The days of the once-a-year Super Bowl office pool are fading into memory, as legal sports betting has transformed how fans watch their favorite games. The industry exploded last year, reaching $57.2 billion in handle — the gambling insider’s term for money bet – according to the American Gaming Association. And it’s expected to continue to grow as more states legalize and operators invest big in advertising.
The growth of the online sportsbook market has been astounding, but it’s also raising many legal questions. From how to set up a sportsbook and obtain the necessary licenses, to relationships with local sports teams and marketing firms, there are many issues that can require experienced legal counsel to navigate.
One of the most important considerations is ensuring that consumers can find safe, legal and regulated sportsbooks. Federal law and many state laws prohibit the use of offshore sportsbooks that are not licensed to operate in the United States. These unlicensed, unregulated offshore operators violate federal and state laws and prey on unsuspecting Americans.
Whether in-person or online, legal sportsbooks must adhere to strict state regulations and abide by a myriad of other obligations. For example, some states restrict bets on college teams, while others prohibit players from depositing and wagering funds if they have an ownership stake in a team or casino. In addition, responsible gambling resources must be readily available, with links to hotlines and self-exclusion tools.
Another issue is the prevalence of sportsbook promotions designed to lure new gamblers. For instance, some sites offer “risk-free” bets of, say, $100. But these bonuses can be misleading, since the site still retains the original stake if you lose. New York Attorney General Letitia James recently warned consumers to be wary of these types of offers, which are common even among the major mainstream sportsbooks.
Fortunately, the vast majority of sportsbooks are reputable, and consumers can place bets safely at these sites, provided they only use those licensed to operate within their states. But be sure to read the fine print before making a deposit. For instance, you’ll want to know how the sportsbook determines winners and losers and whether it accepts the type of payment you prefer. Most legal sportsbooks also have customer service representatives on hand to answer any questions. Some even have live chat features to help customers resolve problems quickly.