Sports Betting Sites: How Online Sports Betting Works

Posted by Arthur Crowson .

With new regulations passing all the time and legal online sports betting facing less criticism in the United States, this branch of the booming gambling industry continues to expand at an incredible rate. Our guide will explain how to bet, where to find the best sports betting sites, define types of sports wagers, share tips for beginners, and highlight the best current mobile sportsbooks and top-rated sports betting apps.

Where to Find The Best Online Sports Betting Sites

If you want to bet at sports betting sites USA, here are the best online sportsbooks:

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How to Bet on Sports

Want to learn sports betting basics? Whether you’re a beginner or need a refresher, we cover what you need to know about sports betting strategy, like what sports odds mean, what spread bets are, how to read line movement and more.

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Find The Right Online Sports Betting Sites

Please do your homework before joining any online gambling site. Rest assured that the best online sportsbooks mentioned above are all highly reputable. Whether you are an online poker player learning how to bet on sports or consider yourself a sharp, there is a site for you. Our list of trustworthy sportsbooks online will help you avoid the time consuming and confusing process of comparing the various sites for quality in order to match yourself with the best sports betting sites.

What Types of Sports Bets Can You Make?

Three of the most popular forms of online sports bets are moneyline, point spreads, and totals (over/under). The information in this section explains each of these betting options offered at the sportsbook in an easy-to-digest manner.

Moneyline Bets

A moneyline bet is a sports wager on which team will win a particular game. The moneyline wager is the most popular in NHL betting and MLB betting, but exists also for NBA betting, online football betting and other sports. In this type of bet, the payout is the same regardless of how many runs or points the team you wagered on scores.

Placing moneyline bets requires that you first understand the American odds system, which always uses a 3-or-more digit whole number expressed as either positive or negative. The reason there are positive and negative moneylines is that the two teams are often not equally matched.

A negative moneyline, for instance, represents how much a bettor must stake to profit $100, with a line of -180 requiring a $180 bet in order to profit $100. Therefore, if your bet is successful, you keep the $180 you staked plus the extra $100 in winnings. Meanwhile, a positive moneyline is how much a $100 stake will pay. For example, if you stake $100 on a line of +160, if your bet wins you keep the $100 you staked, plus an extra $160 in winnings.

Point Spread Bets

Point spread betting is the most popular way to bet on the two most frequently wagered upon sports in the United States, namely NFL betting and basketball betting. The basic idea behind point spread betting is to make the sports game closer to a 50/50 proposition by adding a handicap.

For example, you could find the New York Giants +10.5, and the Philadelphia Eagles -10.5.

How this works is that the favorite team always has a negative value alongside it, and the underdogs a positive value.

In our example, the Philadelphia Eagles are the favorites to win by 10.5 points in this game.

Meanwhile, the underdog in this game are the New York Giants, which has a +10.5 value, meaning online sports bettors will profit if the New York Giants win the game outright or lose by 10-or-fewer points.

All point spread wagers also have a price or commission, which if not stated by the Las Vegas sportsbooks is assumed to be -110.

In other words, risk $110 to profit $100, or if simplified, every dollar bet you bet, the sportsbook receives 10 cents, rather than an even 50/50 line in which you bet a dollar to make a dollar. This extra price you’re charged is referred to as the vig or juice and is how the sportsbooks make their profit.

When betting online, you’ll commonly find point spreads that have half points involved (example -2.5 / +2.5), thus ensuring there is no way for a sports bettors wager to be tied, otherwise known as a push.

Totals – Over/Under Bets

Totals betting, also known as over/under betting, is one of the easiest sports bets to understand. Here you bet on whether the total number of points scored by both teams combined during a game will be over or under the posted betting total.

For example, this bet might be:

  • over/under 8.5 runs in baseball
  • over/under 5.5 goals in hockey
  • over/under 40.5 points in football
  • over/under 200 points in basketball

Similar to point spread betting, unless otherwise stated, these bets are assumed to be offered at -110 (risk $110 to profit $100). Also, similar to point spread betting, it’s also quite common in totals betting to see each option have a different vig price, such as over 5.5 (-130) / under 5.5 (+110).

Futures Bet

As the name implies, a futures bet is a wager that will occur later on in the sports calendar rather than that same day. Examples of futures are odds to win the Super Bowl, odds to win an award like Most Valuable Player or, in entertainment, odds to win the most Oscars at the Academy Awards.

How to Place a Sports Bet

Register and make a deposit

Register and make a deposit

Having decided on the best sports betting site for you, the first step towards placing a bet is to register for a free account, log in and make your first deposit. Be sure to pick up a free bonus to boost your bankroll.

Research your bet

Research your bet

Spend a little time familiarizing yourself with the terms and conditions and betting rules on the site. Then it’s time to research your bet. If you already have a prediction in mind, right on! If you need a little help, check out our expert picks.

Place your bet

Place your bet

Find the bet you want to make. If you like the odds, click on it and populate a generated bet slip with the amount you’d like to wager. Double check it before confirming to place your bet. It’s that simple.

Tips For Choosing an Online Betting USA Site

Learn All You Can About The Betting Site

Read everything you can about your chosen online sports betting platform, the betting opportunities it offers, all available sign-up, deposit, and loyalty promotions, whether it is available for mobile betting and its various payment options. You should also take time to check out its customer service options, as well as familiarize yourself with the ease of its user interface.

Furthermore, you should read through the terms and conditions of the betting site, especially in regards to the various bonuses in offers in order to avoid any unwelcome surprises. Most bonuses and site offers (for example, the sign up bonus) have a wagering requirement (sometimes called a rollover requirement), which means you would have to bet a given amount to make the bonus complete. It’s smart and prudent to find out exactly how much you need to wager before being able to cash out your bonus money.

Also, be sure to check the minimum and maximum deposit and withdrawal limits to ensure that they fit your bankroll.

Use The Betting Site’s Resource Section

If you are a completely novice sports bettor and wish to learn how to bet on sports, plenty of betting sites will provide you a step-by-step guide to betting. These are generally very useful and will help you start betting quickly, whether it’s betting on the Super Bowl, March Madness in NCAA basketball betting, NHL betting on the Stanley Cup, MLB World Series odds, the Kentucky Derby or any other sports event.

It’s probably best for novice sports bettors to embrace straight-forward wagers starting out and focus on the three most common bet types of a game’s or event’s moneyline, point spread, and total points/runs. The best sports betting sites’ resource pages provide detailed explanations and examples of these bet types.

Start with Small Bets

When learning how to bet on sports online, start with small stake bets and gradually increase the amount only after you understand how that particular bet works. In other words, manage your bankroll wisely. After all, it is your hard-earned money that is at stake here. Moreover, only bet the amount you can afford to lose, which should be funds that you have left over after you have met your other regular bills and expenses.

Be sure to avoid specialty sports bets like parlays and teasers, which can drain a bankroll quickly. If you do want to make a sports parlay or teaser bet, start with $5-$10 and wager on just 2-3 outcomes to improve your odds of the ticket cashing.

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What Other Sports Can You Bet On?

Of course, football, basketball and baseball are not the only sports you can bet on. We can show you how to bet on sports, including the following:

  • NFL – Bet on who you think will win Super Bowl 57 in Arizona!
  • NCAA Basketball – Can Kansas win back-to-back National Championships?
  • UFC – Wager on the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world!
  • Golf – Wager on the best golf players teeing it up each week on the PGA Tour and around the world.
  • Soccer – Major League Soccer is popular among US bettors, but so is the English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga.
  • Boxing – “The Sweet Science” is still a popular option at sportsbooks, from the big fights to the weekly events.
  • Formula 1 – One of the fastest motorsports on the planet, Formula 1 is more popular than ever thanks to the success of drivers such as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
  • WWE – WWE betting is growing in popularity. Not only can you find WWE odds, AEW betting is now available!
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Major Sports Betting Events Calendar

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the volume of sports to bet on during a calendar year, but we’re hoping to take the stress out of planning by highlighting some annual major sports betting events to remember. Here’s what’s hot on the online sports betting USA calendar to kick off 2023.

MonthEventSportDates
JanuaryCollege Football Playoff ChampionshipCollege FootballJanuary 9, 2023
JanuaryNFL Divisional Playoff WeekendNFLJanuary 21-22, 2023
FebruarySuper Bowl 57NFLFebruary 12, 2023
FebruaryUEFA Champions League Round of 16Int’l SoccerFebruary 14-15 and 21-22, 2023
FebruaryNBA All-Star GameNBAFebruary 19, 2023
MarchMarch MadnessCollege BasketballMarch 14, 2023
MarchMLB Opening DayMLB BaseballMarch 30, 2023
AprilKentucky DerbyHorse RacingApril 6, 2023
AprilThe MastersPGA GolfApril 6, 2023
JuneNBA FinalsNBA BasketballJuly 1, 2023
JuneStanley Cup FinalsNHL HockeyTBD
JulyWimbledonAPT/WTA TennisJuly 3
SeptemberNFL Regular SeasonNFL FootballSeptember 7, 2023
OctoberMLB PlayoffsMLB BaseballOctober 3, 2023

Mobile Sports Betting Sites USA & Apps

On-the-Go

On-the-Go

The saying goes “life comes at you fast” and the world isn’t slowing down anytime soon. With most of us on-the-go everyday, it’s important for online sportsbooks to be optimized for mobile moreso than desktop.

Sports Betting Apps

Sports Betting Apps

Industry leaders may offer a downloadable sports betting app in the Apple’s App and Google Play stores, but the best realized those were often clunky and required a large amount of memory from smart devices. To make things easy on users, sports betting sites simply made their mobile experience mirror the desktop by simply opening up a browser.

Browser-Based Sports Betting

Browser-Based Sports Betting

Browser-based mobile online sports betting on mobile allows users to simply open up their smart device’s browser, type in the sports betting site address, login to their account and have all the bells and whistles enjoyed on the desktop right in the palm of their hand. Most mobile devices let you save a sportsbook quick link to your homescreen, too. That way, you’re only one click away from your placing a bet.

How Do You Win at Online Sports Betting?

This guide is meant to help you understand the basics of how to bet on sports.

Just know that betting on sports is extremely competitive, and people often beat the odds by exploiting leaks presented by online sports betting USA sites. Nevertheless, this is in an industry where it is hard to be profitable in the long run, and very few are destined to make a living betting on sports. In fact, the majority of sports bettors tend to be what we call recreational bettors.

On the plus side, there are tons of good bonus offers and promotions available at the best sportsbooks that can make your hobby profitable. Just be sure to stay disciplined, though, and never risk any more than a couple percent of your bankroll on any given game.

Legality of Betting on Sports in the U.S.

For many years, legal online sports betting USA was only allowed in Nevada. Due to its exclusive status as a gambling hub, cities like Las Vegas and Reno prospered off of bettors flocking to the desert to place bets.

That all changed in 2018, when the Supreme Court struck down an antiquated piece of legislation and redefined brick and mortar sportsbook and online sports gambling laws. Since then, the states, and not the federal government, have gained control on how they want to handle legal online sports betting within their borders.

Professional an Amateur Sports Protection Act

In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the federal Professional an Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. This law prohibited states other than Nevada (and in limited circumstances Delaware, Oregon, and Montana) from allowing sportsbooks within their borders.

New Jersey, home of Atlantic City casinos, led the charge to repeal PASPA. Now, every state has the ability to regulate sports betting.

Sports Betting Is Governed by State Law

Each state is allowed to make its own laws for what gambling it does and does not allow.

That is why lotteries are run by their respective state and any casinos or horse tracks are regulated by a Gaming Commission.

Sportsbooks are the same way. There are different laws in different states regarding where you can bet on sports, either online or in-person. There are also regulations on how you can bet, maximum bets, and the type of bets allowed.

Read our state-by-state guide to land-based sportsbooks in the next section.

The Federal Wire Act

The federal government still has tools to stop illegal gambling.

The Wire Act of 1961 prohibits using interstate communication to further wagers on “any sporting event or contest.”

However, the Wire Act is now used exclusively against shady operators of illegal gambling rings. While past administrations were more hostile towards legal online gambling, the Biden administration is not standing in the way of the growth of legal sports betting.

States With Land-Based Legal Sports Betting

One of the easiest ways to learn how to bet on sports is to go out and practice. The following table covers every state where you can find retail sports betting. We also list the best online sportsbooks for residents of every state!

StateLegal Sports Betting (Y/N)
AlabamaNo
AlaskaNo
ArizonaYes
ArkansasYes
CaliforniaNo
ColoradoYes
ConnecticutYes
DelawareRetail
FloridaNo
GeorgiaNo
HawaiiNo
IdahoNo
IllinoisYes
IndianaYes
IowaYes
KansasYes
KentuckyNo
LouisianaYes
MaineNo
MarylandYes
MassachusettsYes (mobile: March 2023)
MichiganYes
MinnesotaNo
MississippiRetail
MissouriRetail
MontanaYes
NebraskaLaunches Late 2023, Early 2024
NevadaYes
New HampshireYes
New JerseyYes
New MexicoYes
North CarolinaYes
North DakotaYes
OhioComing Jan 1, 2023
OklahomaNo
OregonYes (Scoreboard App)
PennsylvaniaYes
Rhode IslandYes
South CarolinaNo
South DakotaYes
TennesseeYes
TexasNo
UtahNo
VermontNo
VirginiaYes
WashingtonYes
Washington, D.C.Yes (GamBet DC)
West VirginiaYes
WisconsinYes
WyomingNo

Recent and Upcoming States with Legal Sports Betting Online

Several states either have added legal sports betting in the past year or plan to launch sports betting in the next year. Here is a quick look at the latest sports betting legislation in the USA.

  • Massachusetts: Sports betting launched on January 31, 2023. Mobile sports betting will launch in March 2023.
  • Nebraska: Passed legal sports betting legislation in 2022. Expected to launch either in late 2023 or early 2024.
  • Ohio: Legislation passed in 2021. Launched on January 1, 2023.

What are Other Ways to Bet On Sports?

The sports gambling industry continues to grow across the country, with an increasing number of states offering legal, regulated USA online gambling options. This includes Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island, Mississippi and New Mexico. New York, Indiana, Iowa, online gambling Illinois, Michigan, Arkansas, Oregon and of course, Nevada, have also largely legislated legal online wagering.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country have bills that have been introduced, but not passed, or bills that have been recently passed. The only places that have no interest in legal online sports wagers are Utah, Wisconsin and Idaho.

If you’re not a resident or visiting one of the regulated betting states, or are not comfortable using online gambling sites, you could always use either a Las Vegas sportsbook or, alternatively, a local sportsbook to take your action.

Many of the best sports gambling sites will post sports-like odds for non-sporting events. Popular events to bet on outside of the sports arena include Oscars & awards betting, betting on the stock market, the weather and politics. such as US Election betting odds.

Online Sports Betting Glossary

1Q/1H/2Q/2H/3Q/4Q

Shorthand for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th quarter and 1st and 2nd half bets.

Exotic

As the name indicates, exotics are another form of prop bet that gets a little weird sometimes. For example, what will happen first: LeBron James breaks Kareem’s scoring record or LeBron wins another NBA Championship.

F5

A baseball bet term for first five innings.

Juice/Vig

Another term for cost of placing a bet and is easier to show an example than define. When you look at a moneyline bet on an oddsboard, it’ll look something like: Bills -125 Jets +120

L5 / L10

Shorthand for last five games / last 10 games.

Moneyline (ML)

Another term for an outright win sports bet. When betting the moneyline you believe one of the two teams (or player) will win the event.

Parlay

A multi-game, multi-event bet, in which 2-or-more wagers must be correct in order for the ticket to cash. Because you are betting on more results to happen successfully, parlay bets often enjoy great odds than single bets.

Point Spread

A type of bet where one team must win by a certain amount of points or the other team must lose within a certain number of points. For example, Browns (-7) vs Jets (+7) means the Browns must win by more than 7 points to win or the Jets must lose by fewer than 7 points or win outright. If the final score is Browns 28 Jets 21, the bet is a PUSH.

Point Total (Total)

Also know as an Over / Under bet, is one when you must guess whether the total points scored will be over or under a certain number

Prop / Proposition Bet

These typically have to do with a certain player or team achieving a certain goal threshold within an event. An example of a prop bet would be Cam Akers OVER/UNDER 65 rushing yards against the Seahawks.

Puck Total

The same as point total, but applied to hockey.

Push

A sports betting term for a tie and wagers are returned to the player.

Retail Betting

Sports betting done at a land-based sportsbook at a casino or horse track.

Run Total

The same as point total, but applied to baseball.

Slip / Ticket

Another word for bet slip in which your wager is printed on.

Specials

An off-shoot of prop bets, specials are unique to a certain time frame. For example, during MLB playoffs, who will score more points/runs, the Rangers or Cowboys?

Teaser

Similar to a parlay, a teaser contains multiple event bets where the point spread and/or totals can be adjusted by “buying” points.

An example of this would be a 2-team, 6-point teaser where the Browns are originally -6 (6-point favorites, must win by 7) and Seahawks are -3 (3-point favorites, must by 4), but with the 6-point teaser, you move the spread to Browns (EVEN, all they need to do is win) and Seahawks (+3, they can win or lose by 2 or 1) and still win the bet.

Tilting

When you start betting with uncontrollable emotion.

Other Useful Online Sports Betting Guides

Safe Sportsbooks icon

Your safety is imperative at online sportsbooks, and we show you what to look for.

Online Sports Betting Reviews icon

Find the best sports betting sites here.

Real Money Sportsbooks icon

Check out what goes into a real money sportsbook.

Online Sports Betting FAQs

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Arthur Crowson

Arthur Crowson writes for GambleOnline.co about the gambling industry. His experience ranges from crypto and technology to sports, casinos, and poker. He went to Douglas College and started his journalism career at the Merritt Herald as a general beat reporter covering news, sports and community. Arthur lives in Hawaii and is passionate about writing, editing, and photography.

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