Sportsbook Regulatory Agencies

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

regulatory-agencies-iconIt’s undeniably true that the offshore sportsbook industry that operates in the United States is a bit of “Wild West” compared to regulated markets. Sportsbook managers thumb their noses at the regulators who will send them to prison if they step onto US soil by still offering their services to American citizens.

However, even the threat of prison time and the tough banking and payment processing environment that sportsbooks work under hasn’t stopped some excellent options from providing excellent service to US-based sports gamblers.

It’s vital that bettors understand the evolution of the betting market. In the early 2000s, online gambling was gaining serious ground, a few years later, the “Poker Boom” started and the number of players gambling online was doubling every year. In 2006, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which hurt the gambling industry worldwide, due to America’s large segment of the market. Since that time, operating an online gambling business (sportsbook, casino, poker room) that is based offshore and operates outside has become considerably more difficult.

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Keep in mind, online sports betting and other forms of gambling have been legal in most other parts of the Western World, especially Europe, for quite some time. Government regulations were not necessary for this industry to succeed. After all, it was much better for consumers pre-UIGEA.

However, the prohibition aspect is what makes things a lot more dangerous for players and operators alike. There is also very little they can do regarding legal standing if an offshore sportsbook chooses not to pay. The industry is full of shell corporations, and ownership is often disguised. Several areas host online gambling sites, some are better than others, particularly when it comes to their regulatory framework. Below, we’ll go over the regulatory bodies and countries that host the majority of online sportsbooks servicing Americans.

Antigua Gambling Regulations

The island nation in the Caribbean is one of the best countries in the world for iGaming licenses. They license many highly regarded online sportsbooks. The Antiguan Directorate of Offshore Gaming is one of the best gaming commissions in the world. You may have seen their .ag domain being utilized at many online sportsbooks.

Antigua has a population of around 90k people but has a healthy economy based on tourism and remote gaming. Antigua won a battle against the US in a World Trade Organization dispute, but as of 2016 have paid no damages. This allowed Antigua to violate American trademarks to the tune of 21 million annually. There have been several reports that Antigua and the United States would end their dispute regarding online gambling in January 2016. No information has been released yet, but it would end a 12-year legal battle between the two countries.

Malta Gambling Regulations

Malta is a hotspot for online gaming operators in Europe. The Malta Lottery and Gaming Authority (LGA) was formed in 2001. Malta is an excellent choice for European operators and players due to their low taxes rates for operators and zero percent tax rate for players who live in the European Union.

Since the passage of the UIGEA, most online gambling sites that once serviced players from the U.S. no longer do so. However, some sportsbooks still operate in the states that have their offices in the country. There many reputable gambling sites that operate in Malta, but they’ve had several sites go bankrupt and plenty of scandals as well. They’re not exactly a “hands-on” authority when it comes to vetting their licenses and they’re not much help if players lose money in the case of their licensees goes bankrupt. Once operators pony up money for a license; there is little to no oversight.

Costa Rica Gambling Regulations

The Central American nation of Costa Rica is home to the largest number of sportsbooks that service US residents. Unlike many other countries, there are no online gaming-specific licenses in Costa Rica. Instead, sportsbooks operating in the country receive a regular business license. The list of sportsbooks that have opened their doors and closed their doors in Costa Rica over the last 15 years is far too many to count. Although, many sportsbooks are operating there that are some of the best online, such as 5Dimes and Heritage.

Some sportsbooks will tell you that they have a traditional gaming license in Costa Rica; this isn’t true. If a Costa Rican sportsbook goes broke, you’re almost certainly not going to get any help from local authorities. The country’s reputation overall is still generally positive regarding gaming, but there’s almost no oversight to sportsbooks operating there.

Panama Gambling Regulations

Panama is similar to Costa Rica in that they don’t have a regulatory body that specifically licenses remote gaming. However, Panama does have additional banking regulations that online gambling sites must follow. While they do host several online sportsbooks, they are far behind most other jurisdictions in this article. We don’t expect much from local officials if you have issues with a sportsbook located in Panama either.

Curacao Gambling Regulations

Formerly a part of the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao is an island nation in the southern Caribbean Sea. The country has a population of just over 150,000 people, and much of their revenue comes from tourism. Curacao actively licenses online sportsbooks through their Curacao Internet Gaming Association (CIGA). Similar to Malta, there isn’t much oversight and regulation that is required of licensees. If operators pay the license fee, they will receive a license without much trouble.

Curacao is a mixed bag when it comes to the results of their license holders. On one hand, they license the largest sportsbook in the world, Pinnacle Sports. On the other, they once licensed Lock Poker, a poker room and casino brand that serviced US players. Lock Poker formerly closed their doors in April 2015.

Kahnawake Gaming Commission

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) operates on Mohawk tribal land in Canada, which is located outside of Montreal. The commission was one of the first of its kind, originally opening its doors in 1996. The KGC is one of the largest in the world for sportsbook providers, and like many other regulatory bodies, they have had their ups and downs with licensees. They licensed both Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker during their cheating scandals.

Both of these online poker rooms went broke without paying players as well. However, the KGC continues to license some of the top gambling sites for US bettors. They currently license many sportsbook/poker rooms on the Merge Gaming Network, along with our top choice for online sports betting, They also license Intertops, the world’s first online sportsbook.

In Closing – Sportsbook Regulatory Agencies

Licensing bodies and regulations are something to consider when choosing an online sportsbook, but they are not as important as one might think. For instance, many sportsbooks are operating out of places like Costa Rica and Panama that have become industry leaders. Likewise, sportsbooks licensed by much more restrictive bodies have become insolvent and failed to pay back depositors. That’s why it’s not worth focusing on where the sportsbook is located, for the most part. Provided they are offshore, and not illegally and dangerously operating inside the USA or another area where US gov’t authorities can easily apprehend them. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Here at Safest Betting Sites, we have a review for every offshore sportsbook that offers their services to US players. We review each sportsbook on a case-by-case basis, the same strategy recommended to our readers.

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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