation and due diligence. In this article, we give you tips on how to choose the website that’s best for you.

What to Consider

Do They Have a License?

Before you make your choice, you have to consider whether online sports betting is legal in your jurisdiction.

Licensed operators are typically considered far more reputable. That’s not to say that all unlicensed sportsbooks are inherently bad, just that you need to check them out before you sign up with them.

Licensed operations, like Betfair, Bet365 and Bwin, are regulated by recognized organizations such as the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and the UK Gambling Commission to accept bets from players in various jurisdictions, including, but not limited to, the UK, Australia and Canada.

None, however, are licensed to accept bets from players in the United States. In fact, no licensed operation will even accept U.S. players.

Options for US Players Who Want to Bet on Sports

If you are in the United States, you only have two options available. One is to drive to Las Vegas every time you want to place a bet (good luck with that), or two, open an account with an unlicensed offshore bookmaker that accepts players from the United States.

What many people don’t know is that 97 per cent of the $149 billion wager on sports in the United States in 2015 was done not in Las Vegas, but with unlicensed sportsbooks located in jurisdictions like Costa Rica and Panama, where the governments are more welcoming. Of course, you should be somewhat concerned about sending your hard-earned money to some shady online website. So before you do so, be sure you do your due diligence.

Which Online Sportsbooks Can I Trust?

Industry insiders know which books are reputable and which ones to stay away from. Among the better-known ones that accept players from the United States are Bookmaker.eu, 5Dimes, Bovada.lv and TopBet (listed in no particular order).

(Full disclosure: BigOnSports has advertising and partnership deals in place with many of the online sportsbooks mentioned in this article. Nonetheless, we would not recommend any operation that we did not feel is both safe and reputable. Our staff is made up of industry insiders that have both worked alongside and wagered with all the sportsbooks mentioned above.)

What Kind of Sports Bettor Are You? 

No single gambling website works for everyone, so determining your style before you start betting is usually a wise decision.

  • Do you like to wager on live betting?
  • Do you like to wager on exotic props?
  • Do you bet on game totals, parlays or teasers?
  • Do you bet large amounts?

Finding the sportsbook that is right for you will depend on the answers to these questions. Some excel in live betting, for example, while others excel when it comes to their exotic prop bets menu. Some have better parlay or teaser payouts and some have much higher wager limits than others.

Here Аre Some of the Main Factors to Consider:

Live Betting

If your main concern is live (in-play) betting, you’ll want to use a bookmaker with robust software that is mobile friendly and has a wide availability of live streaming events covering all nationally televised major sporting events.

Game Totals

If you like to wager on game totals, you’ll want to look for a sportsbook bold enough to offer totals on a wide variety of games. It’s no secret that it’s easier to pick a winner when it comes to game totals versus other types of bets, like straights. As a result, many smaller sportsbooks will not offer totals on many games they feel are risky for them.

Parlay and Teasers

If your poison is parlays and teasers, you’ll want to compare parlay odds and teaser odds from book to book. Any reputable betting website will offer ‘true parlay’ odds. Teasers can be risky for bookmakers and  teaser odds can vary significantly.

More Betting Options

Most websites offer a variety of other betting options, including casino, poker, Facebook, lottery, contests and more. If you are interested in anything besides sports betting, you will want to compare each site’s side products, as some are better than others.

Bovada, for example, has the best poker software and table selection of all the sportsbooks out there, as well as one of the better casino softwares.

Mobile Betting

When making your decision, make sure they offer a mobile solution that has everything that their desktop version offers. Most of the sportsbooks today have responsive websites, meaning that they adjust to any device: desktop, tablet or smartphone.

Arbitrage Betting

Most bookmakers frown upon arbitrage betting and will collar or even kick out suspected ‘Arbers’ . The only websites that accept arbitrage betting openly are exchanges. However, no exchange out there today will accept US players.

If you insist on trying arbitrage betting, we would recommend  you try bookmaker.eu. They are the least likely to collar or kick you out if caught.

Futures Betting

Futures betting is usually something reserved for professional or ‘sharp’ players. Limits tend to be a bit smaller, but there is more room for profit if you know what you are doing. When choosing a sports book for futures betting, be sure to check their odds pages for a complete listing of what they have to offer, as well as limits.

Additional Factors

Bonus Offers

Every gambling site offers a welcome deposit bonus of some sort, usually in the form of a percentage of your initial deposit. When choosing, be sure to read the terms and conditions of that bonus, as they always come with a ‘rollover’ requirement that requires you to risk that deposit a certain number of times before they will permit any payouts.

Rollover requirements vary significantly from sportsbook to sportsbook, so be sure to read the fine print, as certain strings may be hidden. Many ‘sharp’ or professional players will decline any welcome bonus for that reason.


Collecting your winnings

It’s your money, but sometimes it’s hard to get it out of your account. That’s because gambling websites are constantly looking for financial payment processing solutions willing to process payouts for gambling entities.

Sportsbooks are always losing payout solution providers and replacing them with new ones. From e-wallets to check providers to Western Union and Money Gram, the turnover is high. The bigger and more experienced sites are better equipped to deal with this problem.

Another issue is that sites will charge fees to make a withdrawal, or they won’t let you take any money out until you have met certain rollover requirements for any bonuses you may have accepted when you opened your account or made a deposit.

Most will ask you to verify your identity before you can receive any payouts, especially if you made your initial deposit using your credit card. Make sure that you understand the rules involved in removing money from an account with your prospective sportsbook.

Funding your account

While most gaming websites have similar options when it comes to funding your account, not all are created equal in this department, especially when it comes to credit cards. Most have a hard time accepting credit card deposits from its players.

This is because most banks cannot and will not provide processing for sportsbooks that accept US players. In fact, it would be illegal for them to do so, according to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006.

As a result, they are forced to look to the few offshore banks that are willing to provide them with credit card processing. Many will only process Visa credit cards. Mastercard is a little harder to accept and American Express even harder.

Credit card acceptance rates among online sportsbooks are considered good if they’re at 30 to 40 percent, so if you find a site that can successfully process your card, you’re lucky.

High Rollers

Bookmakers love high rollers that lose, but will often collar or even kick out winning or sharp high roller players. Very few of the sportsbooks do not kick out winning players. Such books, will simply ‘move’ off those players and use them to sharpen their odds.

The Bottom Line

Eventually, there comes a time when you’ve got to make that decision and choose a sportsbook. It’s absolutely necessary to balance your needs as a sports bettor and as a client – good customer service is essential, too.

While your first choice won’t necessarily be your sportsbook for life, you have a much better chance of making money if you put the right amount of time and research into making your decision.

Check out our list of recommended betting websites for detailed reviews.

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