Online sports betting
The number of bookmakers and sportsbooks on the web must run well into the hundreds. There are those offering services to specific countries, global giants servicing multiple territories and others which operate “offshore” and market to places where gambling is restricted.
While many of these sports betting websites are legitimate, some have poor reputations. The World Gambling List has its finger on the pulse when it comes to sports betting and we aim to pass on this knowledge to our readers. We are working hard to secure deals for our readers with trustworthy bookmakers around the globe. The table above shows the bookmakers we endorse which market to your country.
Sports betting in the United Kingdom
With online sports betting licensed and regulated for almost 20 years in the UK, it has become one of the most respected licensing jurisdictions in the world.
United Kingdom betting sites place a strong emphasis on sports played on their shores, such as cricket and football, and major global sports such as the Olympics and tennis events. There has also been an improvement in the coverage of North American sports such as basketball and gridiron as they grow in popularity globally.
Bookmakers in the UK employ the thriving “in-play” betting that allows bettors to wager on sports that have already started.
Horse racing is also a major focus of British bookies, with leading brands offering racing from places such as England, Australia and the USA. When events such as the Melbourne Cup Carnival, the Grand National and the Breeders’ Cup roll around, UK bookmakers break into a frenzy as they compete for our punting dollar. This usually means there are plenty of bonus bets and other promotions available.
Sports betting in the USA
Gambling laws in the USA restrict residents of many states. The Federal Wire Act of 1961 is largely outdated in today’s environment, but essentially it bans using wire communications (telephone, internet) to engage in gambling activity.
Because the Internet was not around back then, there is much confusion as to whether this law really applies to the bettor, or only restricts sportsbooks from operating here.
Another law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, was passed in 1992. This banned betting at land-based venues in the USA in all but four states (Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon). Again this law pre-dates online betting.
Some states in the USA have introduced laws addressing online gambling in their jurisdictions and have websites available for sports betting based there.
In conclusion, there are plenty of bookmakers based “offshore” which will accept US players. Sometimes deposit options can be limited, and withdrawals a downright hassle, but there are several reputable websites for which we can vouch.
Sports betting in Australia
Since the mid-00s corporate bookies have been widely available to Australian residents, with Sportsbet, Centrebet and IASbet some of the pioneers in the industry.
These days many overseas-based bookmakers including William Hill and Paddy Power (Sportsbet) have taken a share of this lucrative market through purchasing existing bookmakers. In William Hill’s case, it has swallowed up several big brands including Sportingbet under its global banner.
Popular sports to bet on in Australia include horse racing, football codes such as Australian Rules, rugby league and soccer, greyhound and harness racing. Many Australians still bet at offshore bookmakers, sometimes because “in-play” betting is banned at bookies licensed in Australia and other times because often bigger bettors will find they are cut off if they are too successful.
Sports betting in China
To confuse matters further, certain types of gambling are legal in the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau, with the latter a gambling haven for casino players. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is responsible for much of the legal gambling happening in this area, with horse racing hugely popular.
There are plenty of reliable and competitive betting websites happy to accept bettors from these shores.
South African sports betting
One quirk of South African gambling is some states force bettors to pay tax on winnings.
While there are plenty of online bookmakers licensed in South Africa, there are also offshore bookies marketing there as well. When given an option, the World Gambling List always recommends betting at a bookie licensed in your country – this gives you an added layer of protection bettors in some countries don’t enjoy.
Popular sports for South Africans to punt on include horse racing, rugby, cricket and various soccer leagues.
Mobile sports betting
Any online betting site worth its salt has mobile betting available, either in the form of a sports betting app available from the App store, Google Play or directly from the gambling site, or a mobile website that functions in much the same way as an app. It was estimated in 2014 that almost 50 per cent of all wagers were placed from a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device, with this figure expected to grow even further.
Generally a mobile betting site will have all the same options as desktop sites. However, the deposit and withdrawal options can be more limited on hand-held devices. In time, the World Gambling List will have an expansive library of content related to mobile sports betting. You can also read about the mobile capabilities of any bookmakers we promote in their individual reviews.
Popular sports to bet on worldwide
The diversity of sports the staff at the World Gambling List bet on is breathtaking. If our attention is not on the NBA in North America, we’re probably finding a winner in the English Premier League or doing our money on the races at Royal Ascot.
While we will have individual pages for all the major and marginal betting sports around the world in time, here are a few of the most popular leagues and events on which online bookmakers offer wagering.
Horse Racing: The sport of kings is globally recognized as a punter’s sport. It’s one sport that is almost more about the betting than the storyline for many. Some of the countries where horse racing is most popular include the United Kingdom, Ireland, USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Baseball: The National sport of the United States and a very popular sport to wager on. Baseball is also prominent in Japan and Canada and has a massive global audience. The big stars are paid huge money, while many Hollywood films have been based around both the good, and the bad, parts of baseball.
Basketball: With so many leagues around the globe, billions are wagered on this sport annually. Some of the more popular leagues to bet on include the NBA, Heba A1 in Greece, the Chinese Basketball Association and Spain’s national league. It is not uncommon for basketball betting sites to have markets for every league around the world, with matches taking place almost every day.
FIFA World Cup: We all know just how popular the soccer, or football, World Cup is when it comes to betting. Brazil 2014 broke all sorts of records for money gambled, with the 2018 Russian incarnation pushing the boundaries even further. Betting sites around the globe go into meltdown for the duration of the tournament. Qatar is due to host the next incarnation of the football World Cup, although it is unclear if it will go ahead because of the covid-19 crisis engulfing the world.
Ice Hockey: While predominantly popular in the USA, Canada and Russia, ice hockey does have its fans when it comes to betting. The NHL is the best ice hockey league in the world and features teams from all over the USA and Canada. Online betting companies will generally have extensive markets available on any ice hockey that is taking place around the world.
AFL & NRL: Most of our readers are probably saying “WHAT?” right now. But the Australian Football League (AFL betting guide) and the National Rugby League (NRL betting guide) deserve to be mentioned. Australia is probably the biggest-betting country on the planet per capita and these two sports are at the top of the chain when it comes to Aussies having a punt. All of the top Australian betting sites will have markets available on the AFL, while we constantly have AFL tips and NRL tips articles being published.
Cricket: India, Pakistan, Australia, England and South Africa are just some of the countries obsessed by this odd sport. Cricket is bet on by millions with particular interest surrounding the Indian Premier League, which features many of the best players from around the globe in a Twenty20 competition. Coming up in 2021 cricket betting will take centre stage with the T20 World Cup, while in 2023 we have the 50 Over World Cup to look forward to, with home team England favourite to win the tournament. Other teams in the betting include India, Australia and South Africa.
Darts: Darts has blossomed into a popular betting sport, with most online betting sites now hosting odds on many tournaments and events around the world. Darts betting is particular prevalent in the United Kingdom, but it also a firm foothold in North America, Australia, China and many other countries. Read our guide to darts betting, which includes some funs observations from a legendary commentator.
Esports: One of the fastest growing areas in gambling, esports betting, charged by its younger demographic, is storming up the list of sports to bet on. For the uninitiated, esports is professional video gaming. Esports is insanely popular in most of Asia, North America and Europe. Popular video games with professional leagues or events include League of Legends, Dota 2, FIFA and NBA 2k. Find our more about esports betting sites in our detailed guide.
Rugby World Cup: The last RWC event happened in Japan in 2019, with South Africa taking out the title. New Zealand was the pre-tournament favourite, but they were upset in the semi finals. Many of the countries taking part un the Rugby World Cup, such as New Zealand and England, have big-betting fans when it comes to matters of national pride. There is some good money to be made during events such as this with some careful study. More on the RWC right here.
The Super Bowl: While the grand finale of the National Football League (NFL) is a US event, it continues to grow on a global scale in a gambling sense. Online bookies all over the world offer markets on this game (and regular NFL games); Super Bowl week generally means there is money flying around everywhere.
Rules for betting on sports
If you are serious about making a profit betting on sport there are some things you can do to maximize your chances. While there is always an element of luck involved when it comes to gambling, you can enhance your chances by following these tips.
Do the maths: Sports brokers don’t just take a stab in the dark when they are setting lines, odds or employing staff. Mark our words, there are smart people calculating the markets. So you need to be smart as well. For instance, you are not going to take odds of 1.20 when you are betting on a coin toss.
Know your limits: Gambling is littered with tales of people losing the shirt off their back after an unlucky streak. Gamble within your means and never chase your losses, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Head over heart: In my heart Denver Nuggets are division champions, in my head there are teams with better qualifications for that mantle. Make your bets based on sound judgment and current form, rather than long past results and gut feelings. If a home team is heavy favourite against a fierce rival, it might be much closer than anticipated.
Patience & discipline: Never go all out on one bet. Set yourself a maximum percentage of your bankroll you are willing to part with on a single bet that you particularly like. Impatience has killed many a sports bettor, with the most successful willing to be patient and get small returns constantly, rather than jagging the big fish (gee, it does feel good though, doesn’t it?).
Multiple accounts: Check odds at multiple sources before placing any bets. You don’t need to be an arbitrage betting genius to check odds at several websites before placing your bet. This can get you those extra few dollars each time you place a bet, which can add up over time. Every now and then, particularly in futures betting, you will find large discrepancies in odds, and this is the time to cash in. Read more about sports betting strategy here.
Deposit options at online betting sites
This really depends on where you are betting from. For countries where gambling is legal and regulated you will be able to deposit with credit and debit cards such as Visa and Mastercard.
Other countries are not so fortunate and punters must use alternate methods such as Neteller and Moneybookers.
Bank transfers or wires are also a common option for online bettors funding their accounts. Often the deposit limits are much higher for this type of transaction, so that may appeal to you whales out there.
Popular deposit methods: Visa, MasterCard, bank transfers, Neteller, Skrill, Moneybookers, money wires, POLi, Paypal, bitcoin.
Bonus offers available at sports betting sites
Sign-up bonuses are everywhere when it comes to gambling online. Are these worth our time? It largely depends on the individual sportsbook and what the clearing or wagering requirements are.
The World Gambling List has a policy that we won’t use a bonus bet as a determining factor in our judgment of a sports betting operator. We are more interested in the everyday odds, the reputation of the betting site and punters’ safety.
Having said that, there are some good deals for sports bettors. Because some markets are so crowded with betting sites, companies are forced to offer more and more to make us bet with them. If we are smart we have multiple accounts and take advantage of any good deals when they arise. Just remember to read the fine print before you deposit money to take advantage of free bets.
Some of the free bet offers we have seen at online betting sites include no deposit bonus offers, matched deposit offers and first bet back deals. Basically, the depth of sports free bets up for grabs will depend on where you are located in the world and how badly betting sites want your business.
A few examples of how betting sign up bonuses can vary from country to country are that Australia has banned them outright, the UK polices them very closely, while the US sports betting market is seemingly a free-for-all.
Sports betting – by country
The laws governing sports betting will largely be determined by where you are in the world. For instance the online sports betting landscape is significantly different in Australia than it is in New Zealand or the UK. In this section of our sports betting guide we will give you an outline of what to expect in select jurisdictions.
Sports betting in Canada
Canadians have very few laws policing sports betting, although betting sites in Canada are not allowed to offer single-event wagers. There is nothing stopping bettors in Canada from wagering with offshore online betting sites, with these the most popular option for this part of the world. Canada has long been threatening to update its gambling laws surrounding sports betting and rest assured the WGL team will keep you informed as changes happen.
Online betting in Australia
Australian online betting is exceptionally popular and legal down under, with major sports to wager on including the AFL, NRL, horse racing and cricket. Basically Australians are sports mad and there are upwards of 15 online bookmakers willing to accept bets from this part of the world. Key sports betting regulators include the Northern Territory Racing Commission and NSW Liquor & Gaming. Popular betting sites in Australia include Sportsbet and Ladbrokes.
South African sports betting
South Africa has got its own regulated sports betting industry, with offshore online betting sites banned from operating in this country. Sports betting in South Africa centres around rugby, cricket, football and basketball. Horse racing also has its fans in the Rainbow Nation, with many of the top SA racing betting sites having things like streaming and bonus offers. The best sports betting sites in South Africa include betway.co.za and Sportingbet.co.za.
UK sports betting
Online betting in the United Kingdom is 100% legal with many of the top UK bookmakers globally recognised. Online sports betting in the UK centres around football betting, while other sports like cricket, rugby, rugby league and basketball are also popular with punters. People in the UK can bet online (learn about the top UK betting sites) with very few restrictions or they can take advantage of one of the many betting shops dotted around Great Britain. The United Kingdom Gambling Commission polices sports betting in this country.
Staying safe & customer service when betting online
Read, read and do some more reading before you commit to gambling at a website. If you’re in a country with regulated bookmakers, unless you’re in a special situation, use them.
Websites such as the World Gambling List and other independent resources can give you a good idea of what to expect from a website. Again you need to be careful when using sites like this, because some are just trying to get you to click a clink; we believe that for a long-term sustainable website, honesty is the best policy.
You should also make sure a website has adequate customer service before gambling there. You will know true frustration if your funds disappear and there is no one to contact.
Legitimate sports betting websites will be active on social media and have people to contact when things are going pear-shaped or you have simply forgotten your login details.
Commonly asked questions about sports betting online
What odds formats do online betting sites use?: When betting online you often can choose what odds formats are displayed. The three types of odds you will find at online betting sites are decimal, fractional and American odds. You can read further information about how odds formats vary in our detailed explanation.