How to become a sports bookie (2024)


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Ayvar Gabidullin How to become a sports bookie (2)Updated 9 June, 2022 How to become a sports bookie (3)11min.How to become a sports bookie (4)7126

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On these pages, we already covered in detail how to start an online casino. Many of the same principles apply when launching an online betting platform; however, there are some differences that should be kept in mind by those interested in investing in this vertical. This article focuses on these specificities and outlines what's needed to get a successful online sportsbook off the ground.

After the abrupt halt caused by the pandemic in 2020, the betting vertical has quickly recovered, and online sportsbooks have significantly increased their market share thanks to the closure of physical betting shops. Given the sector's sustained growth over the past few years, starting an online sportsbook is an attractive proposition for investors everywhere. To learn how to make the best of this opportunity, keep reading this article.

Why launch an online sportsbook?

Pandemic notwithstanding, the online sports betting vertical is in better shape than ever. In Europe, home of the wealthiest gambling markets in the world, sports betting accounts for over 40% of all iGaming income, raking in an astounding €10 billion in gross gaming revenues in 2019. The forecasted year-on-year growth between 2020 and 2025 stands at 10%.

Similarly, sports betting takes the lion's share in developing markets like Africa, partially due to infrastructural limitations making other forms of iGaming less viable, and Latin America, where the passion for football drives the consumption of betting products.

In the United States, a 2018 Supreme Court ruling allowed the legalisation of sports betting at a state level, resulting in the staggered opening of a massive and extraordinarily wealthy market. Revenues amounted to $1 billion in 2020 and are expected to grow to $8 billion by 2025.

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While the gambling industry as a whole suffered greatly due to the forced closure of brick-and-mortar establishments throughout much of 2020 and 2021, the sports betting vertical was hit particularly hard by the suspension of sporting events and leagues. However, this unexpected situation accelerated the adoption of alternative prediction markets, opening new revenue streams: the GGR derived from esports, for example, grew by 39% in 2020 up to the €280 million mark, following years of growth at much lower rates.
How to become a sports bookie (5)

What makes online sportsbooks unique?

Much like starting an online casino, launching an online betting platform requires plenty of planning and extensive market research. Arguably, the most significant difference between the two is that running a successful sportsbook without relying on expert advice and existing solutions requires a much more in-depth understanding of the vertical's inner workings.

Online casino operators have to provide players with a constant stream of new games to keep them engaged. These games can be acquired directly from developer studios, or more conveniently, through aggregators like Slotegrator. Once the games are added to the casino's catalogue, operators can move on to sourcing the next batch of titles. In a sense, this is a recursive "fire-and-forget" process.

Operating a sportsbook differs in so far as it requires a more hands-on approach. The service provided – bets listing and handling – remains constant, but the specifics of each listed bet must change substantially at a moment's notice for the sportsbook to stay profitable. We will cover in detail how this is done further down this article. Operators can choose between tackling this issue independently or relying on solutions provided by industry experts.

Where to launch an online sportsbook?

The first step in launching an online sportsbook is to decide which market(s) to enter. Generally speaking, operators have two options: to create a service aimed at unregulated markets or to enter one or more regulated markets.

Unregulated markets are the "grey area" of iGaming – it's a collection of countries that don't outright ban online gambling but don't have dedicated legislation either, leaving sportsbooks de facto free to operate from offshore.

On the other hand, regulated markets are those jurisdictions in which comprehensive legislation dictates the specific requirements that sportsbooks must fulfill to operate. These requirements vary between each regulated market and may include, among other things, technical specifications, player protection measures, and marketing guidelines.

Most of the industry's wealthiest markets are regulated, thus requiring local licensing. Meanwhile, unregulated markets give operators the ability to cast a wider net while being subject to fewer legal constraints.

It is important to note that grey markets aren't exactly the Wild West of the gambling industry: as players residing in unregulated markets can't appeal to local authorities in case of issues, they tend to choose online platforms that hold a license issued by a respected jurisdiction – the "Big 4" being Malta, Gibraltar, Alderney, and the Isle of Man. This creates an incentive for operators to abide by high-quality standards rather than exploiting the lack of control.

Choosing a regulated market requires extensive research. Before getting started, investors need to understand which market best fits their needs and possibilities regarding licensing costs and requirements, market size, level of competition, and growth potential.

Small and emerging markets can, in some cases, represent a better opportunity than large, wealthy markets. With lower licensing fees and less competition, new operators lacking the marketing budget to compete with the industry's giants can find their footing and start making a name for themselves in a less cutthroat environment.

Attractive emerging markets are scattered across the world. We already mentioned Africa and Latin America, while, within Europe, plenty of opportunities can be found East of Germany and in the Balkans.

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The great advantage of regulated markets is their relative stability. Yes, regulations may be updated at any time, but revolutionary changes are unlikely. On the opposite, grey markets are much more volatile, as the introduction of formal regulations – or the outright banning of online gambling – can happen at any time and completely disrupt a sportsbook's ability to operate.

Regulated markets may differ in the types of bets allowed and on what events operators can list. For example, horse racing is frequently subject to national monopolies, even when sports betting is otherwise legal. If the operator has a specific interest in offering non-traditional types of betting, for example on esports or virtual sports, that should also be kept in mind in this phase, as some jurisdictions may limit their ability to do so.

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How much money is needed?

As in any other type of venture, perspective sportsbook owners will need a detailed business plan and access to funds. The amount required will significantly vary depending on the chosen market, as this will define the licensing costs and the monetary guarantees that must be provided to authorities. Similarly, the market's size impacts the expected bet volume, and so do the sportsbook's marketing efforts. The more bettors play on a platform, the higher the operator's baseline exposure will be.

After settling for a market and acquiring the necessary licenses, operators need to make sure they have enough funds to cover their exposure to all the bets coming in. In some jurisdictions, this amount is defined by law. However, even if there is no legal requirement for it, operators must have access to a healthy amount of cash: being unable to pay out winners from the get-go equals an early bankruptcy. In the short term, bad luck exists even for operators, and a sportsbook can be wiped out if it lacks the resources to withstand early fluctuations.
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Handling exposure: odds and the vig

When it comes to running a sportsbook effectively, keeping exposure in check is the name of the game.

The first tool operators can use to limit their exposure is capping bet size. By limiting the maximum amount that punters can wager, operators can ensure that potential wins can be covered with available funds.

A positive side effect of limiting bet size is that it keeps "sharps" (professional bettors with the know-how to regularly beat the house edge) at bay; the downside is that some high rollers might be put off. In any case, it is a highly effective practice, particularly for new operators lacking the safety net of large cash reserves.

On top of capping bets size, bookmakers have two more tools to lower their exposure: odds and the vig.

Odds can be represented in various ways: fractional (British), decimal (European), or moneyline (American). Independently from their style, they indicate the ratio between the amount staked and the potential payout. Odds are decided by the bookmaker for each event and can be modified at any point in time.

The vig, shortened form of "vigorish", is also known as the "cut", the "margin", or the "juice". In simple terms, the vig is the commission a bookmaker charges on each bet. The vig isn't a fixed amount either – it can vary from event to event, from pick to pick within an event, and even on the same pick at two different points in time.

Bookmakers modify odds and the vig to incentivise players to place bets on the desired pick.

The point of modifying odds is not to lower the potential payout: players will constantly scour the web to place their bets on the sportsbook that offers the best return for their wagers, so that would be counterproductive. Rather, the idea is to keep all the picks in a bet equally attractive to avoid imbalances. Lowering the return on a likely outcome while raising it on an unlikely one lures players into spreading their wagers equally between the two.

The biggest risk for bookmakers is to have a sizable imbalance between the total amounts staked on the possible outcomes, with most of the money pouring in into a single pick. When this is the case, the bookmaker stands to lose a substantial amount of money if the pick is correct.

Remember: a sportsbook is not a get-rich-quick scheme. This is a business that, when run correctly, rakes in profit over the long term, as, on average, half of the bets placed will win, and half will lose. What brings operators profit consistently is the vig; losing bets are meant to cover for the winning bets. However, in the short term, fluctuations can be wild and ring the death knell for sportsbooks lacking the cash reserves to cover bettors' wins.

Through odds and vig, bookmakers can, to a degree, drive player behaviour, balancing out incoming wagers and, in so doing, lowering exposure. Usually, the vig is the first of the two to be modified if too much money starts flowing towards one side of the scale, as it allows for smaller variations than the odds do. If modifying the vig doesn't improve the balance, bookmakers will consider changing the odds themselves. It's important to notice that this process is not visible to players, as the vig is built into the published odds.

Setting odds is no easy feat, and doing it poorly is a sure-fire way for a bookmaker to go bust. A properly run sportsbook is almost guaranteed to turn a profit in the long term, but miscalibrated odds on even just a single event can result in massive losses.

Setting odds correctly requires extensive expertise and knowledge of maths, statistics, and of the sport in question. It also requires constant access to up-to-date information, as any event can dramatically change the likelihood of an outcome: say that a star player gets injured in training just before the match – the chances of his team winning are bound to diminish. Without direct access to this kind of data and the skills required to analyse it, the best option is to rely on third-party odds.

The online sportsbook platform

Finally, to run an online sportsbook, one needs a platform itself. This can be developed in-house from scratch, but it's also possible to get a head start by purchasing a third-party solution. If one chooses to go with the second option, they can acquire the backend portion of the platform alone, developing the front-facing part of the platform according to their specific needs. It is also possible to get a customisable turnkey solution, dispensing with most of the work required to get the website going.
How to become a sports bookie (7)

The platform will also require a host of subsystems. A priority is integrating one or more payment solutions to allow players to deposit money on the website. The next step is sourcing tools for granular customer segmentation and trend analysis to run effective acquisition and retention marketing campaigns. These, in turn, require practical promotional tools to assign players free bets, deposit match bonuses, and the likes.

Finally, the sportsbook will need experienced personnel. From customer service hosts assisting customers with any technical issues to legal experts ensuring the product's compliance with local regulations, from marketers tasked with providing a steady flux of new players to localisation specialists making the platform accessible to a broader customer base, no business can run without the right people behind it.

How can Slotegrator help?

Slotegrator can assist you in starting your online sportsbook in various ways. Our jurisdictional advisory services can provide you guidance in choosing the right market for your needs and acquiring all the necessary licenses to operate.

Furthermore, we offer Sportegrator, a comprehensive bundle designed to get your project going without headaches. Sportegrator includes both a state-of-the-art backend system and a fully customisable frontend, an advanced content management system, CRM tools to drive user retention effectively, and payment providers integration. What is more, Sportegrator gives you access to real-time sports data feeds and to the most vital part of any successful sportsbook: high-quality, profitable live odds compiled by industry experts using cutting-edge mathematical models.

To learn more about Sportegrator and all the other services we provide, feel free to get in touch with our sales team – we'll gladly answer all of your questions on how our tailored business solutions can add value to your enterprise.


Betting software solution How to start a casino business

How to become a sports bookie (8)

Ayvar Gabidullin

Business Development Manager

I have over 5 years of experience managing B2B and B2C sales departments in the online gambling industry. I started my career working in customer support for online casinos and grew to become the head of a department offering tailored services to VIP players. I joined Slotegrator with a strong focus on our company’s products and deep knowledge of what players need. My passion for the industry leads me to keep expanding my knowledge every day.

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How to become a sports bookie (2024)


How to become a sports bookie? ›

This showcases how even on an even game the bookie always takes a 10% rake. Statistically the average gambler will win this bet 50% of time. Therefore, for every $100 you wager, the book will earn $5 and a gambler will lose $5.

How much does a sports bookie make? ›

This showcases how even on an even game the bookie always takes a 10% rake. Statistically the average gambler will win this bet 50% of time. Therefore, for every $100 you wager, the book will earn $5 and a gambler will lose $5.

Do sports bookies make good money? ›

Bookies with 100 plus players can easily make 100k a week, or in yearly terms over $5 million dollars a year. But once again if you have very small bettors or not a lot of bettors then the amount of money a bookie will make will be much lower.

How much does it cost to start a bookie? ›

So, depending on the size of your clientele, your bookie startup funds may range from around $5,000 to $10,000. You shouldn't open a bookie service for professional players unless you have more than $10,000 in your reserve.

Can anyone become a bookie? ›

Becoming a bookie doesn't require much, but you'll need to know a lot about sports. This type of career provides a plethora of benefits with little risk, so it's something you can do even after graduating.

How do small bookies make money? ›

How Do Bookies Make Money? Bookies make money by charging a fee on each bet they take, known as the "vigorish" or the "vig,” and pay out money when their customers win a bet. Their goal, understandably, is to make sure that incomings exceed outgoings.

How do bookies collect money? ›

To understand the question “What percentage do bookies take?” the bookie gets their money from a vig, also known as the book fee on a wager. So the only way to maximize profit is to increase the opportunities to collect wager fees such as vig.

Is it illegal to be a sports bookie? ›

There are a variety of statutes that make it illegal to operate or participate in financial transactions related to an unlicensed sportsbook in the United States, including the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, the Travel Act, and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

Can you make $100 a day gambling? ›

Whether you're looking to make $100 in a day in sports betting or, like Revell, at the casino, it can be done. But I would advise thinking carefully about your actions before choosing the kamikaze approach.

Do bookies get caught? ›

Do bookies get caught? The police still make arrests for illegal gambling. Bookmakers are still charged with violating the law. Agents for bookmakers still get arrested and face jail time, fines and forfeiture of their money.

Can anyone open a sportsbook? ›

Owning a sportsbook isn't for everyone, and it can't be done legally in all areas. But if you have the resources and can get one up and running it's a great way to make money. Well run and properly funded sportsbooks don't often fail.

What percentage does a bookie take? ›

This means a bet theoretically even in probability (for instance, a coin flip) is offered at -110, meaning bettors have to spend $110 to win $100. That $10 on the $100 bet is the juice, with bookies essentially taking a little over 9% on each transaction (or 10/110).

What states is my bookie legal in? ›

Download Table Data
StateMy Bookie Legality
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How risky is being a bookie? ›

Many people wonder if being a bookie is dangerous, the answer is yes, but not in the way you may think. Sure, there is a possibility you get mixed up with the wrong people and you could suffer physical harm, but the biggest dangers in bookmaking are those associated with the day to day management of the business.

What can a bookie do if you don't pay? ›

It depends on whether the debt is legal or not. If it's a legal debt (i.e. placed at a Vegas casino in their sportsbook), the casino can take the bettor to court, just like any other debt such as credit card or car loan.

Can you call the cops on a bookie? ›

If you have information about or suspect someone of being involved in bookie activities, you should report it to the police. Bookies typically take bets on sporting events and use illegal means to collect payments from bettors, which can lead to serious criminal activity.

How much money do bookies make a year? ›

The salaries of Bookmakers in the US range from $43,130 to $122,350 , with a median salary of $68,380 .

How do sportsbooks make so much money? ›

Sportsbooks make money by charging a commission, aka the vig, so they do not need to rely on unexpected results to make money. Sure, when a favorite loses, they may end up cashing in more, but think of vigorish as the safeguard that assures them profit regardless of a game's outcome.

How much do sports bettors make a year? ›

While ZipRecruiter is seeing annual salaries as high as $117,500 and as low as $18,500, the majority of Professional Gambler salaries currently range between $30,000 (25th percentile) to $62,000 (75th percentile) with top earners (90th percentile) making $98,000 annually across the United States.

How much money do you need to run a sportsbook? ›

If you take in no more than $10,000 a week in bets, then you should start with $10,000 on hand. That's about what you would expect if you were opening a local bookie operation. If you are starting a sportsbook business in a major city and plan to launch a major operation, you might need up to $500,000.


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