How Safe Are Sportsbooks, and What Should You Do to Make Then Safer For You?

by Ian

Is the online sportsbook industry a safe place to put your money into? The answer is yes and no. Certainly there is always going to be the risk of so-called "fly-by-night" operations that have more and more creative ways to dupe the public, but there are also more and more outlets for the consumer to turn in order to get information about business practices on the part of online sportsbooks everywhere.

The fact is, where the perception is that there is easy money to be made, there are always going to be operators who are looking to "scam" the public. That is a reality, in an atmosphere where there is no regulation in the United States and business must be done with offshore organizations. When operating within such a dynamic, it is different than a Las Vegas sportsbook where you literally walk up to a window and put your money forward.

It is true that e-commerce over the internet has become much more secure than it was at the inception of the online sportsbook business. But when dealing with online organizations, you are sending money, through electronic means, to people you don't really know. So extra care obviously must be taken. We just need to turn our minds back to the travesties that were BetCascade, BetIslands et al to see exactly why we need to do proper due diligence before placing a bet online.

It is also appropriate to understand some of the things you need to be mindful of when playing with a sportsbook or considering one. It is absolutely worth a discussion.

One of the things consumers would be well advised to be on the lookout for is the "slow pay" problem. Obviously everyone who deposits money in an online sportsbook account wants to take it out sometime, regardless of whether the final result was a profit or loss. However, while deposits are sometimes immediate through any number of different banking methods, that is not always the case with withdrawals. That much is understood among people who have been around online gaming for any length of time at all. That is simply the process involved.

There is a difference between a natural process and a situation where you are waiting far too long. when you are being paid very slowly - well beyond what has been pledged in the original "presentation" that may appear on the sportsbook website, that is a danger signal.

Of course, when we give that piece of advice we are operating on the assumption that you are already a customer of one particular sportsbook. When you are shopping around for someplace to deposit your money, you should take a long look at what the withdrawal policies are, along with the withdrawal methods, because they have a definite impact on how quickly you may get paid. And don't be afraid to ask direct questions of the staff about how withdrawals will be conducted.

If you are not in the United States, you may be able to use an electronic wallet for deposits AND withdrawals. If you have a reasonable expectation that the withdrawal process should be rather seamless, and it doesn't turn out that way, you should consider this a problem.

Also, keep an eye out for bonus propositions that may be just a tad unrealistic. When you are shopping for an online casino, it is not uncommon to see a welcome bonus of 100% on your deposit, or even better. But this is not feasible for a sportsbook. If you see a 100% offer, you should be seeing a red flag right away. Bonus offers of anywhere from 10%-30% are much more reasonable and realistic. Even 50% might not be outside the realm of possibility. But any more than that falls into the category of being too good to be true. When that kind of thing happens, you may be looking at a sportsbook that is desperate to take in money with no intention of ever really sending it back out. In many ways this was the case with a sportsbook called BetIslands, where the bonus and rebate programs, along with the costs of processing transactions from the United States, spawned a financial picture that could not be sustained, and eventually led to the book shutting its doors on all depositors suddenly, and created ill-will for the industry.

You may find that same kind of desperation from the telemarketing component of this organization as well. You may not know this, but you can register as a player with a sportsbook without making a deposit. But you will be contacted by people on the staff about opening up an account. This is not unusual, but it can be done in a very professional manner or it can be done in an overly aggressive way, with great frequency, in which you sense that they are pressuring you too much. This can be a bad sign, obviously. If the salesperson is willing to do things that seem unrealistic to get you into the fold, you would do best to either pass or undertake much more investigation.

And needless to say, if you are getting cold calls from a sportsbook that you have never heard of, presumably because they have gotten your name from somewhere else, that might necessitate an immediate "pass."

It is probably be wise to inquire about a sportsbook's business history; i.e., how many years they have been in business. However, it must be noted that every quality sportsbook operation has been new at one time, and the fact that they were getting started did not mean they weren't an organization of quality.

Perhaps a more germane subject of inquiry might be how their financial backing is structured. Who backs them in that way? Who are the people behind the operation? Is it a "brand" that is part of a larger company, and who are the people behind THAT organization? Could they conceivably sustain a loss of a quarter of a million dollars or more over the course of a single football weekend? It's not that you are going to be betting with that big a bankroll; it's that if there is a rough week financially at a given online sportsbook it could impact their ability to pay you in the event you were looking to make a withdrawal.

If you need some assistance along these lines, you should perhaps look for some help from one of the many "watchdog" sites that appear on the Web. These sites exist in order to help the consumer in the way of offering reviews and publishing feedback from the customers themselves. You will be able to read about the experiences that sports bettors have with the sportsbooks they are patronizing, both good and bad, and you can decide for yourself. Examples of these are, AskGamblers and who all keep regularly updated lists of rogue operators.

As part of the review process, there is a grade given to each of the sportsbooks that are included. What you want to look for is a rating of at least a "B" on any sportsbook you are considering. If a sportsbook is given a lower rating, it is worth taking a look at the rationale behind that rating, and you will want to take a look at the attributes of the higher-rated books to see if those are the things you are looking for in a gaming establishment.

Of course, this is not 100% fool-proof either. One popular website for sports statistics that represented itself as being an industry watchdog consistently maintained one particular online sportsbook as #1 on its list, when they may have known about financial instability there. As it turns out, the site may have had a financial interest in the sportsbook, and when the eventual shutdown took place, it led to some distrust about so-called impartial "information sources" and conflicts of interest about those who they are reviewing and taking advertising dollars from at the same time.

The best thing anyone could suggest is that you perform as much due diligence as you possibly can in order to protect the money you are ultimately going to invest in your favorite pastime.

After all, it is YOUR money.

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