Why Offshore Sportsbooks Will Never Die

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:

When the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the federal government was wrong to stand in the way of legal sports betting and that each state could enact its own sports betting laws, people on the fringes of the industry believed that this marked the beginning of the end for offshore bookmakers.

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But people deeply ingrained in the industry and for more in tune with the movements of the business and the psyche of the customers knew differently. Not only are offshore sportsbooks not going away, but since sports betting became legal, they have actually seen an increase in business from Americans.

Taboos are Changing

Customers rarely stayed away from offshore bookmakers because they were unregulated, and therefore not legal in the United States. They stayed away because they didn’t like gambling or felt that it was a disreputable way to spend money. Proper people, they believed, didn’t engage in gambling.

That taboo is largely gone. Not only have all mainstream sports networks started gearing their programming to the sports bettor, so have all the mainstream sports. Watch ESPN, Fox, NBC Sports, and even the NFL Network, and you are guaranteed to see game picks and point spreads analysis.

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The waters have been pushing at the SCOTUS dam for years. Daily fantasy sports, NCAA Tournament pools, and Super Bowl squares at the office have slowly eroded the attitude that sports betting was wrong. The ruling in 2018 was the bursting of that dam, and the full embrace of sports betting for the American sports fan.

Offshore vs. Regulated

Millions of people now have a curiosity about sports betting that they didn’t have before. And even though states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Colorado all have legal sportsbooks operating in their states, as those sports betting adventurers look for a place to make a wager, they aren’t discerning.

Online bookmakers have been around for years, and their high number of page views keep them at the top of any Google search. Plus, over those years, they’ve built a large base of loyal customers that aren’t as interested in trying out a new sportsbook, even if it is now legal.

Old-fashioned word of mouth between sports fans looking for a bookmaker is still key in an industry increasingly going high-tech.

And how about all the license fees and taxes that new sportsbooks in the U.S. have to pay? To stay profitable, at some point, and through less in bonus offers or greater juice, that cost gets passed down to the customer. A sportsbook operating out of Panama has no such restriction.

Offshore Risks

The number of people placing sports bets online will only grow in the coming years, including the number of people using offshore sportsbooks. There is no dispute resolution with a book in Curacao, as there is in New Jersey. If a sportsbook in Costa Rica closes shop tomorrow, your money is lost, vs. the guarantees that a legal sportsbook in Pennsylvania provides.

For many people, those differences matter. But for the many others who continue to bet offshore, they are small risks to take in the high stakes business of sports gambling.

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