Ten Questions You Should Ask a Sportsbook Before Signing Up!

As the football season approaches we felt some helpful pointers should be covered on selecting the right online sportsbook to fit your needs.

As the book shopping season is in full swing we felt some helpful pointers should be covered on selecting the right book to fit your needs. This is the 2018 update from the original article over a decade ago and now includes 11 points!

ten questions to ask before sending moneyQuestion: The top question you should ask of your book is "Where are you located and how long have you been in business."
Some of the best jurisdictions no longer accept wagers from Americans. However, sportsbooks in Antigua, Curacao, Canada, Panama and of course, Costa Rica, welcome American action. Costa Rica, with dozens of sportsbooks, finally introduced gaming licensing several years ago, while Antigua and Curacao each have gaming bodies within the government. England and Australia have real regulation, a gaming commission similar to the Casino Control Commission here in the US. However, these jurisdictions will not take players from the U.S. Some of the places that have had problems over the years include Venezuela, Margarita Island, St. Kitts the Dominican Republic. Though Panama has had some problems, there are a two very solid outlets there. The offshore industry has been alive and kicking for about 22 years or so, anyone telling you they have been around longer than this is not speaking of their operation offshore! The vast majority of books have surfaced since 2000. With the climate of the industry today ANY operations that are less than one year old should be suspect. In fact, we are generally only giving the 'green light' to operations that have made it through at least one baseball and football season. Sportsbooks rated Elite are literally worry-free outlets to play with.

Question: Next in the questioning should be "What are your money transfer methods and the fees associated with the sending and receiving of funds."
This has become a VERY important question as getting money to your offshore book has become a little more difficult every year. Since the UIGEA of 2006, the #1 problem sportsbooks offshore have is getting money back into the U.S. - payouts to U.S. citizens. Most books will pick up the fees when you send them a deposit of $300 or more. Generally you will pick up the fees upon requesting a payout.

In just two years, Bitcoin has become the preferred method of payment at online sports books and casinos. Bitcoin is a 'virtual currency' solution done through the Internet. Almost every book is using this now and it is seamless for both the player and the sportsbook. However, the value of Bitcoins can fluctuate and players should be mindful of the USD to Bitcoin conversion. Also watch for some of the smaller operations that will accept Bitcoin deposits, but will not pay out that way.

Every book will do MoneyGram, but Western Union is now not an option at all. Money Gram is obviously are the quickest method and you can easily request your money back that way - after all, sending cash is just like getting cash back. However, larger sums of money will cost more to be sent to you and limits are reduced from previous years. Also, transfers in excess of $10,000 per-month may get you flagged from using either service. 

Credit Cards, at one time, almost a thing of the past offshore, are back in the fold, with most every book accepting Visa as a form of payout, MasterCard is a bit tougher to find. Pre-paid VISA/MasterCards have proven in the last several years to be a reliable method to fund your account. Should your card go through, every sportsbook will require verification of your ID and a credit card authorization form. This is to help protect them from fraud and is required before any payout will be issued. Unfortunately, most books do not ask for this until a withdrawal is requested. Money transfer methods such as NeTeller, FirePay, PrePaid VISA/MasterCard, ACH and EChecks, at one time the most popular options, no longer will service the U.S. market. However, some books are getting EChecks and ACH back. To use these, you may even want to open a bank account strictly for your wagering. There are also Pre-paid Visa and ATM cards issued by the sportsbook. A book that offers their own ATM card is great, as this is a cheap, effective and fast way to get a payout.  These cards are also very difficult for the sportsbooks to keep 'under the radar', and have the potential to get shut down at any time. In addition, many of these cards have set withdrawal limits per day, so they may not work for larger players.

Most books should do check payouts and payouts via Money Orders. We also have always recommended getting your payout via bank check from the sportsbook, if MoneyGram and or Bitcoin are not options. At one time, these checks arrived within 48 hours, but now the standard that we use is more like 7-10 business days.. There is usually a flat fee of $40 to $75 - whether you are collecting $50 or $50,000, the same check fee applies.  Larger players are going to look at using bank wires, as most houses can not send checks in excess of $3000 anymore.

Question: " How often can you request a payout and how often do they actually do payouts?"
The vast majority of books will let you request a payout seven days a week, but most only pay out on certain days and certain times. It really varies here with most books paying out by noon Monday through Saturday. In addition, with payouts being the #1 concern for offshore operators, these may be changed or updated during the year. Same day payouts are more of a rarity than the norm, with much of the scams that have been perpetrated on the books over the years and the UIGEA making it increasingly difficult. Generally your money should arrive to you within 48-72 hours via person-to-person and a week to ten days via check. 

Question: "What are your hours of operation?"
Ask about both wagering and customer service. During the NFL season almost all sportsbooks will offer 24 hour wagering and should be open at least 10 hours per day for customer service. Look for a book that is open when you are used to putting your plays in.

Question: "Do you offer Poker & Casino Games"
Answer: Ask about both, even if you do not plan on playing. Many reputable houses offer both of these. Several of the larger sportsbooks have made a genuine commitment to their poker rooms, while other have dumped poker due to lack of interest in thier product.. This will help you to determine how legitimate your potential sportsbook may be. Sportsbooks players are a bit different than straight poker players and quite often these games are quite spirited. However, beware of casino games. Most of the sportsbooks that we have tested offer games that do not replicate the land-based casino experience. For some slot action or a few hands of blackjack, these casinos are fine, but for a serious casino player, find a casino that is only that, with no sportsbook attached!

Question: The Bonus.
Many books will be offering you the world to sign up or deposit. Be careful about too much of a good thing - though an 200% bonus looks good, collecting it may be difficult. Which leads to . . .

Yes in all caps! This is perhaps the most important question for you to insure that there are no problems when you go to withdrawal some of your winnings. Every book wants to see action - you will have to roll your money over (usually plus the bonus) two, three, ten or up to 20 times before being able to withdrawal any of your original deposit and bonus money. A 3X rollover means a $1000 deposit with a 20% bonus ($1200 in your account) will need to show $3600 in action before being able to withdrawal the original deposit and keep the bonus. Rollovers have gotten bigger and bigger over the years and it is not uncommon to see a large bonus have a 15X or more rollover. If you do not meet this wagering requirement, expect to have the bonus rescinded or be held hostage!

Most books will also be looking to keep you as a client. Across the board is a minimum 30-day stay, with regular action, policy. If you try to close your account before this 30 day rule is met, expect to have the bonus money stay at the sportsbook. Also, several books hold your money hostage for 15 to 30 days via a 'no withdrawal' rule, regardless of meeting any restrictions. Many books now tack on any fees associated with your deposit in all or some of the above stipulations.

Ask the bonus stipulation question . . . quite often clerks rush you through the sign-up process at this time of year. If you do not ask, they may not tell. This is one of the biggest complaints we get every football season, especially from newer players.

Question: "What is the minimum deposit and what are the minimum and maximum wagers on the sides and totals?"
This will vary all across the board. Find a book that suits your needs. Keep in mind almost every shop has lower Internet minimums and maximums than over the phone. The industry standard over the phone is $200 minimum deposit and $50 wager over the phone. Some books jack up the minimums over the phone during the peak time on Saturdays and Sundays making it $100! Though some books offers a minimum $25 wager, these are becoming more rare as skyrocketing costs for phone operations have made the $10 phone player obsolete.

If you are still on the phone or chat with them at this point, it gets to be time to ask the more difficult questions. Here is where customer service and professional clerks come into play. This can make or break an organization. The good clerks will know this information without having to put you on hold or get a supervisor.

Question: "When are your lines posted for next weekend's games?"
If you are a line watcher or an early bettor this is extremely important. Many books put their lines up late Sunday night  for the NFL and many are available within hours of the last results on the major sports. Some very reputable outlets limit their exposure by posted lines for next weekend's football games as late as Tuesday morning, after the initial lines have settled a bit.

Question: "What are your teaser and parlay odds?"
The industry standards are 10:11 on a two-team, 6-point teaser and 13:5 on two team parlays. There are shops that specialize in this type of action. If you play a good deal of teasers and/or parlays as part of your regular wagering strategy, do some extra homework before accepting standard odds. Check out our Top Parlay Sportsbooks and Best Teaser Sportstbooks for the latest information. If the clerk has to put you on hold or seems unsure and you plan on playing either of these wagers - get a supervisor to clarify before signing up! 

Don't get scammed gambling online Question: "Are their backup phone numbers and a backup website that I am able to use?"
The answer should be Yes and Yes. These books are all located in countries whose infrastructure is not that of the US. There are random outages as well as interruptions from natural occurrences.  The Caribbean has hurricane season from August through November and Costa Rica has twice yearly sun spots! Places that have modern conveniences like redundant lines and multiple satellites may work to your favor down the road. Make sure to get a LOCAL phone number, usually the local lines are land based, where the toll-free numbers are sent via satellite transmission. 

The bottom line is to do your homework, as there is a good shop out there to fit anyone's needs. Whether it is a FREE payout a month, a 30% bonus with a low rollover or reduced teaser juice, the right book can be found by asking the right questions. Members get access to our Elite Sportsbook list where there are links for each sportsbook for teaser and parlay odds, additional phone numbers and backup websites and more! In addition, get feedback from others you know who play offshore and check with the various watchdog agencies. A simple email to one of these organizations could save you days of heartache after you ask for that first payout.

Click here to email us questions before signing up at an offshore outlet

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