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Offshore Sportsbooks: What Makes Gamblers Bet With Them

Sports Betting has been legalised in many countries and states, while others are in the process of doing so. Taking this into consideration, more gamblers than before placing bets on reliable licensed betting sites.

Still, there are plenty of people who wager with offshore bookmakers. An offshore sportsbook is a site that operates in markets without a license.

These sports betting sites or sportsbooks might hold a license in the jurisdiction where they are based, however, they are yet to obtain approval from all the markets they serve.

Although, gamblers must stick to legal license and the safest online betting sites, yet they choose offshore sites in some cases. This is a curious case and in this article, we are going to take a closer look at what makes these unlicensed bookmakers so appealing to some gamblers.


1. For some, offshore betting sites are the only option

One of the most obvious reasons why some people gamble with unlicensed operators is because they simply don’t have any other option.

There are plenty of regions where sports betting is still not legalised and gamblers in such places are forced to confide in offshore sportsbooks.

The reason why some governments tend to regulate sports gambling varies from country to country. Some lawmakers see betting as a moral issue while others have legislative disagreements.

Whatever may be the reason, but the government’s inability or unwillingness to legalise betting opens up the market for offshore bookmakers who are more than happy to fill this void. It is a favourite market for unlicensed sportsbooks to choose to operate in places that do not have strong laws against betting. While serving such jurisdictions, unlicensed bookmakers are less likely to experience any legal consequences.

For gamblers, it is easy to bet with offshore bookmakers in the absence of any other options. Also, the absence of any strong law frees them up from facing any sort of criminal charges. Only in rare cases does a gambler have to face charges or an arrest for betting with an online sportsbook. China and North Korea are a few countries where Internet gamblers face a legal threat.

2.Many states and countries have ambiguous laws against offshore sportsbooks

Some jurisdictions feature a grey market when it comes to online sports betting. In simple terms, these countries or states do not explicitly mention that Internet sports wagering is illegal but they don’t declare it legal either.

Such restrictions are a comfort zone for offshore sportsbooks as there is little fear of retribution to operate in such markets.

While governments have ambiguous law that threatens the unlicensed betting sites, it is not enough to stop these unlicensed sportsbooks from operating. For instance, the United States’ Wire Act has the option to prosecute any illegal betting operator.

Here’s an excerpt from the 1960 US Wire Act:

 “Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest […]”

Interestingly, in 2011, the US Department of Justice interpreted this very Wire Act to only apply to online sports betting and enforce actions against illegal operators. However, in 2018, the Department of Justice updated its opinion based on the same Wire Act that any type of Internet gambling is illegal.

The latter decision did face the fierce backlash from states that have regulated online gambling markets. Overall, the take of the Department of Justice is that unlicensed online betting should be illegal.

But does that make offshore operators care? No. They continue to regard the opinion of the Department of Justice as any other opinion and continue to serve jurisdictions unless they see a strong legal action.

An example of serious legal action against illegal gambling operations was seen in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The Bluegrass State once seized 141 gambling domain names. Ever since offshore bookmakers have steered away from the state.

The conclusion here is, online betting sites will continue to operate in markets until they feel that their operations carry a significant legal risk.

3. Legal betting sites don’t always offer competitive odds

Legal bookmakers have the biggest advantage of being able to advertise through mainstream outlets. They are free to run advertisements through local newspapers, social media sites and TV stations.

The ability to be able to legally promote their services through social media sites especially effective for legal bookmakers as they can utilise the power and reach of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter to target the gamblers of any age group.

That being said, the regulated markets also levy licensing fees and/or heavy taxes for online betting sites.

For instance, The UK Gambling Commission or UKGC requires any online gambling site to pay a 15% income tax. The Gibraltar government makes online gambling operators cover a £100,000 application fee before their application can even be approved.

It is no secret that licensed bookmakers will not bear this cost on their own, instead, they will pass the cost on to customers in one form or another.

In some cases, the licensed bookmakers feature slightly worse odds than offshore markets to counteract the taxes or licensing fee they are paying. This scenario is not always true as there are some real money online sportsbooks that are successful enough to operate in licensed markets and yet feature competitive odds.

This is the area where unlicensed betting sites are at an advantage as they don’t have to cover licensing fee or pay taxes and can offer favourable odds and more promotions. Some of the operators even offer reduced juice than their competitors which means more profit for gamblers.

4. Some gamblers are not concerned with the unlicensed aspect

Offshore betting, interestingly has a longer history than regulated sports gambling. Since the mid-1990s, unlicensed bookmakers have served gamblers.

Gamblers are used to unregulated sportsbooks for so long that they do not concern themselves with the unlicensed aspect of these betting sites. Even when they are aware of the fact that with offshore bookmakers there is no one protecting them and risk is always involved.

Most of these offshore betting sites operate out of weak gambling jurisdictions such as Belize or Costa Rica.

To be able to operate, these bookmakers obtain approval from Costa Rican or Belizean governments and honestly, it is not that difficult to obtain a license at these locations. This way they can avoid the lofty standards of the markets they serve.

In theory, an offshore betting site can shut down and never pay its players without facing any legal action. In such a scenario you will lose all your deposit. Fortunately, this terrifying scenario is not common.

There are some of the best offshore bookmakers operating for over a decade now such as Bovada and BetOnline that are prime examples of treating customers with loyalty and sincerity.

5. Offshore betting sites can beat legal bookmakers at times

The onus is on players to do thorough research before they sign up with any sports gambling site. There are many top-rated review sites available that rate sports betting sites and provide you with a better picture of their reputation.

If you are able to find reputed offshore bookmakers and compare them with legal sports betting sites, then you will find there is not much of a difference. Even in some cases, unlicensed bookmakers can be better than licensed operators.

Whenever you look for an online bookmaker consider these factors:

  • What markets they operate in?
  • How competitive are the odds offered?
  • Deposit and withdrawal limits
  • What banking options are available?
  • How are bonuses and promotions?
  • How reliable is the customer service?

One factor where regulated bookmakers are unmatched winners is the bonus and promotion department. As many legal betting sites are still competing for a better position in the market, they offer incredible bonuses to entice gamblers.

That being said, offshore betting sites can compare to, or even surpass some of the legal counterparts in many other areas.

This is why you should not write off any offshore betting site immediately. If it offers good customer service and stands out in most areas, then it might be worth considering.


As many governments see betting as a way to bring in lots of tax revenue, legal sports gambling is becoming quite common, globally.

But still, offshore sports betting is not going away anytime soon.

In some cases, offshore bookmakers beat their legal counterparts by offering superior services. As offshore betting sites have been into existence for decades, gamblers are not much bothered about their unlicensed aspect.

We hope that we have clearly detailed the pros and cons of offshore sportsbooks for you.

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