Sports betting is bigger than ever, and there have never been more options to choose an online sportsbook. With reliable sportsbooks occupying the same market share as fraudulent ones, it’s getting harder and harder to discern ones that operate with integrity from their scammy counterparts.
We created this guide to help you navigate the selection process. Scammers might be getting more sophisticated, but there are still plenty of key indicators for safe, legitimate sportsbooks.
The Importance of Picking a Safe Sportsbook
When it comes to sports betting, it’s all for naught unless your sportsbook honors your deposits and winnings.
Say, hypothetically, that you end up signing up with an illegitimate sportsbook, and subsequently make a deposit. While it’s by no means guaranteed that this sportsbook will completely rip you off, there’s a good chance that one of the following issues might occur:
- Delayed payouts on your winnings (think 45+ days)
- Absent customer service
- Canceling/not crediting winning wagers (either partially or in their entirety)
- Stealing your money outright
- Viruses infecting your computer or mobile phone
Signing up at safe sportsbook means that you’ll avoid any of the above consequences. To avoid any of these headaches, it’s up to you to hold your sportsbook accountable — don’t settle for anything less than the most exacting standards for your betting experience!
If you perform the following checks before sending your cash over to a sportsbook, you’ll know that your funds (and betting experience) are in the hands of a quality book.
1. Scrutinize Your Sportsbooks’ License
Any safe online sportsbook will prominently display their operating license that guarantees their legal right to operate. Sportsbooks licenses ensure that their books are open to legal, third-party audits and consistently pass examinations to ensure they aren’t defrauding their customers.
If a sportsbook has a license from a well-respected region, you can rest easy that it’s wholly legit. Note that you still need to ensure that you are complying with all relevant laws and regulations in your region when placing sports bets with licensed providers.
The most common regions that sportsbooks seek licensure in are:
- US states that have legalized online sports betting
- Western Europe
- Various islands within the Caribbean Archipelago
- Select Native American reservations within North America
That being said, just because you can’t spot a sportsbook license right away doesn’t mean that it isn’t safe. You’ll be able to locate their legal operations license somewhere on their website.
Conversely, if you land on a sportsbook and you can tell it isn’t licensed, reconsider sending your cash to them. Licensing ensures safety, and as such, we recommend you stick to sportsbooks who’ve bothered to jump through the proper legal permissions hoops.
2. They Verify Your Identity
In our guide to banking at your sportsbook, we discuss how to successfully navigate the withdrawal process, which always includes verifying your identity.
Legitimate sportsbooks, such as these web sites for online sports betting, are licensed and regulated businesses. As such, they’re required to comply with the rules and regulations in the region that they sought licensure within.
These rules always include verifying the identity of their customers before sending payouts, which is necessary for sportsbooks to remain in accordance with international KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti-Money Laundering) regulations.
If sportsbooks don’t verify their customer’s identity, they could find themselves complicit in criminal activity, cater to bettors who aren’t legally authorized (or old enough) to gamble within their specific state or nation, damage relationships with their payment providers, and even send payments to the wrong person/persons. None of these are good for a sportsbook which wants to remain legal, and who wants to provide their customers with the highest standards of service.
Unsafe, illegitimate sportsbooks tend to skirt this security feature, and they don’t often require customers to verify their identity. If a sportsbook is simply looking to fatten their own pockets by ripping customers off, they aren’t going to be very concerned about being legally compliant or building their reputation within the market. They’re just looking to make off with your cash and disappear!
3. They’ve Got SSL Protection
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) protection is standard security technology that ensures an encrypted link between a web server and a browser.
That’s a lot of web-specific jargon, but this encryption ensures that all data passed between you and the website remains private. SSL technology is used by millions of websites around the world to protect financial transactions with paying customers. When websites use this, it’s almost impossible for bad actors to steal sensitive financial or personal information.
Of course, the process of withdrawing and depositing at your sportsbook involves the transfer of sensitive financial information. As such, your sportsbooks should be running an SSL-encrypted connection (for your protection and theirs). Any sportsbook that isn’t running SSL either is expressly trying to steal your data, or they don’t have any understanding of the most rudimentary aspects of internet security. Both are reasons to steer clear, and any sportsbook that isn’t equipped with SSL protection isn’t worth your time.
How do you identify a site that’s SSL protected? Easy! Just look for sites with https:// at the beginning of the web address and a locked icon. That’s all it takes!
4. Your Sportsbook Has a Great Online Reputation
If your sportsbook has a solid reputation, you’ve probably landed on a safe sportsbook. The longer a sportsbook has been around, the safer it is handling your money. A sportsbook’s continued existence is proof of their safety. If they were ripping bettors off, there’s no way they could remain in business.
All the sportsbooks we review have proven track record of legitimacy, but if you want to widen your search, there’s a variety of channels you can go through as well. The subreddit r/sportsbooks is a great place to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of specific books within the betting community.
5. They’ve Got a Responsive Customer Service Department
If you call, email, and/or send a message to your sportsbook and get a near-instantaneous response, you’re dealing with a safe sportsbook.
Customer service departments that are real, responsive, and knowledgeable don’t emerge out of thin air. A well-furnished, fully-functional customer service department is expensive to staff, train, and operate, and as such, it’s only safe sportsbooks that can feasibly run them.
6. They Aren’t Promoting Anything Outrageous
A safe sportsbook isn’t going to be offering bettors outrageous perks that look too good to be true. Any sportsbook that masquerades as a charitable operation is likely trying to engineer creative ways to separate you from your money.
What exactly do we mean when we say outrageous? Well, if you see the Pats at +1000 on the moneyline — or a 500% bonus offer — steer clear. Make sure that the odds, lines, bonuses, and limits align with industry standards.
7. Well-Developed Interface & Modern UX and UI
If you come across a sportsbook that’s got a fully functional interface, live betting options, a well developed mobile platform, and thoughtful, modern UX and UI, you’ve definitely found a safe sportsbook. These features are the hallmarks of the highest quality books, and no book that’s spent so much time on providing bettors with a top-quality experience are going to be looking rip you off.
Scammy sportsbooks simply don’t stay in business for very long. Developing an optimal user experience not only takes a massive financial investment, but a significant amount of time as well. Obviously, this would preclude them from creating a quality platform for bettors.
Found A Safe Sportsbook? Start Building Your Bankroll!
Finding a trustworthy sportsbook is undoubtedly the most crucial aspect of sports betting. Now that you know how to find one, you can brush up on the fundamentals with our betting 101 guides, where we walk you through the basics while demystifying the essential principles of sports betting that might appear complicated at first blush.