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Home » Offshore Sportsbooks (And Why To Avoid Them)

Offshore Sportsbooks (And Why To Avoid Them)

Offshore sportsbooks have grown to become a popular alternative to legal, regulated sportsbooks. To put it simply, offshore sports betting refers to sportsbooks and other gambling websites which are based outside of US borders and jurisdiction.

While legal sports betting exists in many US states, with more expected to follow suit, others do not currently allow the practice. At the time of this writing, 38 states and the District of Columbia sanction some forms of sports betting, with 29 permitting online wagers. California, Texas, Alabama, and Georgia are among the states where the practice is currently illegal.

Offshore sites do not follow state and federal laws, but despite concerns over their legality within the United States, they continue to accept US customers. Any customers considering using offshore operations should proceed with caution, as they may operate without the legal and financial safeguards necessary for companies that operate within the US betting market.

What is Offshore Betting?

Offshore sportsbooks refer to gambling sites which hold their operations outside US legal jurisdiction. They are based overseas, allowing them to circumvent local and national laws.

Customers from within the US are thus able to place bets outside the country, often taking advantage of seemingly favorable conditions for gambling. Many offshore sportsbooks, for example, will offer bonuses to new customers and tempting odds prices in order to attract new business.

They will often seem to be legitimate in their presentation, but the practice is illegal and such sites do not have the necessary authorization to operate in the US.

How do offshore sportsbooks work?

Offshore online betting sites will often claim to be taking advantage of a gray area in US law which allows them to operate overseas, outside of national jurisdiction.

Users should be extremely careful, however. Offshore sports betting is not licensed anywhere in the United States.

Should you choose to engage with an offshore sports betting site, you will not enjoy any of the legal protections you are entitled to when using a legal, regulated sportsbook registered inside the US.

The advantages of using legal and regulated sportsbooks over offshore gambling sites are numerous. In order to gain permission to operate (and offer sports betting promos customers know and love), regulated sportsbooks must undertake a lengthy application process by state regulatory authorities, which includes exhaustive vetting to gauge their suitability.

The approval of a state licensing authority can be interpreted as a sign of a site’s security and legitimacy, giving peace of mind to users. Once cleared to offer gambling services, sportsbooks must then adhere strictly to state regulations, or else face losing their license due to breaches.

These regulations usually include protection for the paying customer, with guarantees over the quality of service provided and safeguards in areas including funds and the security of user data.

Due to the duration and cost of these licensing processes, the legal sports betting industry is dominated by large, prestigious companies with a long history of operating in these markets. By contrast, offshore companies possess none of these user protections and may not offer any recourse for consumers in the case of something going wrong.

One of the primary differences you may encounter is the type of funding options available in order to place bets. When using regulated sportsbooks you will likely be obliged to use standard options to fund your account, such as registered bank transfers or recognized intermediaries like PayPal.

Offshore betting sites might offer an array of other alternatives to charge your account. This could include a diverse range of cryptocurrencies and/or e-wallets, which would not be accepted on most regulated options.

You may also find that the number of options available to the user when it comes to placing a bet is more limited when operating through a legal sportsbook. Wagers are usually strictly narrowed to sports events themselves, while offshore sportsbooks provide the opportunity to bet on non-sporting topics, events in the entertainment world and other less recognized options.

One of the most important differences may arise if a conflict or dispute occurs between the user and sportsbook. Regulated sportsbooks are obliged by law to redress customers who find themselves in a dispute or have a complaint over their bets or winnings, with a clear road map to settling such issues provided for in the terms of licensing.

This is not the case for a user who engages in offshore online sports betting. The lack of regulation means that there may be no legal path to resolving complaints and disputes, while users may also find that customer service is deficient should problems arise with the sportsbook.

Above all, for safety and peace of mind legal and regulated sportsbooks are the best option. The guarantees users take for granted with an established sportsbook are sorely missing when using an offshore option, leading to a considerable amount of risk.

How to recognize offshore betting sites

It is not always easy to spot which online sportsbooks are legitimate and when you are dealing with an unlicensed offshore variant. But while certain online offshore sportsbooks can appear legal and regulated, using the following warning signs can help avoid their use and ensure the customer sticks to recognized US-based companies.

Many offshore sites will use unusual links as a result of being based overseas. If the website contains endings such as .ag or .lv, for example, instead of the more familiar .com, this can be a sign that it is operated from outside the United States.

By definition, offshore sportsbook apps or websites will be based outside of the US as they are not licensed to operate on national soil. If the company’s offices or centers of operation are found in smaller jurisdictions overseas, for example in Antigua, the Bahamas or Panama, this may suggest that they are subject to more lax regulations than elsewhere.

Many offshore sportsbooks will try to lure in new customers with dazzling promotions or extremely generous odds which appear too good to be true. If it looks too generous, chances are that it probably is.

You may come up against a lack of transparency when it comes to depositing or withdrawing funds. Hidden fees at the moment of deposit and withdrawal are a common red flag. Another red flag is the demand to utilize unusual payment methods, which is common among offshore operations. Offshore sportsbooks may demand payment in unfamiliar crytocurrencies or through e-wallets, rather than regulated bank accounts.

What is the risk of offshore operations?

Offshore sites operate outside of the reach of government regulation. This means that the customer is carrying most if not all of the risk.

One risk includes insufficient security for personal data, including financial information. This leaves users vulnerable to fraud or identity theft. Companies may also fail to adhere to guidelines concerning responsible gaming, potentially placing users in a position of vulnerability. There could also be a lack of protection from the manipulation of games, with no guarantees over integrity.

Should any of the above occur, there is additionally no guarantee of assistance or resolution for affected customers. Those users cannot count on the protections provided by US regulators when dealing with an offshore operator.

Offshore sportsbooks could shut down at any time

When using an offshore operator, there is simply no way to know how long that company will remain in business. This could lead to a serious financial headache if a company goes under.

If an operator is targeted by the federal government due to its dealings with US-based customers, it could be liable for instant closure. This often comes with little or no warning for users.

Should this happen, any money that users have ‘live’ in the sportsbook could be lost with almost no legal recourse. This is not the case when using registered US-based sportsbooks. Such companies are subject to requirements concerning player balances, meaning such seizures are much more unlikely to occur.

You could lose access to your bank account

Under US law, financial institutions are barred from facilitating transactions related to the operations of offshore sportsbooks.

In order to beat these restrictions, companies may conceal the origin or purpose of funds. If discovered, this may lead to stiff penalties for users.

In such cases, customers may find their accounts closed by banks anxious to avoid fines and other legal consequences in connection to facilitating offshore operations, causing considerable hardship for those affected.

For optimum peace of mind, one should use a recognized legal sportsbook such as FanDuel. Legal, regulated sportsbooks are far superior when it comes to making safe, secure transactions on your favorite sporting events.

Only through such companies can you be sure that your gaming activity is properly regulated and subject to the appropriate safeguards, with a clear path to resolution should any issues or complaints arise.

A safe and secure environment

When using a legal and regulated sportsbook, you need not be concerned about security. Any personal information or funds shared on the platform will remain safe.

American sportsbook market leaders such as BetMGM and Caesars are well-established. These brands have years of service in the gaming industry and close ties both in the US and worldwide.

There is no need to delve into crypto or e-wallets, and no anxiety over the fate of your funds. Regulated sites offer a simple, transparent process for financial transactions with several options for loading funds. The same is true for withdrawing a winning bet, which is made as straightforward as possible.

Unlike offshore sites, sportsbook are significant contributors to their local economies. States receive investment by way of licensing and regulation fees and also taxes, helping to fund essential services. When it comes to offshore sportsbooks, that money is essentially lost.

Top-notch operations

Years of research and investment have gone into the best sportsbooks. This leads to an optimal user experience aided by the best tech on the market.

Both websites and apps have been extensively tweaked and tested to ensure the best possible gaming options. These can include everything from daily fantasy updates to expert analysis and in-app live streaming.

You’ll get paid if you win, and your funds will be safe

Perhaps most importantly, you can rest easy in the knowledge that your wagers are in safe hands.

Should a dispute occur, all regulated sportsbooks have customer service departments desperate to provide swift and satisfying resolutions. Users have plenty of other resources on hand to ensure any complaint is given the attention it deserves.

Offshore sportsbook FAQs

Sports gambling is strictly controlled on a state level in the United States.

Offshore sites, as well as any gambling which takes place outside of state regulatory systems, are illegal. Since 2000, several prosecutions have been successfully carried out against providers of offshore services, leading to convictions and fines.

What are the risks of offshore sportsbooks?

Due to the unregulated nature of offshore operations, users are exposed to a number of potential risks. Fraud, theft and problem gambling are a few of the issues which have been linked to the phenomenon.

Regulated sportsbooks under US state jurisdiction provide security and peace of mind for the user. You, your data and funds will be protected under local laws. You will also have a clear path towards redress in case of a dispute. These responsible gambling protections are not present in offshore options, leaving consumers vulnerable to fraud or other undesirable practices.

How can I identify an offshore sportsbook?

There are several telltale signs that a sportsbook may be operating outside of US jurisdiction. Websites will often use unfamiliar addresses instead of the standard ‘.com’. They may also allow the deposit and withdrawal of funds in cryptocurrencies or obscure e-wallets. In some cases, those deposit or withdrawal methods may be mandatory.

Lastly, warning signs can also be found on the website itself. If the sportsbook’s address is outside of the United States, it is likely to be an offshore operation.


  • Daniel Edwards

    Daniel is a freelance journalist based out of Buenos Aires, Argentina.. He has written for publications including the Guardian, Independent, Goal and When Saturday Comes and also co-hosts Hand of Pod, an English language podcast focusing on Argentine football.