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Legal Betting Sites

Fact: In an older study (2007), data suggests that 1 in 6 Americans gamble on sports. Only 2% of Americans gambled online. [1]

Considering that 25% of Americans watch between 6-10 hours of sports every week, those numbers might be more higher if it were easier (and legal) to gamble online in the states. [2]

But that’s not the case. Right now there are only 3 states that have legislation in place deeming online gambling legal (with a heavy emphasis on poker and casino games). Only one state (Nevada) has launched an online site – although New Jersey will be soon to follow. The rest of states are either trying to legalize gaming (and failing), or they choose to prohibit gambling in one form or another.

That’s not very encouraging, I know. You’re here because you want to become a statistic, one of those 2 percenters that bet on their favorite sports team each week.

We’re here to tell you that it’s still possible. You just need to know where to get started – that includes what books to sign up to, what deposit options to use and the pitfalls you need to avoid.

What Deposit Options Exist for American Bettors?

Next to finding a reputable sportsbook, the most challenging task to betting online is finding a deposit method. The following are the methods we’ve found to work the best.

VisaVisa is accepted everywhere. It’s a convenient, simple to use and fast. Just punch in your numbers, how much you want to deposit and hit submit. Your money should be available within minutes. The biggest downside to Visa is that you’re leaving footprints for your bank to follow. You may also face the occasional decline.

MasterCard – Same as Visa, except not accepted at all sportsbooks.

Money Order – A money order is a form of payment paid in advance to your bank or post office. Sportsbooks prefer these because it’s not possible to issue a chargeback.

Echecks – This is the virtual form of paper checks. To make a deposit all you need is your checkbook. Just enter your account, routing and check number, how much you want to deposit, and hit submit.

Money Transfers – Go to your nearest MoneyGram or Western Union office (or to their website), give them the money and tell them where to send it, and they’ll ship it for you for a nominal fee. This is an ideal option because no footprints are left between you and bank.

Deposit Bonuses: The What, Why & How

The next thing I want to discuss are deposit bonuses. If you’re new to a sportsbook, chances are that you’ll be offered one. But often they’re too good to be true, so you need to arm yourself with knowledge so that you’re not taken advantage of. So here is the what, why and how of deposit bonuses.

What: Deposit bonuses are incentives. The objective is to get a new player to sign up and make a real money deposit with the promise that their deposit will be matched (a percentage). For example, a 100% deposit bonus up to $600 would mean that for every dollar you deposit, the book will match it (100%) to a max of $600.

Why: Nearly every book, casino and poker room does it. So often books need to offer a bonus just to keep up. They do it to distinguish themselves too. A deposit bonus also encourages new customers to take action now, thinking that they will receive double their money (or more/less) free.

How: This is the part where things get tricky. When the sportsbook gives you a deposit bonus, before you get to keep the money you need to make some real money bets. How much depends on the books’ requirements.

For example, Bovada’s requirements are that you wager 3x the deposit amount plus bonus on their 50% offer. So if you deposit $100, you’ll get $50 in free money. However, before you can make a withdrawal you’ll need to wager $450 first (($100+$50) 3).

It’s important that you read the terms and conditions before signing up and accepting the bonus. Aside from accidently signing your life away, you want to make sure the bonus offer is reasonable (they don’t make you wager $50,000 for a $500 bonus) and so you don’t accidently do anything that can void your offer, such as cashing out.

Pitfalls American Sports Bettors Need to Avoid

Here are some common pitfalls we recommend new (American) sports bettors avoid.

Signing up to large books. Often the largest, most touted books are the most shady. They offer large commissions to websites to push potential bettors their way. History tells us that this hardly ever ends well for the customer.

Relying (heavily) on review sites. Many of the larger review sites (like Sportsbook Review (SBR)) are biased. The push the books that offer the largest commissions. Furthermore, sites like this have a documented history of pushing books they know to be scams.

Using credit cards (if other options exist). As mentioned above, credit cards leave footprints that your bank (or other officials) can follow. This can lead to account terminations or possible (rare, but legal) consequences. It’s in your best interest to avoid credit cards if possible, and to instead use gift cards, prepaid cards, money orders or transfers.

Following sports picks. The majority of people or companies offering sports picks are scams. They highlight their wins, downplay their losses and are essentially breakeven bettors themselves. Why pay someone to breakeven at best, and at worst, to lose your money? You can lose on your own.

There are exceptions to every rule, of course. Just do your due diligence, talk to your peers and use some common sense. You should be fine then.

FAQs About Gambling at Online Casinos in the USA

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers regarding betting on sports online.

Is it illegal to bet on sports in America?

Technically, yes. However, the laws apply more to bookies than bettors. And to the best of our knowledge there has only been one person charged with any crimes – approximately a $500 fine for making more than $100,000 in bets.

Are there any online sportsbooks licensed and regulated in the USA?

No. It’s questionable whether or not we’ll see sportsbetting regulated in the future.

Sportsbook _____ stole my money. What can I do?

Not a lot, sorry. You might try talking to some of the bigger forums. Often they can act as a mediator (especially if they advertise for the room). This can get you some or all of your money back.

Push come to shove, after bugging the room for your money, you might make an offer to settle for a fraction of it. It’s better than being stiffed for the total amount.

Will I face legal trouble if I place bets online?

Unlikely, based on our research. But we’re not lawyers or officials. So you should still do your own due diligence, follow the laws in your area, and if you have any questions, contact your local law enforcement or lawyer for more clarification.



[2] http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=5988173

About Cliff Spiller

Steve came to his interest in poker later in life than some; a freelance writer who primarily covers the financial industry, Steve was drawn to online poker by the striking similarities shared between the markets and the games played at poker sites. Steve heads up content areas related to banking, security and currency as they relate to playing poker online.