As exciting as it is to have so many sports betting options at our disposal, I know how overwhelming it can be to choose the right online sportsbook. For those that shop lines (which should be all of you if you’re serious about sports betting), this becomes even more overwhelming having to select multiple sports betting homes.
Although we are (mostly) past the wild west days of the internet filled with shady gambling sites and straight-up scams, still, not all online sportsbooks are created equal. Due to the antiquated legislation in the United States, American sports bettors outside of Nevada are left with an unregulated online industry and have to send their money overseas. Today, I’m going to cover the main items to consider before choosing your next sportsbook.
And even though this article’s focus is online sportsbooks for Americans, some of the principles laid out below can still be applied if you have multiple physical locations and/or regulated online options at your disposal (lucky you!). If you fall in this category, I still suggest reading the majority of the article if you are just starting out. With that said, let’s dive in!
Online security in general has become one of the biggest issues we face today, and is easily the most important thing to consider before opening an account. Fortunately, the realm of online sports betting has become much safer since the infancy of the internet. Although it is still an unregulated industry for us in the U.S., most offshore companies have wised up to the fact that being an honest business is in their best interest. With our world becoming more digital by the day, it’s not too difficult to find out if a sportsbook (or any business) is legitimate. A great place to start is Sportsbook Review. There, they rate online sportsbooks, track customer complaints, maintain a blacklist, and attempt to settle disputes. More on this site later.
There are plenty of trustworthy sportsbooks out there, but you must remember one thing – regardless of the book you choose, you are sending your money (and often personal information) online to an offshore business that is outside of any regulation or jurisdiction that can help recover your funds (and personal information) if necessary. This money you send should already be cash you can afford to lose as I discussed in this article, but there’s a chance it’s gone for good once it is sent.
I don’t want to scare you away from sports betting, but just be aware that this is always a possibility no matter how trustworthy the sportsbook might be. The best way to minimize this risk is by reading reviews, checking out sports betting forums, and getting recommendations from people you know and trust.
Now, there are a number of ways to fund your account, but the absolute safest way to do this is via Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Most of the major sportsbooks now accept this form of deposit, and I highly recommend choosing a sportsbook that does. This allows you to fund your account without providing any financial information, and it is also much faster than any other deposit method. If you’re unsure about buying Bitcoin and using it to fund an account, check out this step-by-step guide on how it’s done.
If you do need to use a credit or debit card though, I highly recommend getting a card that you only use to deposit to your betting account(s). You can also buy a prepaid debit card to do this, just make sure it allows for international charges. I recommend this because, albeit rare, fraudulent charges have happened in the past for sports bettors and this will help you easily identify any transactions you did not make. 5Dimes in particular is notorious for this happening, so PLEASE keep this in mind.
When you deposit via credit/debit card or other methods beside cryptocurrency, you also need to provide quite a bit of personal information. This is typical for customer validation, and it allows the sportsbook to confirm who you are. This is done mainly to ensure you are not opening multiple accounts and to confirm where to send your withdrawals (and to whom). Regardless, it is still sensitive information and you should definitely consider this when choosing your sportsbook.
Odds and Juice/Vig
Once you have weeded out the sites that are simply unsafe and dishonest, an important factor to consider is the odds the sportsbook provides. You always want to be betting the best odds available, and there are a couple things to look for in this regard. First, know which sports you intend to bet on regularly. For instance, if you want to bet baseball daily during the summer, the book should absolutely be offering “dime lines” – which means there is just a ten-cent difference on their money lines.
Example: Favorite -150 / Underdog +140, or Favorite -135 / Underdog +125
I wrote about how much dime lines matters here, but in short, having good odds can determine whether you have a winning or losing baseball season. Likewise, if you follow European soccer, especially smaller leagues, you will want to a) make sure they book the games you want to bet and b) offer competitive odds. If their market for the Scottish Premier League is small, they may not have odds with any value and will have a high vig/commission on these bets.
Some books also offer reduced juice, which means they take less commission on each bet. This is typically only for spreads and totals in American basketball and football as they are the most popular, but this is a significant advantage if you intend to bet these regularly. The top reduced juice sportsbooks are Heritage and 5Dimes. Heritage offers -108 odds on basketball and football sides as opposed to the typical -110. Instead of a 10% commission on losing bets, they only take 8%. 5Dimes has an even better offer at -105 odds. Remember though, these great odds come with a trade-off – only deposit with cryptocurrency here!
I cannot stress enough how reduced juice is such a huge benefit. In short, it lowers the winning percentage you need to break-even. If every bet you make is at -110 odds, you need to win over 52.36% of your bets to make a profit. But if you can bet at -105 odds on average, this lowers your break-even to 51.22%. This may not seem like much, but it adds up over hundreds of bets and sports bettors need to use every edge they can find.
Promotions & Sign-up Bonuses
Just about every online sportsbook has some sort of welcome bonus (along with reload bonuses if you deposit more into your account after your initial deposit). We’ve all seen those flashy ads with the “up to $1,000 welcome bonus” promotions. This definitely should not be the leading factor in your decision, but it can be a valuable bonus as sportsbooks compete for your business.
A good place to start is this page on Sportsbook Review. They list most of the major books with current sign-up bonuses along with the grade they rate the site. As with other sites that do this, it’s important to keep in mind that these are affiliate links for the website (they are paid by the sportsbooks when someone uses their link to sign-up), so they only list the books they have partnered with. However, Sportsbook Review overall is a trusted site and has mostly accurate reviews for sportsbooks. The main problem I have with them is that they rate 5Dimes an A+ sportsbook, which clearly does not consider 5Dimes’ history of fraudulent charges on their customers’ cards that I mentioned earlier. So, with this and any other site, read reviews with a grain of salt.
With that said, sportsbooks may also offer better bonuses on their own site. For example, BetOnline offers a 100% welcome bonus when you deposit with Bitcoin, versus the 50% bonus advertised on Sportsbook Review. Every sportsbook has a Promotions page, so definitely check that as well to compare offers.
Once you do that, be sure to read the fine print for some key details (often listed as Terms and Conditions under promotions). For one, there is difference between a 50% free play bonus and 50% cash bonus. Let’s say we are depositing $1,000 so we are receiving a $500 bonus. With the free play bonus, you have $500 worth of free bets. You won’t lose anything with these bets, and you keep the winnings from them. Conversely, a 50% cash bonus will give you an additional $500 in your account when you deposit, and you effectively have $1,500. The latter is obviously the better deal with all else being equal.
You might be thinking, “why don’t I just make a large deposit with a cash bonus and withdraw right away?” Keep reading that fine print! All promotions and bonuses have some sort of rollover requirement before you can cash out. A “rollover” means you need to risk the amount of your deposit and bonus a certain number of times first. For example, BetOnline’s 100% Bitcoin Bonus, which is a free play bonus, has a large 14x rollover. This means if we deposit $1,000 worth of Bitcoin, we need to risk $28,000 total before cashing out our winnings (($1,000 deposit + $1,000 bonus) x 14 rollover).
That can take a long time and if you don’t practice sound bankroll management, you likely won’t even make it long enough. However, if you bet regularly and use your bankroll wisely, it can be done. Either way, the rollover requirement is a big factor to consider and you should try to find the lowest one you can find with a reputable book. If you don’t plan on using a sportsbook long-term, then I suggest declining the bonus completely so that you are not restricted to withdraw your funds.
Withdrawal speed, difficulty, fees
Another advantage of using Bitcoin (or other cryptocurrencies) as your deposit method is you can use that to cash out as well. This is without a doubt the fastest and cheapest way to get paid from your sportsbook, and I highly recommend going this route. Most books don’t even charge a fee for this, but if they do it is minimal compared to the other methods. Besides waiting weeks for a check, this removes a lot of hassle to have the check sent in the first place as well.
If using cryptocurrency is not an option, you will absolutely want to know the details and options for cashing out before joining. This information is typically listed under Payment Methods or Funding Options, which will often have a link on the home screen for each sportsbook. As always, read through each sportsbook’s terms and conditions carefully for their specific details and fees so you understand everything before depositing. Most sportsbooks also have customer service live chat available, so someone can answer any questions you have.
The most common methods offered besides cryptocurrency are checks, bank wires, and sportsbook transfers. Keep in mind that a check will have a fee around $50, bank wires can cost $50-$100, and sportsbook transfers are typically free. Depositing a check from a foreign-based sportsbook may seem crazy, if not impossible for American bettors, but this is rarely an issue. In the United States, the only true act against the law in regard to online sports betting is the actual funding of it, and most (if not all) of this law falls on the banks that process the funding*. Receiving money actually isn’t an issue. If there is a problem though, the sportsbook will work with you on sending a new check or using a different method if you notify them within a certain amount of days. Again, read the fine print!
*I am not lawyer and this is not legal counsel, simply my current understanding.
Read reviews, with a grain of salt
I mentioned earlier to read through online reviews, and there are a number of sites that list these such as Sportsbook Review and Safest Betting Sites. I also mentioned that almost all reviews will have an ulterior motive behind them. I’m not saying all reviews are dishonest, but if they have linked the sportsbook in the review, there’s a likely chance it is an affiliate link and the website will receive a commission for referring the new customer. This is simply something to keep in mind and not take each review as gospel.
A perfect example of this is BangTheBook.com’s review of BetDSI. They have written reviews of several sportsbooks, and BetDSI is ranked number one. If you listen to their podcast or visit the site regularly, this shouldn’t come as a surprise as BetDSI sponsors the podcast. However, they rate the sportsbook with an A+ grade while SportsbookReview.com recently lowered their grade of BetDSI from a C to a D+ due to multiple withdrawal complaints.
This example is a bit extreme, but I wanted to drive home the obvious that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Sportsbook Review is the biggest authority for reviews and policing online sportsbooks, but even they have their flaws (such as their A+ rating of 5Dimes that I cited earlier). In short, read reviews from several sources and try to weed out the promotional fluff.
If you’ve made it this far, then congratulations! I hope the above information was informative and stimulating.
I also hope it gave some insight about the online sports betting industry you may not have been aware of. To wrap everything up, I’ve put together my short list of top sportsbooks that I trust, along with the sports and wager types they are best for, their promotions page, and review from Sportsbook Review. All are graded A+ by SBR, but again, don’t let that be your only determining factor. In no particular order:
Bookmaker - One of the leading books in the industry. Set the opening lines for most major sports and offer overnight lines as well. They specifically post the earliest lines and highest limits for NFL. Offer a 50% free play bonus (up to $300) with only 7x rollover, and currently offer a 25% cash bonus for all Bitcoin reloads!
5Dimes - DEPOSIT WITH BITCOIN ONLY. I know I slammed 5Dimes quite a bit in this article, but they're still one of the best out there. As mentioned, they are most notably regarded for their reduced juice offering. This is especially beneficial for the long seasons of baseball and basketball, as that extra edge adds up. 5Dimes is also great for bettors interested in international soccer, tennis, and other lesser followed sports. Their open parlay options are also second to none. Lastly, they offer overnight lines for most sports, but post later than Bookmaker. Reduced juice is the default bonus option and is easily the most valuable in the long run, but other bonuses are listed on the promotions page.
Bovada - Although commonly referenced as a square/public book, there are some advantages to using Bovada. First, their live betting platform is surprisingly considered the best in the industry. And since Bovada is a public book, they often have better lines if you regularly back underdogs and unders (due to the public preferring favorites and overs). However, Bovada also has some very shady practices if you are a long term winning bettor, so at best it's a backup book for most according to Twitter handicapper The White Whale*. Another negative is that their lines are out later than most, but their 50% free play bonus (up to $250) has a small rollover requirement of just 5x.
Heritage – Since I focus on basketball and baseball, this is my personal favorite. Heritage offers -108 reduced juice on basketball and football sides and totals, as well as dime lines and overnight odds for MLB. They also have open parlay and teaser options. 5Dimes offers slightly better odds, but Heritage's trustworthiness, bonuses and rewards are what put them a step above in my opinion. New customers receive a 50% cash bonus (up to $250) with 12x rollover on their first deposit, and their cash back program provides a great bonus every 3 months; especially if you are a volume bettor. Their one negative is their limited options (and comparably worse odds) for soccer, tennis, other non-American sports.
*Special thanks to the While Whale for most of the information and insight on the sportsbooks listed above! If you don't already, he's a fun and informative follow on Twitter and hosts a great podcast called The Deep Dive. I highly recommend subscribing!