What is betting?
Betting is the wagering of something (often money) on a specific event with an unknown and uncertain outcome. This is done with the intent to win something of value, again, usually money. Betting requires that three factors are present: the amount or object that is wagered, the chance of winning, and the prize.
Sports betting is a form of wagering on who wins a sporting event. The intent of betting on a sport is almost always to win money. The probability of winning in is always, at best, an educated guess. There is always room for an upset, a withdrawal, or a disqualification within the world of sports.
The idea of betting or gambling dates back to at least 3000 B.C. when people used the first 6-sided dice in Mesopotamia. The very first sports bets were placed back in ancient Rome, on gladiator fights and chariot races. Bets could only be placed within the Roman community.
Sports betting as we know it didn't come into play until the 18th century. At that time, horse races started having more than two horses in them, and that's when the idea of betting on one of the horses appeared.
Finally, in the late 1800s, laws were established in the U.S. and Canada, preventing the mob from completely overtaking this industry. After that, very little was done in the betting world to keep the laws updated and established until the internet came into play.
Betting around the world
With the introduction of the internet, sports betting has become more widespread and grown into a $211 billion industry that shows no signs of going away. Over 4.2 billion people worldwide admit to betting in some form, at least once per year. With almost 31,000 businesses worldwide that revolve around sports betting, it's become much easier for people to have access to it.
Asia leads the world in betting on sports, with almost 49% of worldwide betting, with Europe following close behind. Basketball, football (soccer), and tennis are among the most popular sports to bet on, worldwide.
When the U.S. legalized sports betting in 2018 for the state of New Jersey, other states started to follow. As of early 2021, half of the states have approved it in some form. Other states are looking at options to legalize betting in their states as they lose business, and tax revenue, to neighboring states that have already legalized the practice.
People love sports, and the fact that they can legally bet on their favorite teams is playing a big role in the rapid growth of this industry. It looks like in the near future, betting will continue to draw in almost as big of a crowd as the sports themselves.
How does betting work?
Much of today's betting is done online, either through a desktop computer, mobile phone, or tablet. Another option is to find a local bookie or take a trip to one of the sportsbooks if you live in a state that has legalized betting. Finding an online site is definitely the most convenient option.
The first thing someone must do is find a reputable online betting website, called a sportsbook or bookmaker. We'll talk about how to do this in a bit more detail later. Once a person finds one they feel comfortable with, they'll want to sign up. Most sites will ask for name, email address, phone number, and other personal information pertaining to account setup.
Once an account has been opened, bets can be placed. Here's the general process.
- Choose a bonus and make a deposit. A bonus gives extra cash to spend when a deposit is placed with a website. So, for example, one site may offer a 50% bonus up to $1,000. This means that for any deposit placed with them up to $1,000, they will match 50% of a person's funds.
- Choose your sport. Now that funds have been deposited, a bet can be made. Select one from the list of sports on the website. These will usually be on the left-hand side of the screen.
- View the markets. Check out the games for the day’s market and decide how to place any bets. A person can also see the game view from this page on most sites. There are quite a few different options, so brushing up on terminology can help before placing a bet now.
- Place a bet. Click on the market that is being bet on. A wager slip will appear. Fill in the slip and click ‘review bet.’ A confirmation will pop up, and the bettor can click ‘place bet.’
Most sportsbooks have simplified this process so it can be easily followed. But before placing a bet, let’s look at a few of the details about which betting site is the best.
How to find the best odds and lines
Before a person places their first bet, it’s important to know what betting odds are and how they work. Depending on the online bookmaker, the sport, and the location being bet on, the odds will look different. Let’s look at the different styles.
American odds: Also known as moneyline odds, this is the most popular type in the U.S. When betting on the favorite team to win, they show the amount a person would need to bet to win $100 by displaying a negative number.
So -110 means they would need to place a $110 bet to win an additional $100. If betting on the underdog, it shows a positive number (+150). If they placed a $100 bet on this team and the team wins, they would win $150 + their original $100 back.
Fractional odds: Often referred to as traditional odds, these are the odds found in horse racing and show the net total that will be paid to a person if they win after the stake is factored in.
For example, if the odds are 5/1 and a bet was placed for $20, the winner would receive $120 (5 x $20 plus the original $20). If the odds were 1/5 and a person placed a $20 bet, they would receive $24. They would receive $1 for every $5 that was bet, plus the original bet.
Decimal odds: These are most common in Australia, Europe, and Canada. Decimal odds are also the easiest to understand. No matter where a person lives, most online betting sites will give the option of displaying the odds in this format. With this format, a decimal is shown.
Simply take the decimal times the amount a person bets, and you have the exact payout. For example, if a $100 bet was placed and the odds were 3.0, the winner would receive a $300 payout.
How does sports betting work?
Sports betting is highly competitive. Because of this, it’s best to understand some of the variables before placing a bet. Let’s take a look.
Understand the sport. For some of them, straight moneyline bets are simple - a person places a bet on the favorite team or the underdog. If they win, they get the payout. But what if there is a draw, such as in soccer? How does your online sports betting site handle those? Sports like horse racing and boxing also work differently than, say, basketball.
Know the different types of bets. Sports betting often goes deeper than just a simple moneyline betting. There are many different types available for each event. The most common include:
- Futures: This allows a person to place a bet on a future event, like the Super Bowl, even though at betting time they have no idea who will be in the event.
- Spread betting: This type lets people bet by focusing on how much a team will win or lose by, instead of focusing on who is going to win.
- Overs/Unders: For this type of bet, a person bets on whether or not there will be a certain number of goals, baskets, or points scored during a game. For example, if that person is betting on a soccer game, the total goals may be four. They would then bet on whether the total number of goals will be over or under that amount.
- Parlay: Parlay involves betting on two or more components in the same bet. For example, a person may bet that two different tennis players are going to win their matches at the US Open. In that case, if both players win, then the bettor wins.
- Live: With live betting, a person can place a bet during the event. This type requires knowledge of the teams playing and a quick reaction time to keep on top of what happens as the event progresses.
Online Sports Betting Bonuses & Promotions
Bonuses can provide additional cash for a person to use when placing bets. While having the extra money is nice, the bettor must understand that they can’t just take the money and walk.
There are certain wagering requirements that different sportsbooks set up for when a bettor can withdraw the money from their account. Here are some of the complexities that a person may find.
Rollover: This common requirement comes in a variety of ways, from 3X rollover to 10X rollover. This simply means that until a bettor has spent that amount of money, 3 times (or 10 times), they cannot withdraw the money.
For example, a bettor deposited $100 and got a 50% bonus. They now have $150 to spend, but they have a 3X rollover on the account. Until they place bets totaling $450 ($150, 3 times), they cannot withdraw the money.
Time limits: Some bonuses have to be used within a certain timeframe, or the money will disappear.
Eligibility: Some bonuses can only be used to bet on certain events, maybe horse racing or other certain sport.
Each bookie will have its own list of requirements, so bettors must be aware of these different rules on each site.
New Sports Betting Sites to Know About
Just as there are plenty of sports and players to choose from when you are looking to place a bet, there are also many different sites to choose from. These sites offer lots of different layouts and options for bonuses.
New sportsbooks that have just recently been set up can often have some of the best benefits to the bettor, as they are looking to entice new business in the door.
Some of the benefits that can be offered to a bettor are:
- Bonus offers. The bonus offers on new sites are often less restrictive and have fewer regulations than sports bookies that have been around for a longer time. They also often offer bigger bonuses, sometimes matching 50% of your deposit, up to $2,000 or more. These sites may also offer bonuses more frequently.
- Enhanced accuracy. New sportsbooks take the time to ensure accuracy on their odds. These sites look at all the data in detail before posting the odds, as they are looking to help bettors win some money and keep the best bets coming. This is how they build up their clientele.
- Better layouts. Newer sportsbooks have more modern layouts and are easier to navigate than those that have been around for longer. It’s hard to change an older site because people are familiar with the site. But a new site can offer all the latest technology, making the user experience much more enjoyable.
- Variety. Newer sites often have more of a variety of sports and additional events on which bettors can place their bets. As betting is becoming a hot item in the gambling arena, these sportsbooks are taking time to expand their options and include more than just the basic horse races and football betting.
Are there any other types of betting?
Betting on sports is by far the most popular form of betting on these online sites, but it’s not the only type offered. In today’s world, you can find almost anything to bet on.
With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the sports world and many people home with spare time on their hands, sportsbooks that were able to find new items to add to their betting pool thrived. Here are a few of the other things you can bet on when you sign up on these sites.
- Primary elections: When election time rolls around, bets can be placed on who wins the primaries. Some online sportsbooks even include the presidential election. Different types of betting can be placed for the election, from who will win to what percentage of voters will cast a vote in your state for a certain candidate.
- Television Entertainment: During the COVID-19 pandemic, people were struggling for things to do to keep themselves occupied. They were locked down, and television ratings soared. Without sports to be watched, people picked up other shows they would normally not dream of watching just to stay entertained.
- Some of the sportsbooks latched on to this idea and ran with it, including the ratings of certain TV shows in their betting scorecards.
- Eurovision Festival: In Europe, one of the biggest music festival is Eurovision, where all the countries across Europe gathers together to celebrate music. Eurovision betting is a highly-recommended event for everyone who is either new or experienced in betting.
- The Oscars: Betting on the movie awards, The Oscars is a real sweet spot for those who likes some variety in betting. Although this event happens once in a year, it is very popular amongst bettors.
- The temperature: People really can bet on almost anything. For some online bookmaker, it’s the temperature that has been a hit. By betting over/under style, bettors can look at their weather app to see what today’s temperature is going to be, then bet on whether it will be over or under that temperature.
Not a very formal item to bet on, but it can still be lots of fun when someone is stuck at home with nothing else to do.
Look around the different sportsbooks. All of them found unique ways of drawing in bettors when we couldn’t bet on sports during the pandemic.
What is a cashout?
Cashouts allow bettors to get their money early if they are not confident in the bet they placed. Not all sportsbook sites allow cashouts. If they do, it will show a specified cashout amount on their site.
A bettor can then choose to take that amount of money instead of the full amount they would win if they wait until the end of the event. Likewise, they can cash out early if it seems they are going to lose money on their bet. This means they will not lose the entire amount.
Sportsbook operators often have different rules for cashing out on their specific sites, so bettors should check in advance of placing a bet to see what events and which kinds of wagers have a cashout option attached to them. Some of the cashout options different sites allow include moneyline wagers, parlays, futures bets, and point spread wagers.
Cashout is a unique feature of online sports betting. In the U.S., it’s only available online, even if the online betting website has a land-based outlet at the site of the event. Bettors can cash out using either a desktop or a mobile device.
The most trusted betting sites
Finding a trusted site is crucial to minimizing risk and enjoying your time online. There is a site that is reputable, trustworthy, reliable, and perfect for each individual bettor. They just need to look around.
A person’s experience will depend on the sportsbook they choose. Not using a trusted site can result in a person being scammed out of their money, not getting paid in a timely manner, or betting with unfair terms and conditions.
Untrusted sites also run the risk of getting hacked and losing a bettor's personal information. Since these sportsbooks contain not only a person’s name and address but also credit or debit card information, this creates the hassle of having to cancel and replace those cards.
Fortunately, most online sports betting sites are safe. There are features to look for on a site that can help you determine if a sportsbook is legit and trusted. Taking a few minutes to look over the site can make a world of difference. Here are a few regulatory items to look for before signing up on a site for the best online bookmakers:
- License to operate as a betting website issued by Malta Gambling Authority, United Kingdom Gambling Commission, or Swedish Gambling Authority
- Quality labels from organizations like Certified Fair Gambling and eCOGRA
- Following of regulations enacted by the state or country
- Website encrypted with security certificates like SSL
Beyond the laws, people regularly submit reviews and talk online. Take a look at what other bettors are saying about the sportsbook. Some of the things you will see in the reviews are:
- Sportsbook reputation
- Ease of use for the bettors
- Competitiveness of odds compared to other sites
- Speed of payouts and options for withdrawal of money
- Customer service quality and promptness
How to Choose a Sports Betting Site That’s Right for You?
No two sports betting sites are the same. Each one has different features, betting opportunities, customer service, type and speed of payouts, promotions, and more.
Once a bettor has found some trusted sportsbook online, it’s then up to them to choose which one to use to place their bets. One of the best ways to do this is by talking with others. If a bettor knows someone who has used the site, they can share invaluable information. Otherwise, it’s off to the online reviews.
Positive reviews are a good sign, of course, especially if they are coming from someone actively using the site. Just be a little wary of these reviews, as some sites will pay people to leave positive reviews online.
So what is the best bookmaker to bet with? Legitimate experts will also fairly review different sportsbooks. Reviews from an expert third party are honest and don’t sugarcoat the truth. These reviews share the good and the bad about a bookmaker.
With new sports betting sites popping up all the time, these reviews can be very valuable in helping a bettor choose their site. Third-party reviewers often base these reviews on:
- Website encryption
- Honoring wagers and payouts timely
- Customer service and support
- Experience they’ve had on the site
- Negative reports on the site
- Additional research done regarding the sportsbook
After looking at the critical items, expert reviewers will also consider factors like ease of use, options for betting, and additional features the sportsbook has to offer. These reviewers look for a wonderful overall user experience while trying to keep people safe and keeping risk to a minimum.
Nothing can completely guarantee that a site will treat a bettor fairly. But if a bettor looks for a site that is licensed, has quality labels, and can provide good reviews both on and off the site, they can be fairly certain that risk will be minimal.
We encourage all bettors to actively practice responsible gambling. Betting is meant to be a leisure activity. Be prepared to set limits, for both time and money spent, early on and stick to those limits.
Bettors must be prepared to protect themselves and understand the risks involved in betting online. If a bettor is uncomfortable in a situation, the best practice is to exclude themselves from the situation and move on.
Take advantage of resources available to gamblers, and never bet on anything while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Responsible gamblers can have productive, lively gambling sessions online while still enjoying the world outside of gambling.
About the author
Natalie "OddsQueen" Turner, hailing from the vibrant city of Toronto, is the driving force behind BettingRanker. With two decades in the betting industry, her unmatched expertise and visionary leadership have made BettingRanker the go-to platform for all things related to sports betting.