Online Sports Betting Guide for the United States

Our US online sports betting guide can help if you’re new to sports betting. While it’s easy to start betting online, there’s a lot to learn to master it. This betting guide will walk you through the fundamentals of evaluating odds, placing wagers, picking betting sites, and navigating the legal landscape in the United States.
Patrik Lidin
Expert: Principal Writer and Editor / Head of Content
Experience: Sports Trader, Market Maker, Product Owner Sportsbook, Professional Gambler, Poker Player

Our In-Depth Online Sports Betting Guide for US Punters

Sports betting involves placing a wager (bet) on the outcome of a sporting event or specific happenings inside a sporting event. It can relate to the winning team, the amount of points or goals scored, or the performance of an individual player like Patrick Mahomes.

The primary purpose of betting is to make a profit. However, betting shouldn’t be seen as a means to an end to improving your financials. Instead, sports betting should be viewed through the lens of entertainment with the upside of making some extra money. The good news is that the more you know, the more skills you have, the higher your chances of making some profit when betting. While this sports betting guide can’t guarantee your success as a punter, it aims to educate you about the following:

  • How to use sportsbooks.
  • Primary things to look out for when betting online.
  • Aspects to consider when evaluating and placing bets.
  • A breakdown of what odds are and how to calculate odds.
  • Popular sports in America and the top betting markets to prioritize.
  • Better position yourself to take the necessary steps to become a better punter.
  • Guide you through the legal landscape of states where online betting is enacted and where it’s not.

A Word of Advice From Our Sports Betting Expert

While it’s possible to beat bookmakers, it’s not something many punters can do consistently. Most professional punters dedicate themselves to it, much like a full-time job. This is outside the scope of most people. What most leisurely punters do and love is a more basic analysis. Like, ‘the Giants are going to be jetlagged against the 49ers on Sunday’, and then the Giants come out slow, and in the end, the 49ers cover the spread, and you just knew it before the game, ‘they’re jetlagged and out of it.” You made the bet in a sportsbook, and it feels great. And the game was so much more fun to watch because of the bet and your analysis. You spice up the entertainment and get a sense of pride. Losing sucks, but it’s part of it. This is why it’s important to never gamble with funds you can’t afford to lose. It’s better to keep it on a leisurely, more sustainable level where it remains fun no matter the outcome. If you want to take your betting to the next level, be prepared to apply yourself if you’re going to outsmart the sportsbooks.

Patrik Lidin, Sports Betting Expert and Principal Writer at JustGamblers.

What You Should Look for in a Betting Site — Choose Carefully

Take a minute to read through these sections before you pick your next sports betting site. While all sites allow you to make wagers online, several details make some sportsbooks better than others. Our sportsbook reviews cover all these aspects and much more, but here’s some information and insights if you want to do some legwork on your own.

Check How Deep the Betting Menu Is

There’s no need to check the sportsbook's total amount of sports or betting markets unless you plan to wager on everything. What’s important is the specific offering for your favorite sports that you intend to bet on. If you’re a college sports fan* and the NFL, check how deep the betting menu is for pre-match and in-play for NCAA and NFL. Ensure they have all the events covered, with many markets, including alternative spreads and lines and player performance for bets on individual players. Without depositing funds, you can usually probe the wagering limits by entering a ridiculously high stake in the coupon, which typically triggers the maximum allowed stake. If you’re a highroller, you don’t want low maximum limits in the sportsbook.

*College sports betting is not allowed in all states. Check the legal overview further down on this page to see where it is legal.

Evaluate the Sportsbook Margin to Understand How Good the Odds Are

The sportsbook margin, or vig or juice, represents the costs of making wagers at online betting sites. The margin is a percentage applied on the raw odds of a betting market and guarantees earnings for the operator, a certain percentage that applies to every bet. Every US sportsbook applies margins to their odds. Naturally, the lower the margin, the better because a low margin means the percentage fee on each bet is low, resulting in higher returns on your winning wagers.

You can check the sportsbook margin on different sports, leagues, and markets by running the odds on each side through a sportsbook margin calculator and see the exact percentage. The average sportsbook margin in the United States is 6-7%. You can expect that every operator has different margins, and often, they apply different margins on different sports, leagues, and even markets for the same game. Typically, the sportsbook margin varies between 5% and 12%.

Later in this sports betting guide, we will review some examples and teach you how to calculate odds, including the margin, using a simple mathematical formula.

Get the Most Out of Sportsbook Promotions

Don’t get blinded by the value of a welcome bonus or a general sportsbook promotion. With all betting bonuses, the devil is in the details, and you should look out for a couple of things when evaluating the promotional offering before choosing a new betting site:

  • Understand the wagering requirements (also called rollover or playthrough requirements). Sportsbooks aren’t going to give away free money. When you opt-in for a bonus, the extra money you receive are bonus funds, subject to terms and conditions that need to be met to convert the funds into real cash. With wagering requirements, what it means is that you need to turnover the bonus funds a specific amount of times to convert them. Typically, this is between 1 and 10 times (1x to 10x). The lower, the better. Anything above 10x is above industry standards in the US.
  • Check the promotion's expiration date, as most sports betting bonuses have a time limit stated in the terms and conditions. The time period for bonuses depends. Often, the limit relates to the wagering requirements. For example, if you utilize a welcome bonus with a 1x wagering requirement, then you have to playthrough that bonus within one week. Having time limits from two to four weeks for bonuses with higher wagering requirements is common.
  • Study the promotional schedule beyond the welcome bonus to understand how hard the sports betting operator will work to keep you on their site: re-deposit bonuses, odds boosts, no-sweat bets, acca bonuses, loyalty, and VIP programs. A steady stream of offers can help you get more out of your betting.

Consider the Performance of the Website and Betting App

Most sportsbooks look and work the same way. However, a sportsbook's performance can make or break the online betting experience, especially if you plan on doing a lot of live betting. Make sure the sportsbook operators have a solid sports betting app. Loading times between opening the menu and loading a specific league or game shouldn't be long; nobody likes to wait. 

When you’re betting online, you want a high bet acceptance rate. The bet acceptance rate is the rate at which the sportsbook accepts the bets you place. This is critical for live betting. Consider the dynamic odds for a match in-play; the odds change constantly. For example, you’re in the in-play section and do the following on the event page for a specific game:

  1. Click the market.
  2. Open coupon.
  3. Enter stake.
  4. Press the “Place Bet” button.
  5. The betting application processes the bet.

By the time you’ve done all this, the odds may have changed, and you don’t want the loading and processing time to be too long as it increases the risk of the bet not getting accepted because of an odds change. This can be a frustrating experience when you find a bet you want to place. A website and betting app with high performance minimizes this risk and makes it more likely for you to place the bets you like to place when you want to.

Some sportsbooks have the option to accept all odds and line changes automatically. This means that you agree to any changes in the odds or lines. While good, this can be a reckless setting since you might end up betting bad odds. The best option is to choose a high-performance betting site that loads fast and has a high bet acceptance rate.

See What Banking Options Are Available

Considering you’ll be betting with real money, making deposits and withdrawals from your account should be easy. The sports betting site should have many banking options available so you can find a payment method you’re comfortable using. Beyond bank cards like Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, it’s preferable that the site offers mobile payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay, along with PayPal and other e-wallets and prepaid cards.

Test the Customer Support Responses and Coverage

Even though you’re not a customer with a real issue, you can still test the sportsbook to see their response time. You could contact them directly over live chat after signing up and ask about the terms and conditions for the welcome bonus before you make a deposit. This way, you can see how fast they respond and how friendly they are. While doing this, you should also check the customer support opening hours and the different communication channels. Top sports betting sites typically offer 24/7 live chat and telephone support during working hours.

Do a Basic Security Check Using Web Tools

Checking general security and safety standards doesn’t require a Master's degree in IT security. Plenty of tools are available online where you can just copy and paste the website URL of a betting site and get a general health check of a platform. One such tool you can utilize to check the general standards of a sports betting site is the Google Transparency Report. In the JustGamblers reviews, we do these checks if you want to check any specific information about a site to help you decide what sports betting site to choose.

The good thing about security checks is that any licensed sportsbook in the US, regardless of state, will have high security standards as part of the licensing requirements set out by regulatory authorities. 

How to Sign Up to a Sportsbook and Start Betting

The signup process is the same across most sportsbooks in the US. We’re referring to traditional account registration for these step-by-step instructions, where you create an account using your email address and set a unique password.

On a side note, a new trend we’ve seen is that sports betting sites have started using SSO (Single Sign-On) flows, which allow you to create a betting account through third-party companies like Yahoo Sports or even PayPal. In the future, we hope to see instant banking integrated as part of the account registration flow, where you seamlessly make a payment through, e.g., PayPal or Apple Pay and then automatically get a new verified account without additional KYC requirements.

Before you start, ensure you have the following information available and always disclose official information relating to governmental records like residence and social security number:

  • Email address.
  • Date of birth.
  • Social security number.
  • Proof of identity (ID Card, NJ Driver’s License, Passport, ITIN - taxpayer identification number, or US military photo identification card - Common Access Card).
  • Proof of residency (Lease agreement, Bank statement, Utility bill).
  • Payment method (bank card, mobile payment, or e-wallet).

After that, follow these simple steps to sign up for a sportsbook and start betting:

  1. Find a sportsbook you want to open an account with.
  2. Enter the website or betting app, then click “Register, " “Sign Up,” or something similar.
  3. Then, be prepared to enter your email address, set a secure password, and any other requested information as part of the registration process.
  4. Accept the general terms and conditions, opt-in or out of marketing and advertisements, and click “Create Account” or something similar.
  5. After that, you typically must verify your account details via text or email.

KYC Process and Account Verification

Further verification will be required later when depositing or making your first withdrawal as part of a so-called KYC (Know Your Customer) process. You’ll have to submit proof of identity, registered address, and sometimes, source of funds.

  • For the identity verification, you must submit photocopies of your ID Card, Driver’s License, Passport, ITIN (taxpayer identification number), US military photo identification card, or Common Access Card. 
  • To prove your address, you can typically use a recent copy of a utility bill where your name and address are visible. Another option is to utilize a recent bank statement showing these details.
  • If you have to prove the source of your funds, you may be required to show bank statements along with any significant holdings generating cash flow or a contract from an employer.

How to Make a Deposit to Your New Betting Account

The step-by-step process of making deposits will differ slightly depending on your chosen payment method. Several banking options will typically be available, from classic bank cards and e-wallets to mobile payments and prepaid cards. Additionally, since online sports betting sites require a land-based casino partner, you can also make in-person deposits to a betting site through the partners’ casino cage using cash or a debit card.

This step-by-step guide will outline the general banking flow that applies to most betting sites and digital payment methods:

  1. Log in to your betting account.
  2. Locate the banking section through your dashboard or a button like “Deposit” or similar.
  3. Choose the payment method you feel safe using.
  4. Enter the amount you wish to deposit.
  5. Make sure to opt-in to any bonus you want to utilize if you are given the option.
  6. Provide the payment details according to the method you’re using.
  7. Confirm and authorize the transaction through the applicable application or verification method.
  8. Your money will arrive instantly, and you can start betting—good luck!

How to Place Your First Bet

You're all set to start betting if you have found a new betting site, created an account, and deposited money. Similar to registration and deposit, the flow of placing a bet is identical in most sportsbooks:

  1. Log in to your betting account.
  2. Make sure you have money available in the correct wallet (sportsbook).
  3. Enter the sports menu and locate the sport you want to bet on.
  4. After opening the sport, for example, basketball, open the league you want to bet on, for example, the NBA.
  5. In the NBA menu, locate the match you want to bet on, such as New York Knicks @ Boston Celtics.
  6. In the NY Knicks @ Celtics event page, locate the market you want to wager on, for example, the main spread.
  7. Pick the side you want to bet on, for instance, that Celtics will cover the -4.5 spread.
  8. When you click on that selection, it will be added to the coupon (betslip).
  9. Enter the stake you want to use and check that all details are correct.
  10. After that, click the equivalent of “Place Bet” or “Confirm”.
  11. The sportsbook will process and accept the bet within a second or two.

From then on, you can check the bet from your personal dashboard in the equivalent of betting or wagering history. Once the game is finished, the sportsbook will settle the bet and return winnings plus your stake in case the bet is won. If it is lost, the wager is settled as lost, and you lose the money.


A ‘parlay’ bet combines two or more bets on the same ticket. All outcomes must have ‘win’ status for a parlay bet to win. Parlays can be a great deal of fun. If you make larger combinations, you’ll get very high odds because each pick is multiplied by one another for a higher total odds.

Parlay example for a $20 bet, with two selections:

  1. NY Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles: Philadelphia to Win @ -150.
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns: Pittsburgh to Win @ +200.

The odds for this parlay example is +400 with a potential payout of $80.00.


Moneyline is a popular and common bet where you pick who will win, “odds to win.”

Two Moneyline bet examples with a stake of $50 each:

  1. NY Rangers @ Florida Panthers: Florida Panthers to Win @ -150.
  2. Chicago Blackhawks @ NJ Devils: Blackhawks to Win @ +150.

The first wager has a potential payout of $83.33, and the second $125.00

Points Spread

Spread betting, also called lines or handicaps, allows you to wager even odds even when there are huge favorites. A minus (-) or plus (+) denominates the market spread for the favorite (-) and underdog (+), respectively. The main line would most commonly have an odds around -110.

A spread betting example with a $30 stake:

  • LA Clippers (+5.5 points) @ LA Lakers (-5.5 points): Lakers -5.5 @ -110.

The potential payout of this spread bet is $57.25.

Totals (Over/Under)

Totals, also called Over/Under, is one of the most popular markets due to its widespread use across teams and various player props like “points scored” or “yards for a player.” Like spread betting, totals can have multiple lines, with the main line having odds around -110.

Below is a Totals (Over/Under) example using a $40 bet:

  • Chicago Bulls (Over 212.5 points) @ Brooklyn Nets (Under 212.5 points): Chicago Over 212.5 @ +110.

The potential payout of this Over/Under bet is $63.00.

Prop Bet

Prop bet, short for proposition bet, is a wager on an individual player or specific event in a game. An example of a prop bet is whether Joel Embiid can score over or under 30.5 points in a game. Prop bets allow punters to make wagers on specific outcomes within the game rather than the total outcome of the game. The most common formats for a prop bet are Spread, Total, or Moneyline.

Teasers & Pleasers

A teaser bet is similar to a parlay; both require multiple selections, but instead of using the outright sportsbook lines, you manipulate the lines in your favor by moving the spread or total for each selection.

Pleasers are different from teasers because the lines move in favor of the bookmaker. Effectively, pleasers with the same amount of selections as a teaser will have much higher odds and be harder to win.

Odds for both teasers and pleasers are generally high, similar to a parlay, and harder to win, but when they hit, you’ll be rewarded with high payouts.


A future bet is a bet on the outcome of a whole league or tournament. For example, you can bet on whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers will win the AFC North or if the Philadelphia Eagles will make the Playoffs. Futures are not exclusive to teams; you can also bet on what player will be the Most Valuable Player (MVP) or Rookie of the Year.

In-Play and Live Betting

Nowadays, betting is synonymous with live betting, with most bets placed on in-play matches. This means the game has already started, and you can bet in real-time as the action unfolds. Live betting is available on all high-profile events, often reaching over 100 betting markets.

Live betting presents unique betting options that you won’t find pre-match. These include markets like who will win the next game in a tennis match, whether the next point in a basketball match will be a free throw, or whether the Houston Astros can come back from a deficit.

In live betting, the odds are dynamic and constantly change as time elapses and the game unfolds. Due to the constant odds changes, it can be difficult to place bets on fast-paced markets, like who will win the next game in a tennis match or what will happen in the next minute of a soccer match. You’ll often see markets grayed out or have padlocks to highlight that they are suspended and temporarily unavailable for betting due to a critical situation or a significant odds change. In other words, if you’re livebetting, make sure to have a good wifi connection; otherwise, you’ll have trouble placing bets.

Accept All Odds and Line Changes Automatically

Most sportsbooks offer an account setting to toggle to automatically accept all odds and line changes. This will increase your chances of placing in-play bets despite odds changes. However, it can force bets at lower odds than you would have liked, which you should be aware of before enabling the setting.


A great perk of betting online is the “free” access to live-streamed sporting events. I added free in quotation marks because most sports betting sites require you to have money in your account to access live streams. This means livestreaming is inaccessible if you just created an account and have a zero cash balance.

Betting is a lot more fun when you can watch the game. Naturally, if you can watch the game on a big screen, you should do that. Keep your mobile or laptop handy to do live betting while watching.

Livestreaming is especially handy if you’re on the go. It allows you to make in-play wagers and watch a game while sitting on the bus or working out.

Another benefit of livestreaming is that many sports and matches available in the sportsbook can’t be found in regular streaming services or TV channels. This includes foreign sports, leagues, and lower divisions, and smaller tournaments and competitions.

What Are Odds and How Are They Created

Odds consist of two parameters: the raw outcome probability and the sportsbook margin. Analysts and traders compile odds using odds-compiling software, which utilizes hundreds to thousands of data points to calculate outcome probabilities. Once the probabilities are known, the odds are published with the sportsbook margin applied, typically between 5% and 12% (more on the margin in the next section).

When the odds are published, the stake limits are low to account for miscalculations. As people start betting on different sides of an event and the markets, the odds are adjusted accordingly, similar to supply and demand in a basic economy. So, after the odds are published, the sportsbook acts in symbiosis with the market to account for unknown or new information, such as a key player being injured. During this time, until the match starts, the sportsbook adjusts the stake limits for the event and allows punters to place larger and larger wagers, peaking right before the game begins.

How Odds Are Calculated in Sports Betting

Odds are essentially the outcome probability of a specific event, such as the winner of a match or yards rushed by Tennessee Titans’ Derrick Henry. The principle of odds (outcome probability) is simple and is used to convert outcome probability to raw odds (with no sportsbook margin applied):

  • The lower the odds are, the lower the chance of a team winning;
  • The higher the odds are, the higher the chance of a team winning.

For example, we have an NCAA game between Duke and Michigan State in men's college basketball. Duke is the favorite to win and has low odds (a high chance of winning, resulting in a lower payout), while Michigan has high odds (a low chance of winning, resulting in a higher payout).

In this example, Duke has a 66.6% chance of winning, and Michigan has a 33.3% chance of winning. This would translate to Duke having the raw odds of -196 to win and Michigan having the raw odds of +203 to win.

The formula used to convert the outcome probability to odds is [1 ÷ outcome probability]:

  • Duke has a 66.6% chance of winning, 1 ÷ 0.66 = -196 in raw odds to win.
  • Michigan has a 33.3% chance of winning, 1 ÷ 0.33 = +203 in raw odds to win.

For the sake of clarity, let’s include another example. Let’s say we have Dallas Mavericks versus Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA:

  • Dallas Mavericks has a 50% chance of winning, 1 ÷ 0.50 = -100 in raw odds to win.
  • Los Angeles Lakers has a 50% chance of winning, 1 ÷ 0.50 = +100 in raw odds to win.

How the Sportsbook Margin is Calculated

In the last example above, in the match between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, both teams have the same chance of winning at 50%. The odds for each team to win is, therefore -100/+100. If you were to stake $100 on both sides, you would end up breaking even regardless of the outcome:

  • Dallas Mavericks to win @ -100 * $100 = $200 if you bet to win ($100 profit and return of $100 stake).
  • Los Angeles Lakes to win @ +100 * $100 = $200 if you bet to win ($100 profit and return of $100 stake).

At the same time, this would mean that the sportsbook makes no profit from the match since they payout 100%. This is why sportsbooks apply the margin to all raw odds to ensure a profit on all wagers over time. The average margin sportsbooks apply in the United States is around 6-7%.

Now, using the same example as above, let’s say the sportsbook you’re betting at has a 7.53% margin applied for the NBA Moneyline market. This would translate to a payout of 92.47%. The odds for the Mavericks and Lakers in the above example would be -116. The sportsbook can now profit from the wagers over the long run.

The formula for calculating the sportsbook margin is:

  • Margin = 1 - 1 / (Probability 1 + Probability 2).
  • Probability 1 = 1 / Odds 1.
  • Probability 2 = 1 / Odds 2.

Overview of Different Sportsbook Banking Options

Banking OptionsDeposit SpeedWithdrawal Speed
Credit or Debit Card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover)Instant2-5 Working Days
PayPalInstant1-2 Working Days
Apple PayInstant1-2 Working Days
Online Banking (ACH)Instant1-6 Working days
Bank Wire TransferUp to 24 hours1-6 Working days
Cash at CageA few minutesUp to 1 Hour
VenmoInstant1-2 Working Days
Play+ Prepaid CardInstantN/A
VIP Preferred e-CheckUp to 24 hours1-3 Working Days
StateOnline Sports Betting Legalized
New HampshireYes
New JerseyYes
New YorkYes
North CarolinaYes
Rhode IslandYes
Washington, D.C.Yes
West VirginiaYes

States That Haven’t Legalized Online Sports Betting Yet

StateOnline Sports Betting Legalized
New MexicoNo
North DakotaNo
South CarolinaNo
South DakotaNo

Bet on Sports Responsibly — Staying Safe and Healthy

There is always the risk of losing money when betting online, which everyone should be aware of. At JustGamblers, we have a simple but effective mantra regarding Responsible Gambling:

  • Betting should be fun, and when the fun stops, stop betting.

Similarly to reaching highs when you hit your bets, it’s easy to feel low when bets are lost. And unfortunately, losing is a natural part of online betting. This is why it’s essential to never wager with money you can’t afford to lose. The best is to set a budget for betting and stick to only using those funds. If you don’t do that, you run the risk of developing bad gambling habits, which may have a negative impact on your life and the people around you.

If you or someone you know are in the risk zone of developing gambling problems, it’s important to seek help and support. On our responsible gambling page, you can find all the information you need about responsible gambling and assistance in preventing problems.

Yes, with some additional explanation. There is no federal ban on sports betting in the United States, but states must individually permit the activity. Therefore, legal online sports betting only exists in several states. The two biggest states for online sports betting are New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Both states are historic frontrunners for physical casinos, so it’s no surprise they should also take the lead in online sports betting.

How Easy Is It To Find a Sportsbook That Offers a Signup Bonus?

It is surprisingly easy to find such casinos, as signup bonuses are among the most common ways sportsbooks and casinos entice new players to join. With that said, not all welcome or signup bonuses are equal. For example, 888 Casino offers its new players a 100% matching bonus up to $200. In contrast, Betfair offers new players $30 just for signing up, then a 100% deposit match up to $2,500. Visit our detailed casino reviews to learn where you can find the most generous bonuses.

Can I Win Real Money by Betting on Sports Online?

Yes! You receive real cash winnings if you wager money on games, and your pick wins. These winnings are dependent on the size of your wager and the match odds, so if you bet on an underdog and they pull a major upset, you can win a lot of money.

Can I Withdraw My Winnings Into My Bank Account as Usable Cash?

Yes, though each sportsbook regulates this differently. In general, you may be unable to withdraw the funds using a method different from the one with which you deposited your initial funds. Additionally, sportsbooks also regulate bonus cash and winnings from bonus cash differently. The sportsbook may mandate that you wager a certain proportion or multiple of the winnings before it permits you to withdraw the funds.

Should I Trust Sports Betting Online?

In general, yes, but you should always remain alert regarding the trustworthiness of each sportsbook. If you found it from one of our reviews, we’ve already done the hard work for you, and you can confidently sign up and start betting today. If not, however, you will want to ensure that the sportsbook is appropriately registered and licensed by a legitimate licensing body. Further, you should always be aware of the software and informational security of the sportsbook.

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