There is nothing, it seems, quite as natural to human beings as betting is. Betting has been a part of human culture on every continent on Earth. From the Natives of North America to China and everywhere in between, placing a wager on the outcome of a game has been a part of sports life.
Sports betting continues to be a big part of our culture today. Just as in times past, there is not a single sport you can name that doesn't have some kind of betting audience. Proponents of sports betting say that it is a harmless way to add a little fun to the game. Even if you have never been to a bookmaker, odds are that you have made some kind of wager on a sports event. It might be a fantasy pool, it might just bet for a beer with a buddy, but you have been drawn by the appeal of making a correct prediction.
For some people, sports betting is more than just a way to spice up a favorite past time; it is big business. All over the world, bets are placed on lacrosse, cricket, football, soccer, baseball, and every other sport you can name. Some people win big, some people win consistently, but it's always the books that come out on top. Let's take a deeper look at what sports betting is all about, and some of the burning questions people have on the topic.
Is sports betting legal?
One of the biggest questions surrounding sports betting is whether or not the activity is legal. The fact is that in many parts of the world, sports betting is legal. Most of Europe and Asia regulate sports betting quite heavily, but bettors can place their wagers without fear of legal reprisals.
North America is a different story. In Canada and the United States, wagering on sports is only actually allowed in four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. Of these, only Nevada actually allows sports gambling outfits to operate.
Now, this does not necessarily mean that North Americans are out of luck if they want to wager on a game. The Internet has opened up a wide range of opportunities for residents west of the Atlantic to places bets on sports, although they must do so through books operated in an area where sports gambling is legal. Even so, the status of those operations is a little bit shady.
How does sports betting work?
Official sports bets, those which take place through bookies rather than buddies, are carefully measured odds offered by shrewd business number crunchers. Whether we are talking about Las Vegas or Beijing, you can be sure that the books are one step ahead of your average bettor when it comes to wagering.
This is not to say that you don't stand a chance of winning when you place a bet, because one of the appeals of laying a wager on a sports event is that victory is equal parts knowledge and luck (as opposed to casino wagering, which is pretty much just luck no matter what Charlton Heston has to say!).
The sports books offer several different kinds of bets, all of which are designed so that the book itself makes a profit no matter the outcome of the event. That profit is known as the vigorish (vig for short). It's usually around $10, paid by the person who loses the wager.
Generally, bettors will select one of two options when wagering on a sports event. The first is the money line, in which a straight up win by the team picked will result in money returned to the bettor. They look like this, in a
Chicago White Sox -200
New York Yankees +150
That example tells us two things. First of all, the White Sox are the favorites. That's indicated by the negative sign. If you bet the Sox, then you have to put down $200 in order to win $100. That's the second thing the example shows us; the amounts indicate how much you win if the team you select comes out on top. For the Yankees, the underdogs, you only have to pay $150 to get a shot at that hundred bucks. But, of course, the Yankees will have to win!
The other kind of wager made on sports is the spread. Here, bookmakers will offer bettors a chance to win even if the team they bet on loses. Here's a look at how spreads are expressed:
Chicago Bulls -10
Once again, the negative sign indicates that the Bulls are the favorite. However, in this case, a bettor wagers not on just who will win, but by how much. If you were to bet on the Bulls and they won, but only by 8, you would still lose the bet. The Bulls have to win by more than 10 points if a bet on them is to return money. Conversely, you could bet on the underdog Nuggets and still win if the team loses by less than 10 points.
So that's a brief introduction to some of the basic points of sports betting. Read some more of our articles in order to get a more in depth understanding of what sports betting is all about!