Sports Betting FAQ

Written by: Joseph Falchetti, Editor-in-Chief, Pro Sports Bettor and Casino Expert
Last updated:
15 minute read

Online sports betting has changed a lot since its inception. At the turn of the century, online gambling in all forms was extremely new. To a large portion of the population, including many governments it was largely an unknown. Within a few years, online betting, including online poker, casino gambling, and sports betting was exploding across the world and in the United States. Until, the next boom, the years of 2000 to 2006 were easily the golden age of online gambling.

Since that time, there have been many laws and regulations adopted in by the US government concerning online sports betting. The industry has changed a lot over the last decade and a half. However, it’s still a more than a viable option for sports bettors. There are still lots of excellent choices and depositing into an online sportsbook can be done in a matter of seconds. There is still money to be made in this much-maligned market.

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Online Sports Betting Background

Is online sports betting illegal in the US?

Online sports betting is not illegal in the US. No federal law criminalizes sports betting from on the individual level. Individual states may have laws that make the activity illegal, but on the national level – you’re not committing a crime by placing a sports bet online. We cover this much deeper in-depth in our US betting sports guide, including which states are friendlier to online gambling compared to others.

For example, Washington State has draconian laws on the books when it comes to online sports betting and internet gambling. It’s a felony on the level of possessing child pornography in the state to gamble online, but no one has ever been charged with a crime for gambling online in Washington State. Similar laws on the on the books in a few states, but again, they’re not enforced. As an individual, there should be no worries about legal penalties for betting sports online. No one has been charged with anything, and it’s not a crime in most states to place bets at online betting sites.

Where is online sports betting legal?

Full-scale sports betting is only expressly legal in Nevada. They allow residents to bet online with Vegas sportsbooks. That is the extent of regulated online sports betting in the United States. Sports lotteries are legal and regulated in Oregon, Delaware, and Montana.

Do you think sports betting will eventually be legal and regulated across the United States?

It seems like an inevitability, but that it could still be awhile. Several states have already begun to regulate online poker and casino gambling. Sports betting hasn’t had as much luck but recently New Jersey has passed a new law allowing sports betting in the state. Other states have drafted bills approving sports betting, and many have pushed for a repeal of PAPSA, which banned sports betting nationwide but allowed exceptions to Nevada and for sports lotteries in Oregon, Delaware, and Montana. Legalized sports betting has also gotten support from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who said he supports the federal legalization of sports betting in November 2014. Commissioner Rob Manfred also stated in February 2015 that, “Gambling in terms of our society has changed its presence on legalization”.

How old do I need to be to place bets online?

At most offshore sportsbooks, you only need to be 18. In Las Vegas and the legal age to gamble and drink is 21. You will be able to play three years earlier at most online sportsbooks, poker rooms, and casinos.

What is the value of bets at Nevada sportsbooks each year?

Bookmakers in Nevada, which is technically the only place expressly legal when it comes to full-scale sports wagering have a handle of about 4-5 billion each year. The amount has steadily grown in recent years but is still a meager amount compared to unregulated betting.

What is the value of bet by Americans each year?

It’s impossible to know for sure, but the unregulated or “illegal” gambling industry is estimated at somewhere between $380-$400 billion per year. Nevada sportsbooks take a fraction of that amount. Unregulated gambling counts offshore sportsbooks and local bookies, many of which use pay-per-head sites to take action. Americans are betting through other channels than just legal regulated sportsbooks.

Do you have a glossary on common sports betting terms?

Safest Betting Sites has a page dedicated to common sports betting terms. We’ve tried to add as much as possible, let us know if we’re missing any key terms.

How do online sportsbooks make money?

Online betting sites charge vigorish or a commission on each bet they take. Think of it as a service charge. Bookmaking has come a long way since the early days. The balanced book isn’t necessarily the goal for operators anymore, we discuss this further in an article of the same topic, How Sportsbooks Make Money.

What is vigorish?

The vigorish is a commission that all sportsbooks charge on each bet they take. It is also called vig for short, juice, or a bookmaker’s overround in European markets. Vigorish is what gives the sportsbooks an advantage before a bet is placed and is the primary way sportsbooks make money.

Betting Online 101 – Basics & Bet Types

How are odds set?

The odds sets are the initial or opening line is set by groups of extremely knowledgeable oddsmakers, who are incorporating statistics and public perception into the line. There are several companies around the world whose job is to set opening lines.

Where can I get real-time odds?

There are at a lot of sites that provide real-time odds. Some come free and others charge a fee to see them. offers live odds for free and features two of the sharpest bookmakers online in and Pinnacle Sports. is a sports betting portal that also has live odds for free.

What are the different types of betting odds?

There are more than a few different odds types. The most popular odds types are decimal and moneyline odds, with fractional odds just behind those two. The default odds at your sportsbook will depend on your region, but just about all sportsbooks offer several different odds types.

Are there any resources to find odds of past games?

There are a few services that bettors can pay for, but the best option we found that was completely free was the database at It’s not organized the best, but they have every major U.S. sport going back to 2006 with opening numbers and line movement included.

What is the money line?

When you bet the moneyline, the team or selection must the game or contest outright. There is no point spread. American odds are also sometimes called moneyline odds.

What is point spread betting?

Point spread betting is wagering when the result is determined by the accuracy of the wager and is not a definitive win or lose outcome (due to pushes), such as moneyline or outright betting. The point spread is a number oddsmakers use to as a handicap between two unequal teams to generate betting interest on both sides. We delve into the history of the point spread along with a deeper explanation and some strategies.

Are parlays bad bets?

Parlay bets are bad. In our parlay betting article, we explain the times that they may be +EV (expected value). With that said, bettors are usually better of placing two or three straight bets, instead of betting a two or three team parlay. It’s important to stay away from any parlays that are beyond two or three selections, the bookmaker’s edge gets increasingly tougher to beat as more teams are added to the parlay.

What is a correlated parlay?

A correlated parlay is a parlay with two bets that are tied to each other. If one of them wins, it increases the odds or likelihood of the other bet winning, and vice-versa. A real life example of this is if you wanted to bet that it would be cloudy but that it would also rain. The two events are correlated enough that booking this bet would be unprofitable for a bookmaker. Almost all sportsbooks won’t allow correlated parlays.

What is a round-robin bet?

A round-robin bet is a way to place multiple parlays by placing a single wager. They are rarely used, they’re an excellent way to bet multiple parlays with x number of teams. Visit our round robin calculator page.

What are if-bets?

An if-bet is almost the same as making two straight wagers with one caveat, you have to wager on two games and can’t cash out after a single win. They’re not much use unless you want to bet multiple games but don’t have enough in your account to cover it. You also won’t be forced to log in and place more wagers if your first leg wins. A reverse bet is similar to an if-bet but wagered in the opposite order.

Are teasers bad bets?

Teaser bets, like parlays, are generally poor wagers when it comes to making a straight wager. However, that isn’t always the case. We tackle good NFL teasers bets here. There are some +EV spots in both sports for teasers, but it is worth noting the market has adjusted to basic strategy teasers, known as “Wong Teasers”. Similar to parlays, bettors should never bet teaser that are more than 2-3 teams or selections.

What are proposition bets?

Propositions, also known as prop bets, are wagers offered by sportsbooks that are not related to the final score line of the game. Generally, they center around a team or player’s performance in a game. The most common prop is “Which team will score first?” Props also center around individual performances, like if a player will score a touchdown or how many yards a quarterback might pass for or basketball player might score in a game. Props bets typically come with -115, but they are still a weak spot for sportsbooks. Proposition markets are appealing to new bettors because the odds are soft, and there aren’t many high stakes wise guys looking at props due to their lower max betting limits.

What are futures bets?

Futures bets are extremely popular and often quoted by the sports media, especially when it comes to Super Bowl betting. Futures bets got a lot of press, but they’re one of the markets with the least +EV opportunities, despite being inefficient. Vigorish can be extremely high when it comes to futures, making most wagers -EV.

What is an Asian handicap Bets?

Asian handicaps bets are one of the most popular forms of soccer betting. Instead of traditional three-way markets (favorite-underdog-draw), Asian handicaps offer two possible outcomes. They are a favorite of bettors for this reason and because of their low vig compared to three-way markets.

What is a sucker bet?

A sucker bet is one that has a -EV(expected value) expectation and has no value to the bettor. Straight bets aren’t usually sucker bets, but there are many bets that bookmakers offer that have no value. The most commonly bet sucker bet are parlays and teasers over three teams.

Sports For Betting Online

What major sports on which sportsbooks lose the most money?

To be clear, the sportsbooks don’t lose long term on any sport, but MLB baseball is where they are most vulnerable. The number of games to monitor is tough, and baseball’s advanced statistics can be a powerful tool for handicappers who build betting models.

What is the best sport(s) to bet online?

The sportsbooks lose the most on baseball, but that doesn’t mean it’s the market to attack if that’s not your area of expertise. You should be betting online on the sports you’re most knowledgeable about makes the most sense, but there are other considerations. Such as the sharpness of the market and the availability of profitable betting opportunities. Bettors should always look to seek out inefficient markets to find value.

What are the most popular sporting events to bet on?

The most popular sporting events to be on worldwide would be the World Cup soccer tournament. For American sports bettors, two events garner the most wagering, and it’s not close, they are the NFL Super Bowl and the NCAA Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness.

What are small betting market sports?

Sports that have lower wagering limits and are less popular than other sports in the region your sportsbook in servicing. For instance, e-sports and mixed martial arts are still small market sports compared to the much larger betting markets of football and basketball wagering. When sportsbooks have lower betting limits, their less confident with their odds. Small market sports can be markets to attack for inefficiencies, especially those looking to build a bankroll.

What is live betting on sports?

Live betting on sports, also known as in-play betting, is the ability to bet on sports during the game. Live betting is available for just about every sport these days and at 90% or more of all sportsbooks. Live betting can be profitable, but these markets sometimes have extremely high vigorish.

What is eSports betting?

eSports betting is short for electronic sports. Basically, e-sports are competitive competitions involving videogames. Electronic sports have risen greatly in popularity in recent years, both regarding viewership and betting interest. E-sports are an emerging market that some expect to grow exponentially in the coming years. The two most popular games are Dota 2 and League of Legends (LOL).

Can you bet on politics and entertainment at sportsbooks?

Yes, everything from elections to critical votes like “Brexit” and more is available for betting in the political realm of sports gambling. Some larger bookmakers have odds on just about every political race. Entertainment markets are the same. Betting markets are expansive and include everything from reality TV shows to more prestigious events like the Oscars.

What other things can I bet on at most online sportsbooks?

We do our best to discuss the most popular betting options for players, both when it comes to sports available and bet types. However, we can’t possibly cover every event or sport that is available for betting. If you’re interested in betting on it, it’s likely there is a sportsbook out there that has odds on it. Heck, you can bet on high school football at some offshore sportsbooks.

Online Sports Betting – Making Money

What percentage of bets do I need to win in order to profit?

The percentage of bets that you need to win in order to profit depends on the vigorish. The standard juice on a straight bet is -110, which means you have to win 52.38% of your wagers to break even. Any percentages above that are profitable with -110 vig. Hitting 55% of your bets is an excellent goal for those new to betting, even the best sports bettors top out at about 60%. Your break-even percentage can be lower if you’re betting at a reduce juice sportsbook. Using reduced juice markets and line shopping is a recipe for success if you’re looking to reduce your break-even rate.

How much can I win? Can I make living betting sports online?

Theoretically, you can win unlimited. Realistically, making a living at sports betting is extremely hard but possible. The market is still viable, but getting your bet sizes limited is a major problem once you start to become profitable. Especially in U.S. markets, it can be tougher to get a lot down once you become known as a profitable, +EV sports bettor. Regarding return on investment, it’s tough to say, but long term you can expect an ROI from anywhere between 3-10% on the amount you bet. Your edge on each bet is going to vary widely and depending on your starting bankroll. It may take some time to make any serious money.

With that said, sports betting is scalable. If you’re a profitable gambler and can beat the best sportsbooks online (no easy task), you will likely make a considerable amount of money before your limits are cut and if you can beat certain sportsbooks, like Pinnacle Sports, your limits may not get cut at all. No one should go into learning sports betting with a goal to bet for a living. Instead, focus on finding value in the lines and building your bankroll. For most people, it can be an excellent side income. If you’re successful for some years and making excellent money, then maybe it’s time to consider doing it professionally.

What kind of bankroll do I need for betting online?

You can get started in sports betting with just a few dollars. If you follow bankroll management strategy and are a profitable bettor, you can grow your bankroll quickly. Bankroll management is one biggest pitfalls for gamblers of all types, not just sports bettors. Adopting a bankroll management plan is vital to success at sports betting. We recommend a fixed plan for most bettors, especially those new to betting, but if you can accurately quantify your edge, then a variable plan would maximize your EV. Kelly Criterion is a variable staking plan, but it has its advantages and disadvantages.

What types of bets do most professionals focus on?

Well, for one thing, they’re not betting parlays and teasers with a large number of teams (more than three). In fact, they rarely bet parlays at all, and teasers in rarer and rarer spots. The professional level wiseguys go where the value is and where they are most skilled, whether that’s football, basketball, or a lesser known sport. Straight wagers are going to be the preferred bet of sharp bettors, but they will be happy to exploit inefficiencies with parlays and teasers, along with other bet types.

What markets are the world’s top bettors crushing now? You would have to ask them. They’re not likely to give away their secrets. As the sportsbooks could adjust to their methods and it would make it a lot more difficult for them to profit. The guys selling picks aren’t elite sports bettors. They’re much closer to scammers. A sports bettor who is crushing worldwide betting markets wouldn’t sell their advice.

How many online betting sites should I use for betting?

You should use as many online betting sites as you want. Using multiple sportsbooks is important to line shopping. We recommend bettors use at least two sportsbooks, but three would be ideal. If you’re looking to make serious money at betting, using multiple betting sites is a must.

Why is line shopping important when placing sports bets?

Line shopping is important because it is the best way to find value in the market. As a sports bettor, you will make plenty of money off spotting inefficiencies. Most importantly, line shopping always assures you will get the best price available on each of your bets, which adds up tremendously long term.

Do you have to pay taxes on your online sports betting winnings?

It depends on your region. U.S. citizens have to pay taxes on every form of gambling, even money on unregulated sites or with their corner bookie. There are particulars to follow when reporting gambling income on your IRS forms. In other countries, tax situations will differ. Most countries tax gambling, but there are a few notable exceptions that require no taxing on money won from gambling, such as Canada or the UK.

Any tips on tracking wins and loses?

We cover this a bit in our bankroll management article. Sharp Bet Tracker and is our top choice. They’re both completely free and user-friendly. There are plenty of other ways to track your results, something we highly recommend. An Excel spreadsheet should do the trick as well.

Variations of Sports Betting

Do you recommend local bookies?

We recommend online sports betting as the best choice but we wouldn’t advise bettors to completely write off local bookies. There are certainly a lot of pitfalls with locals, unreliability and then some that regularly stiff players, but if you can find a trusted local they can be an excellent complement to online sportsbooks.

What is a pay-per-head (PPH) site?

Pay-per-head sites are services that local bookies can use manage their player accounts and betting odds. Instead of the bookie managing the bets himself, he can send his clients to an offshore website for a fee for each player he has, hence the “pay-per-head.” Many PPH sites offer comparable markets and odds to post-up offshore sportsbooks. Some more advanced ones provide casino gambling and phone support as well.

Are daily fantasy sports legal (DFS)? Is DFS classified as gambling?

Daily fantasy sports are legal in most states and is not classified as gambling under the UIGEA. DFS faced legal questions after an “insider trading” scandal at DraftKings and FanDuel in October 2015. The employee in question was cleared of wrongdoing but put DFS under the microscope from regulators. DFS was banned in several states, but the trend as of late 2016 is trending towards state regulation and licensing, rather than prohibition. Currently, DFS is available in all states except Washington State, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Alabama, Rhode Island, and Delaware.

DFS sites scored were dealt a blow when they were banned from operating in New York State, but after spending $200,000 in lobbying expenses, they succeeded in reentering the state after a law was passed. DFS is not classified as gambling on the federal level. Some states have declared it gambling and banned operators from their jurisdictions. It is our opinion that DFS is gambling, but just like poker and sports betting, that both have luck elements, skill wins out in the end.

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About the Author

Joseph Falchetti

Joseph Falchetti

Editor-in-Chief, Pro Sports Bettor and Casino Expert

Joe is the author of the majority of sports betting pages on SBS and he serves as a gambling consultant to our content team. He's been mentioned on as a gaming analyst, and his articles have been linked by larger publications, such as the New York Times.

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