US Sportsbooks - online sportsbooks for us players
Why is it so hard to find a sportsbook that accepts players from the United States?
The short answer would be to say that the US government is very strict about online betting. The longer, more involved answer, however, is the one that I am going to give you. It is the result of a somewhat complicated and sordid history of relations between the US government and online sportsbooks ever since the passage of a certain piece of federal legislation that made it very difficult for online sportsbooks to operate in the US or market to US players.
This fateful federal law that I am speaking of is none other than the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. This law is not very widely understood. I have heard some people claim that it means that it is illegal for US citizens to bet on sports online. I have heard others say that it means that any form of money winning done via the internet is unlawful. Neither of these things is true, however. So, to better understand why it is so hard to find a US-friendly online sportsbook, let us parse out what this crucial piece of legislature actually says, what it actually means, and what it actually translates to in practice.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was, as many modern pieces of legislature are (thanks in part to severely fractured partisan politics), bundled into a larger legal measure, in this case it was Title VIII of the SAFE Port Act, meant to regulate United States port security. How betting on sports online has anything to do with the safety of American ports is beyond me (and likely beyond many American lawmakers as well, I would presume).
What the law actually says
Put explicitly, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act prohibits sportsbooks and other gambling companies from “knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law.”
It is important to note, though, that there is a massive sports betting industry that is specifically excluded in this law. That is, of course, the industry of online fantasy sports. You could say that this is due to the fact that a feasible argument can be made in favor of fantasy sports requiring a certain level of skill. That is what lawmakers say, anyway. However, I would posit that playing a sportsbook – and I mean seriously, strategically placing bets on an online sportsbook – requires just as much skill.
In fact, the skillsets and levels of skill required are almost identical … the only notable difference being that fantasy sports have players crafting lineups based on how well you predict individual players will perform, and sportsbook offer a much wider variety of ways to make strategically deduced predictions about sports games, players, even on a play by play basis. I don’t see, personally, how fantasy sports are at all any more strategic than sportsbook betting.
My guess would be the difference lies more in the powerful lobbying power of certain American fantasy sports companies than it does any actual empirical difference in the level of strategy between fantasy lineup building and online sportsbooks. But I digress.
The law, to circle back momentarily, does not specifically address how state lotteries should be handled, nor how what to do about online horse racing. Which is why, as you may have noticed, it is much easier to find a horse book that accepts US players than it is a US sportsbook.
Why are there so few internationally owned US sportsbooks?
This is where things get tricky. If you have been browsing or using online sportsbooks for some time now, it may have already occurred to you that almost all of them are European owned. There are, of course, a few prominent Asian online sportsbooks and some popular African sportsbooks. However, the overwhelming majority of online sportsbooks are European owned and operated.
So, you might be wondering, why don’t more of these internationally owned sportsbooks simply accept US customers? It’s not as if the United States can keep tabs of financial transactions or regulate another country’s currency, right? While this is no doubt true, there are other complications written into the law; the US foresaw this potential loophole and prepared itself for it. Section 5365 of the Act, for instance, states that the United States (as well as individual state attorneys) is allowed to bring civil actions against online gambling companies in federal court.
This means that the US courts have the power to give online sportsbook sites a very hard time if they so desire. In the early stages of the act, braver sportsbooks just kept catering to US customers, business as usual. Many, though, were swiftly brought to court. And even if there was not a whole lot that the US courts could do in order to legally stop foreign sportsbooks and online casinos from accepting US players, getting tied up in the US court system is timely, costly, and extremely inconvenient.
Thus, over time, US sportsbooks simply dwindled away. There were a few brave souls over the years, such as the founder of Bodog, who found a way to provide US players with a quality online sportsbook … but options were (and, to some extent, are) still few and far between.
Things have begun to look up once again, however, for US sportsbook bettors. Thanks to the advent of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, US sportsbooks are flourishing yet again. And even though they can still be slightly more difficult to find (they are still risky for the sportsbook owner), there has been a recent resurgence of US sportsbooks – one that I am happy to help you take full advantage of while we still are able!
Are there US sportsbooks that are anywhere near as good as the popular ones?
Of course, there are. In fact, some of the US sportsbooks are the popular ones. Many US sportsbooks may not have been around for 100+ years like some of the most reputable English sportsbooks have, but that does not mean that there aren’t US sportsbooks that rival even the longest-running sports betting site in the industry. After all, longevity is not always a sign of quality. Just look at McDonalds!
I think that you will be very pleased with the online US sportsbooks to be found here on my list. As those of you who have spent time on my site already know, I only concern myself with the best of the best when it comes to betting sites. That means, of course, that you can expect to find nothing but the best US sportsbooks that the web has to offer. I would never dare to waste your time (or mine, for that matter!) reviewing anything less than great.
Which US sportsbook is the best US sportsbook?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. I would love to be able to just sit here and type out, “the best sportsbook for US players, without a doubt is …” but that is just not how it works. As any experienced sportsbook player knows well, the best sportsbook depends on a few factors – many of which are subjective, some of which change with the times (meaning that you will likely want to check back in with US sportsbooks from time to time, even if they are not ideal for your needs on your first visit).
It would be next to impossible for me to say that one US sportsbook is just objectively better than all the others. That is simply not how online sportsbooks work. The truth of the matter is that you aren’t going to find one US sportsbook that is the best, but you are going to find a US sportsbook (likely more than one) that is the best for you.
We all have different sports on which we like to bet. We all prefer different betting styles. Some of us like mutual betting, others prefer to go it alone. Some of us like to bet on and off the field and require betting categories like entertainment and politics in addition to all of our favorite major league sports. Others, still, like to place bets on more obscure sports and markets, which means that the best online sportsbook is going to be the one that includes markets (and good odds) for events like professional darts, surfing, billiards, and so on.
That being said, some of the best US sportsbooks are going to outperform others in certain key areas. Which is why there are a few crucial categories that I look at every time I review a US sportsbook (or any sports betting site for that matter). By evaluating sports betting sites against the following, I think that something close to an objective impression of an online sportsbook is possible…
History and reputation
Naturally, this is an important thing to consider when choosing a sportsbook. If a betting site just went up this year, this is something that you will likely need to know. If a site has a history of controversy or customer complaints, again, this is necessary information. I like to get this stuff out of the way up front in my reviews … that way, if there are any potential dealbreakers, you know about them before you spend any more time reading up on the sportsbook.
Site design and user experience
One of the most important aspects of any US sportsbook is going to be how intuitive and user-friendly the site design is. Sportsbooks can become cluttered, messy, and disorganized very easily. The best US sportsbooks, then, will provide a neat and easy to use sportsbook design, one that makes it like second nature to place a bet (and looks good in the process!).
Features, content, rewards, bonuses, etc.
Your US sportsbook of choice should enable you to bet in every way you wish. This is why, in every one of my sports betting site reviews, I go into detail about the breadth of sports, markets, and odds available on each site. If anything crucial is missing, I make sure to tell you about it. If there is anything novel about a particular sports betting site, here, too, is where you will learn about it.
The best sports betting sites also offer excellent bonuses, rewards, and the like. Some US sportsbooks have very alluring sign-on bonus deals like risk-free first bets and deposit matches (up to a certain amount). These allow you to quickly gain quite a bit of padding, doubling or tripling your initial investment in no time.
Can I start betting on US sportsbooks today?
That depends on which US sportsbook you decide is right for you (as well as which banking option you choose). Most of them, however, will make it possible for you to be placing bets within the hour. This is all but guaranteed if you are betting with Bitcoin, too, as there is no bank verification process required.
With that, what are you waiting for? Go check out my list of the best US sportsbooks and find the one that is perfect for you today! Good luck out there