How do you bet in the USA?

Here in the UK, we have betting shops on every High St. We currently have 8700 of them, so every probably does mean every - there’s probably not a town in the UK without one. They are predominately associated with horse racing, but you can go in and place a wager on basically any sporting event, and a lot of non-sporting ones - you could probably bet on whether it will rain tomorrow if you liked.

Away from the High St, anyone can open an online account with a betting exchange - which will offer more sophisticated gambling options such that you can act as your own bookmaker etc

So how does this all work in the US - when I worked there (in Pennsylvania) I didn’t see any betting shops, and I gather betting is much more tightly regulated. So say I’m living in Philadelphia, and I want to place bets on the weekend games, e.g. Penguins v Flyers, Grizzlies v 76ers. I also fancy Strong mandate in the Kentucky Derby later in the year, and I’d like to put a bundle on me and the missus seeing our ruby wedding anniversary. What are my options?

you don’t

it’s illegal

In you want to bet on sporting events (besides doing so with friends) you have three choices:

[li]Legal casinos - Safest way to do so as they’ll pay you if you win.[/li][li]Bookies - Slightly less safe than legal casinos as some bookies might “forget” that you won. Or they might get a suspicious if you keep winning, which may be as bad.[/li][li]Internet-based sports book - Very bad idea. They are illegal, they often get raided or closed down by the federal government and if they fail to lay off enough bets to cover a losing streak, they have been known to stiff their winners.[/li][/ol]

There are casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey that have established sports books. You might to try there first


I’ve never done it, but you can bet on lots of things in casinos. One I saw was that you can bet on the CFL, in the US. I bet that betting must’ve been very confusing 1910-1996, when you could bet on the Roughriders or the Rough Riders.

There’s always the various state run lotteries.

Most gambling is illegal in most places - but the number of exceptions will make your head spin.

So, it depends on the local jurisdiction and on the game. I believe that a lot of sports betting is done through local pools among friends. Well, they started out as friends…

State run lotteries are huge here, aka a tax on the poor. Well, depending on the state. People can buy lottery tickets in gas stations and convenience stores in my state, which is annoying because it holds up the line for those of us who just want to pay for gas or a Red Bull and be on our way.

Then of course there’s Nevada. And Indian-run casinos, and online betting venues. But I think most of those are dodgy for betting on things like sports teams.

There are two off-track betting establishments in Denver (Colorado) where you can bet on horse and dog racing and, maybe, other events. I don’t know whether there are others in other cities here. Legal gambling is allowed in only 3 towns in Colorado and they have casinos. I don’t know whether they have off-track betting there.

Other that that, as far as I know, gambling is illegal in Colorado.


Chicago and the surrounding suburbs have a bunch of OTBs to bet the ponies. None of them, to my knowledge, take bets on sports or any other action than the horse races.

I would like to be proven wrong as a good book is hard to find.

None of the ones my husband and I frequent do (we play the ponies year 'round - not just when Hawthorne and Arlington are running.) However, next time you’re in my area, I can introduce you to my friend Ed. :wink:

More like a tax on the mathematically challenged.

Not so. Some in New Jersey are currently trying to get their casinos the legal permission to run sports books, but there are problems with federal law that are unlikely to be overcome.

To answer the OP’s question, there is legal sports betting in just one state (Nevada, home to Las Vegas). Many or most states have a handful of casinos, often run by Native American tribes (but, again, no sports betting). Likewise, many states have horse racing and/or off-track betting parlors. And there’s the state-run lotteries. That’s about it for legal options. After that you’re onto the black market.

Hopefully, this is the next vice to be liberalized. People should be able to bet legally and responsibly. And easily.

Seriously. I could have made so much money on baseball the last few years.

As to the OP, as others said…for all practical purposes you don’t. I USED to be able to bet through William Hill, until WH said “You know something…your guys laws are so complicated, it’s not worth it to us, so…fuck you guys” So William Hill will allow betting from probably 150 countries. But not the U.S. Yup. Land of the Free.

I’ve looked into off-shore betting, and a site on a reservation in Canada. But it’s just too much trouble. All the hassle of collecting your winnings etc…oh they can get MY money almost instantaneously though.

Thanks for the responses - I didn’t realise gambling was legislated to that degree in the US.
The black market must be massive - assuming most people can access a bookie if they so wish. I wonder how it would equate, per-capita, to the legal gambling market in the UK or Australia.

Pools are pretty common for big or important sports games/events (Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup finals, NBA finals, etc). The pot comes from the people in the pool, who pay a specific amount for a square on the pool grid. Here’s an example of a betting pool sheet. It’s not uncommon for the same group to have more than one sheet (with different numbers) and you can buy more than one square if you want.

These can be REALLY popular in workplaces, even though they’re totally illegal. That’s probably why I still almost always see hand-made and copied sheets instead of neatly formatted Excel spreadsheets. A lot of workplaces will turn a blind eye to a pool as long as they are quiet and discreet about it.

Then again, you have places like the city offices where my mom works, where the cops are the ones who make all betting pool sheets. :smiley:

I don’t think gambling is as much a part of American culture as it is in the UK. There certainly are regions where it is very popular and friendly bets among friends are common, but your average soccer dad or mom is not going to go to (or even know where to find) a bookie to place illegal bets on games.

FWIW - you can legally bet online in MD on horse racing. It is a little known thing, you have to use a specific site - and if memory serves there are daily limits.

Generally you can’t be on specific non sport event, but there are exception like Iowa Electronic Markets, but I think they only do presidential elections - and it’s a max of $500, and it might even be illegal in some states, but they look the other way cause it is for academic purposes.

I don’t think most people know how to access a bookie, anymore than they know how to access a crack dealer. “Bookie” and “crack dealer” have about the same level of social acceptability. Basically we don’t have a betting culture where betting on things is considered a common or typical social outlet. Other than lotteries and informal office pools, most people don’t bet on things. I’m sure you can at a casino, but there traditional casino games predominate.