These days, you can choose from literally thousands of online sportsbooks. Which one of them should you join? Well the answer to that question depends on 5 key factors. This “sportsbook buyers guide” will explore each of these factors and help show you to how find the best available sport betting site for you.
While this guide will focus on players residing in Canada, the principles apply just as much for residents of the US, Europe, Asia, or indeed anywhere else in the world.
Without further ado, here are the five key factors to bear in mind when choosing an online bookie to start your sports betting adventure.
- Is the sportsbook licensed in your region?
Sports betting has a complex and somewhat controversial history, particularly in North America, where bookmakers were prohibited in most states of the USA for much of the 20th Century. Indeed, it’s only in recent years that individual US states have started to legally license sportsbooks in their territory. In Canada’s Quebec province, sports betting is – in practical terms, at least – illegal. Of course, that doesn’t stop many international online bookmakers offering their services in states and countries where they aren’t licensed. And many sports betting fans couldn’t care less whether or not they are playing with a legal, regulated bookie. But there are several advantages to playing with a bookie licensed in your region. For example, you can enjoy a wider range of deposit and withdrawal methods, sometimes including PayPal and ApplePay. You can also expect a greater sense of responsibility from the sportsbook towards treating you fairly, if they have a licence to safeguard. And of course, the licensing authority will be more likely to fight your corner if there is a dispute. Wherever possible, we recommend joining only bookies that have a license to operate in your particular region.
- Do they feature your favourite sports?
The whole point of joining a bookmaker is – of course – to bet on sporting events. But its worth checking to see if that bookie covers your favourite sports before you join – not afterwards. Most online betting sites let visitors view their open markets without signing up for an account, so it makes sense to have a look beforehand. While the most popular sports such as NFL, MLB, English Premier League soccer, and golf will certainly be covered, other sports around the world such as rugby union, cricket and that old Canadian favourite Lacrosse might not.
- Is there a welcome bonus for customers in your region?
The main method that sportsbooks use to attract new customers is a welcome offer. Usually, this deal sees the bookie match the first deposit of the new client, with a top-up of cash up to a certain level. For example, a deal of “100% up to $100” would mean that if you deposit $50, the bookie will top that up with another $50. In this example, they will continue to do this all the way up to $100. This kind of incentive is popular with so-called ‘bonus hunters’ who flit from bookie to bookie, using up the welcome offer, and then moving on. But these deals usually come with a few strings attached. Normally there are so-called ‘wagering requirements’, where you will have to stake the bonus money dozens of times before you can withdraw it. Depending on the odds that the sportsbook offers, this can mean that you simply hand that bonus money back to the bookie before it will ever see your bank account. So not all welcome deals are actually worthwhile. But this also depends on the value of the odds that are on offer – which brings us to the next point.
- Does the bookmaker offer decent odds?
Sportsbooks don’t just offer good value through their welcome bonuses. Over the longer term, most customers will find they save money by betting with bookies who offer tighter odds (sometimes called the juice). In our research, we have found that bookmakers often have huge disparities in how much profit they extract from each event – sometimes as much as 10% on NFL or English Premier League games. Over the course of dozens of matches, these price disparities can waste your account balance several times over. We recommend checking the juice at your candidate bookmakers by selecting a small sample of games in your favourite sports and running them through an overround calculator. As a general rule of thumb, overrounds of 105% or higher represent bad value – but this does rather depend on the popularity of your chosen sport.
- Does the site have decent usability?
Last (but not least) is the question of site usability. The sportsbook should allow you to find your favourite sports quickly and easily, and to bet on all of the markets linked to that event, including in-play (live) bets. What’s more, the optimal site navigation should ideally work on your computer, tablet and smartphone. That will allow you to find and place bets wherever you are, whether that be watching a big game on the sofa, or even while attending the event itself. This is especially critical if you enjoy betting on in-play markets, where every second counts.
That wraps up our buyer’s guide to choosing an online sportsbook. Although the choice can be overwhelming, by focusing on the 5 critical factors of legality, selection of sports on offer, welcome bonuses, odds, and usability you will be well on the way to selecting the best online bookmaker for your needs – wherever you are in the world.