Our Favorite Online Sportsbooks

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

How To Find Bookies Near You And Online

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Local bookies have been a fixture in American society for some time. Today, working with online bookies is the way to go when it comes to sports betting.

According to the U.S. government, all bookmakers that aren’t regulated by Nevada are technically illegal.

However, there’s a big difference between betting with an offshore sportsbook that has been in the business for decades compared to an old Italian guy at your local bar.

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Online Bookies Vs. Local Bookies – Legal Concerns

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As we’ve mentioned several times on this site, placing an online sports bet is not against federal law. A few states have laws regarding online gambling. For instance, in Washington State, online gambling is a Class C felony.

However, no one has ever been charged for gambling online in Washington or any other state that has these draconian laws. The laws are mostly similar when it comes to betting with a local bookie, not an online bookie.

Bookmarking Criminalized, Not The Bettor

Most states criminalize bookmaking, not the bettor who calls his bookie or bets through a pay-per-head site. This is similar to the UIGEA’s criminalization of overseas gambling operators.

The sites offering the service are breaking U.S. law, there is no law against placing bets online for the individual. Bettors will find that the laws are similar when dealing with local bookies.

Some states criminalize placing a bet with a local bookie, but these are almost all summary offenses or at worst, misdemeanors. Most states have no laws against placing a bet with a bookie.

Always Best To Know the Law

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It’s best to know the law in your area before deciding to place a bet, but even if there is a law against placing a bet with a bookie – in many cases, they are not enforced. However, this isn’t to say there are zero legal risks for placing bets with a bookie.

Clearly, online bookie options do seem to appear much safer however, we’re not lawyers and we don’t advocate breaking the law. We encourage bettors to use their best judgment.

Finding a local bookie shouldn’t be hard. Many ask, “How can I find a bookie?” Well, it’s usually as simple as going to a place where bookies frequent and start talking about sports betting.

These are usually bars, especially on the east coast, but casinos or poker rooms are also other spots that local bookies frequent regularly.

How Bookies Operate

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As we’ve come much further into the technological age, most bookies aren’t giving you lines out of the newspaper anymore. If they are, you should be eager to bet with these guys, because their odds will be incredibly soft!

Many still operate over the phone and will read their odds off to you. It’s best to write these down and then call back with your plays. However, it is now becoming the standard for locals to use something called a pay-per-head service.

Pay Per Head Bookies

Pay-per-head (PPH) offers local bookies an online sports betting site that has its servers located offshore. The bookmaker pays a fee to the sportsbook based on how many bettors they have, hence, the name pay-per-head.

This usually is around $5-$10 per customer.

The pay-per-head industry has transformed local bookies into a much more realistic alternative compared to online sportsbooks.

With online platforms available for wagering, locals that offer pay-per-head can give players an offshore sportsbook experience while settling up locally.

Settle Up and Get Paid

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When betting with locals, there is a day each week that players “settle up.” This means that if you owe the bookie money or lost on the week, you pay him the amount of your losses. If you win, he gives you your winnings.

This is usually on a Tuesday or Wednesday, a day or two after the “betting week” ends, which, not so shockingly, is based on Monday Night Football, which ends an NFL regular season week.

For this reason, the Monday Night Football game is known as a “bailout” game to the betting masses because it’s the last chance to get even before you have to pay “the man.”

Advantages of Betting At Local Bookies

It’s tough to say there are substantial advantages to betting with local bookies, instead of online sportsbooks. However, there are some areas where bettors can utilize locals for their benefit.

Home Team Action

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In almost all cases, locals will take a disproportionate action on hometown teams compared to other markets.

For instance, if you’re in New York, your local is going to get a lot more money on the Mets, Yankees, Giants, and Rangers compared to out of town teams.

This may move his line in the direction of the opposing team. If a bookie is getting heavy action, he can either move his line or layoff the action elsewhere, often at online sportsbooks.

Often, they will opt to move the line, and the price you can get locally will be much better than the odds at any online sportsbook.

This would be the same thing as a sportsbook that fails to move their lines several points after a market move. In this situation, your advantage is huge on this wager.

No Money Before You BEt

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Another advantage that players will have when dealing with locals is that they usually don’t have to put up the money before they bet. Although, this might not be an advantage for some who have issues betting over their head.

There are no issues with payout fees or waiting for checks in the mail either as is the case with online sportsbooks.

Meeting up locally and getting paid in cash would certainly be optimal to get paid. Nevada sportsbooks hand over cash when bettors turn in winning tickets.

Betting at a Nevada-based sportsbook or at an online betting site is going to require that funds be deposited before wagering takes place. Nearly all online sportsbooks are ‘post-up’ shops and don’t allow bettors to wager on credit.

An Advantage But Also A Double-edged Sword

When it comes to betting locally, it’s the opposite, almost all local bookies offer players a credit line. This can vary depending on your relationship with the bookie and how long you have been a customer.

Many bookies will have a low line of credit to new bettors, which will slowly increase over time, depending on how fast someone pays or how much a person bets.

Not having to post-up can be an advantage in the sense that you don’t have to hand over money to someone until you lose, but it’s absolutely a double-edged sword.

Those that have had issues with bankroll management or who have gotten over their head betting too much may want to steer clear of betting on credit.

Although, it’s important for bettors to realize that local bookies usually aren’t ruthless mobsters either. This isn’t a mafia movie.

Owing a bookie a lot of money isn’t a good situation to be in, but in almost all cases, you’re not going to be threatened or get your knees broken.

Possible Payment Solutions

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We want to stress again that you shouldn’t bet if you can’t afford to pay, should you happen to lose. If you do get into this situation – be upfront with your bookie.

Tell him you can’t pay immediately, but you would like to work out a payment plan. In 99.9% of all cases, they will agree to let you pay them slowly.

The reason for this is that bookies aren’t generally violent people, despite the image of them that is portrayed in popular culture. They don’t want to threaten people to pay them or be seen acting aggressively.

After all, what they are doing is illegal. Someone calling the cops and saying that a bookie is threatening them over a debt – would clearly be bad for their business.

If bookies went around beating up everyone who didn’t pay them on time, the streets would be filled with blood, ha! Be honest and upfront that you are having trouble paying and answer their phone calls.

They will be eager to work something out with you and set up a payment plan. It’s certainly not the first they have dealt with the situation.

Disadvantages of Betting At Local Bookies

When you compare the risks and possible benefits, you will see the disadvantages of betting with the local bookie.

Possibility of Not Getting Paid

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Far and away the biggest problem of betting with a local is the prospect of not getting paid. We’re sure there are thousands of locals across the country that have paid players for decades without issue.

It’s likely many of you reading this have a bookie with the criteria I mentioned above. Unfortunately, there’s not a directory to look these guys up.

Posting in large sports betting forums that you need a bookie in a specified city is the route that some people go with, but that’s hardly a surefire way to find a reliable local.

Ultimately, you have no idea if a bookie is going to pay or not, unless you have a reliable real life source, like a friend or family member that has bet with them extensively and sometimes even those situations don’t turn out well either.

Comparing Local Bookies with Online Books

You might be saying to yourself, “Well, sometimes online sportsbooks don’t pay their players”.

That’s absolutely correct, with the legal climate and ambiguity of the offshore betting world, it’s not always clear that you’re who you’re dealing with and the safety of your funds.

However, many online sportsbooks have been in the business a decade or more and at no point have they ever stiffed or not paid a single player.

Some sportsbooks have never even had a single “slow-pay” on their record. You can check out our great Sportsbook Payout Report to get up-to-date banking information of the best betting sites you can bet online.

You will get honest grades and explanations for each sportsbook so that you know whether you can safely place your bets and get a timely payout.

The most important aspect here is that all of these facts are easily found on the internet. Anyone can do their homework when choosing a sportsbook and find an elite option.

Top tier sportsbooks, many of them pioneers since they have been in the industry so long are clearly going to be exponentially more reliable than the vast majority of locals.

More Odds and Betting Markets Online

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While there may be advantageous scenarios with local odds, bettors are almost always going to find better choices online.

Parlay, and teaser odds are often worse with locals than they are online. Line shopping is paramount, and few realize how much this can hurt your long-term profits.

Also, while we’ve been impressed with some PPH sites, their number of markets still doesn’t quite match up with the big boys of online bookmaking, like BetUS, Bovada or MyBookie.

Couple this with worse odds in some cases, and we have a solid advantage regarding markets for online sportsbooks versus locals.

No Cash Bonuses to Offer You

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Did you ever try asking a local for a deposit bonus or reload bonus? We’re willing to bet to bet you got a firm ‘no.’

Deposit bonuses are commonplace in the online sports betting markets. Just about every sportsbook online offers a deposit bonus, which can be a particularly useful bankroll boost for new bettors with smaller bankrolls.

Some sites, like 5Dimes, offer reduced juice markets instead of deposit bonuses, which is an option we highly recommend. 

Going back to odds for a second, reduced juice is something that bettors won’t have as an option locally.

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In Summary

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When you weigh the pros and cons, online sportsbooks have a distinct advantage over local bookies. In terms of trustworthiness, availability of markets, and overall odds, they’re the easy winner.

However, one can never have too many options when it comes to betting on sports.

Shopping odds are obviously vital for success when betting sports and there are several positives to having local outs, particularly shaded odds on local teams and the potential for stale lines.

Common Questions About Local Bookies

Is it illegal to bet with a local bookie?

It can be in some states, but that’s usually not the case. Most states choose to criminalize the one taking the wagers (the bookie) instead of the person placing the bet.

It’s similar to the situation online. It’s not illegal to gamble online (in most states), but it’s the betting sites that are the target for regulators and not the individual gamblers.

How do I get paid from a local bookie?

That depends. Most just pay in cash, in public places, such as coffee shops or casinos. Although, there are instances where a local may deposit money into a bank account or pay with Bitcoin.

Until you establish some trust – it’s probably best to meet in semi-public areas, but not draw too much attention to the transaction.

Can you bet more with locals than you can online?

In many cases, yes. There is a lot of value to be had if you can bet more locally than you do online, especially when it comes to smaller markets, such as propositions or smaller market sports.

The lower limits you see online for those markets may be considerably higher with locals. In many cases, they will also post their lines much earlier than offshore books.

Should I become a local bookie?

We don’t recommend it. It’s universally illegal and could lead to your arrest and jail time if you’re caught. With that said, it’s not exactly a high priority for law enforcement.

However, if you get too large – you may attract the wrong kind of attention from state and federal agencies.

There have been many people who have booked bets for a living their entire life and had no issues with law enforcement while others have faced massive fines and prison time.

Again, this is not a route we advise, but one should calculate the individual risks before deciding to take bets.

Because we have gotten more feedback and interest on this subject – we have decided to write a guide on how to be a local bookie. Hypothetically, of course.

Will locals have more betting markets than online sportsbooks?

Not generally, betting sites will always trump locals who aren’t using a pay-per-head site, but most offshore sportsbooks will also have more sports and markets.

Although, it could be close. The real draw of local bookies is their lines are slow to move, or they take larger betting limits on smaller markets.

Is it worth considering locals if you have your betting limits cut online?

Yes, for some that have their betting limits cut at many offshore sportsbooks – betting locally may be one of their only outs.

Locals aren’t going to profile players as quickly or effectively compared to online sportsbooks, so players will usually be able to win considerably more before they get their bet sizes cut.

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 Forbes.com as a gaming analyst, and his articles have been linked by larger publications, such as the New York Times.

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