Searching for a place to legally and safely bet on sports can seem like a daunting task, but the good news is that there are simple ways to make sense of it all. The best sports betting sites will check off a number of boxes on the checklist. So exactly what should be on the checklist? Here are the top 10 points you’ll want to consider.
There are some operators who nail it in all of the key areas, and others who excel in spots while coming up short elsewhere. As you work through the list, it’s important to make note of which points are the most important to you and your situation. When you find one that hits a lot of the right notes, you’re onto something. Let’s take a closer look at each point on the checklist.
For starters, the sportsbook that you are interested in playing at has to be available in your state. A retail presence is great for a bucket list experience, but the more important factor is this: Can I play online and via mobile app? For many of the top books, the answer is that they’re available in several states with aggressive plans in the works to enter more as soon as possible.
When a book works towards setting up shop in a legal state, they’re investing heavily along the way while going through a rigorous application process. If they’ve been given a green light by state gambling authorities, then you’ll know that they’ve been fully vetted. Perhaps most importantly, you get assurances that your funds will be safe.
Beyond the actual availability, you should check out what it takes to create an account. Can you do it all online or mobile? Or is there another hoop that you have to jump through? For mobile apps, you’ll want to make sure it’ll work with your device. At the very least, the online sportsbook should be optimized to work in mobile browsers.
It’s a competitive world out there, and that extends over to online and mobile sports betting. Operators are battling for market share in a number of legal states, and the competition will only increase in the coming years as additional states come online. For consumers, competitiveness is a great thing as it directly translates into benefits that they can take advantage of.
To gain traction in markets and attract as many users as possible, sportsbooks will offer incentives just for signing up. The actual offers will vary, but you’ll typically see things like free bets, risk-free bets, and deposit matches or bonuses. In a nutshell, you’ll either be getting site credits that you can use for wagering, or be able to have some insurance on your first bet.
The caveat is that the funds you receive aren’t withdrawable and must be played through on site. However, any winnings obtained while using them are yours to do with as you wish. In the case of the risk-free bet or match or bonus incentives, you’ll have to make a deposit in order to be eligible for the offer.
When scouting out places to play, you’ll want to make sure that all of the sports you are interested in are available for wagering. If your interests lay solely with the most popular sports, you shouldn’t have any issue finding them. When it comes to those in the niche category, offerings may vary. Here are the sports you should expect to see virtually everywhere.
Once you get beyond those sports, there can be variances in what’s available. For example, popular smaller sports such as Rugby and Table Tennis will be available in lots of spots, while others such as Lacrosse, Darts, and Volleyball may only be offered in a few places. As part of your research, be sure to make sure what you’re interested in is available where you want to play.
In addition to markets, you’ll want to make sure that all of the bet types you’re interested in are available. Once again, the top options that you would expect to see will be available at virtually all of the legal sites, but there may be some differences when you get further down the list of exotic wagers. At a minimum, here are the ones that should be available.
The above are the most popular bet types, so you shouldn’t run into any issues. If you’re interested in wagers such as teasers, pleasers, round robins and others, then be sure to do some digging and make sure everything you want is there. It can be frustrating when you’re set to play and the options you want aren’t available, so be sure to do your due diligence.
A common refrain among experienced sports bettors is that it’s all a ‘numbers game.’ This goes much further than simply winning more than you lose. The odds offered up by sportsbooks can have a direct impact on your bottom line. While you can always shop around to find the most appealing prices, you’ll want your go-to spots to be among the market leaders.
If you think in terms of a standard spread or total bet, most books will use a baseline of -110 and adjust from there in response to market action. When comparing the numbers at multiple shops, look to see who is on point with that and which operators seem to have the most variance. You can do the same with all other bet types as well, such as the moneyline.
At a minimum, you’ll want your sportsbooks of choice to be in line with what the overall market is supporting. If you come across a shop that seems to be a step behind or always finds a way to work in some extra juice, that may be a big red flag which needs to be investigated further. A book that pays careful attention to the odds and lines is a huge selling point to consider.
An online or mobile sportsbook may look great and have lots of bells and whistles, but it’s important to look past the cosmetics. It also needs to be functional and user-friendly. Similar to a car that looks great but doesn’t run all that well, you don’t want to be dealing with a site that’s filled with bugs and glitches.
For anything tech-related, there are going to be the occasional annoyances that come up which need to be addressed by the team behind the scenes. Those situations can be looked past, but constant problems should not be. Examples include major lag time on certain functions, constantly freezing screens, or problems with bet placement or settlement.
When shopping around, take the sportsbook for a test drive as best as you can. Pay attention to the small things like ease of navigation and how many clicks it takes you to find what you want. The perfect world scenario calls for something that consistently works like a charm while making everything you need easily accessible.
Depositing funds into your account should be quick and painless, and the same should hold true when it’s time to withdraw some winnings. The overall usability of the cashier function will tell the ultimate story on that front, but you’ll want to make sure that the funding method or methods that you prefer are available at the book you plan to play on.
This is another area in which there’s no one size fits all option. While some users might prefer bank transfers, others would rather use PayPal. There’s no right or wrong answer here. It all depends on what you’re most comfortable with, and it should also be an option that you can easily track while tallying up your overall results.
The top operators prioritize the functionality of the onsite cashier and generally offer up a wide range of options. You may not find every method available, but the best shops feature a range of choices. On the processing front, deposits should go through instantly – barring any troubles on your end – while withdrawals should be processed in a reasonable timeframe.
No matter how well run a sportsbook may be, questions or problems may arise. When it happens, you’ll want to be able to get an answer quickly. Many of the top books have great help and FAQ sections which handle the most common queries, but there are times when you might need a little hand holding.
Customer service should be readily accessible as a result. Live chat and toll-free support are the top features to look for, but a book that responds promptly to emails can also do the trick. There should be a dedicated link where you can get some help as needed. If you have to spend an inordinate amount of time searching just to find contact info, that’s a bad sign.
In the competitive legal sports betting environment, those who are sorely lacking in the customer service department are in for a tough road ahead. Word spreads quickly these days, so it won’t be a secret on which operators come up short. On the positive side, many of the top names in the industry do a real solid job in this area.
The incentives shouldn’t stop after your account has been created. Thankfully, they don’t when you’re dealing with the best sports betting sites. You can expect to see a regular array of ongoing promotional offers, many of which will be specific to a sport or an upcoming event. Offerings will vary, but examples include:
While the availability of promo offers isn’t necessarily a determining factor on where you should play, it’s always good to know that you can get some extra bang for the buck just by playing in certain spots. A little extra incentive can also help you to spread out your wings and try out new sports as you look to expand your betting horizons.
It’s not always wise to follow the herd. That said, if a company has become a clear market leader in an industry, then there’s a real good chance that they’re doing something right. In all of the legal sports betting states to date, clear leaders have emerged. Interestingly, the same names seem to be at the top of the charts in a number of spots.
Take the time to review the overall market in your area. Are there some books that are crushing it while everyone else is playing catch up? The ones that are really moving the needle are ones you should review even further. Speaking of reviews, take the time to read assessments of the sites from trusted resources.
It’s possible that the top one or two options in a market just doesn’t do it for you. If that’s the case, just work down the list and explore the options that are slightly less popular. When you find the books that check off the most important points on the list, compare and contrast to find your spot, and remember that playing at multiple books is a viable option as well.
Knowing what you want in a sportsbook can help you sort through the available options in a hurry, but it’s also important to know what to watch out for. Unfortunately, there are operators out there that don’t pass the smell test, like offshore sportsbooks which are known to be unreliable when handling your money. Other flags to watch out for are the acceptance of alternative currencies and the availability of wagers that you won’t find at legal US books. If you stick with our list of recommended sportsbooks that are legal & regulated in the United States, you won’t have any of those concerns.
Now that you’re armed with the key points to look for, you can do your due diligence on the sportsbooks you’re interested in and make your selections from there. We’ve already done a lot of the heavy lifting for you with detailed reviews of all of the top operators in the industry. You’ll find what they all bring to the table, as well as an objective look at strengths and weaknesses. These are the top things to consider when choosing your sportsbook:
Be sure to lean on them as you look for the best sports betting sites, and remember to prioritize the items on the list that are most important to you. Sports betting can be a really fun and entertaining pastime, and it’s that much better when you have some quality sites to play on that are also legal and completely safe.
In a limited sense, yes. Colleges that are inside the state are not acceptable vehicles for your wagers. However, you can make pre-game bets on colleges outside of Virginia. Prop bets, including live betting, are not permitted for any college game.
Yes. Your sports betting winnings are subject to federal, state, and local taxes. They are considered income, and must be reported properly and accurately. Though the anonymous and cash-only nature of retail sportsbooks may lead you to believe that you can skimp on this aspect, online sports betting is completely trackable and creates an easy-to-follow digital trail for any curious auditors.