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Welcome to the series of articles on betting theory, where Alacrity.gg and Upcomer have teamed up to bring you all of the knowledge needed to bet on esports like a pro.

In this series, we’ll cover topics such as where you can place bets, what odds even mean, how oddsmakers set their odds, when you should or shouldn’t bet and how to approach betting quantitatively. Keep in mind, though, that betting has its own set of complicated jargon and concepts, so use our glossary as a handy reference.

Getting started

You’re interested in getting your feet wet in the betting world. Great! Now what? In this article we’re going to explore where you can place bets, as well as a few common traps to avoid. We’ll be focusing on esports specifically, but some of the logic will apply to regular sports as well.

Esports betting in the U.S.

As of right now, betting on esports in the U.S. is a tricky proposition at best. The Federal Wire Act of 1961 functionally prohibits interstate “placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest” via wire communication (i.e. internet). The Wire Act has a long and tumultuous history of interpretation as it relates to non-sports gambling, with inconsistent guidance by the Department of Justice. An ongoing lawsuit brought by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission saw initial success, but the DOJ intend to appeal the decision. This guidance and suit largely pertain to lotteries or online casinos, and it seems likely that esports would still fall into the category of a “sporting event or contest.”

On top of that, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 effectively outlawed sports betting across the nation, except for a few states that were grandfathered in. This law was overturned in 2018 when the Supreme Court ruled that it violated the Tenth Amendment, allowing states to set their own regulations on sports (and, by extension, esports) betting.

So, while the Wire Act halts most centralized (e-)sportsbooks, individual states still have the ability to take wagers from within their borders. Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia and Tennessee have all explicitly allowed esports betting, though each state will have its own restrictions or regulations.

Many other states are also starting to permit and regulate esports betting. Often, specific events or esports still have to be approved on a case-by-case, book-by-book basis, or they are only allowed in physical casinos (not online). So, make sure to check your local laws before putting any money down.

Bill A637 (unofficially called the “eSports Betting Bill”) unanimously passed the New Jersey legislature on June 21, 2021. This bill revised and expanded the state’s prior definitions and regulations of sports betting, covering all skill-based competition (including anything from hot-dog-eating contests to esports). Licensed sportsbooks are allowed to take wagers of up to $100, with payouts up to $500, without seeking case-by-case approval. While these limits are rather low, the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) has the ability to increase or remove these limits and has historically trended towards expanding the industry. This bill could be a strong catalyst for similar legislation in other states.

Offshore betting

A few offshore books offer the ability to place bets to residents of all (or most) U.S. states, the largest being BetOnline and Bovada. They are licensed and regulated and, to our knowledge, no bettor has gotten into legal trouble for betting on an offshore site. That said, they still exist in a legal gray area as various laws get reinterpreted or appealed. In addition, retrieving your money may not be entirely straightforward. Again, we would advise checking your local laws and regulations, or speaking to customer support at any such sites, before committing any cash.

Esports betting outside of the U.S.

Every country has its own stance on gambling, betting and the place of esports within their laws. Some outright ban any form of gambling, while others (such as the UK) are pretty lax about the whole thing. Fortunately, the state-by-state quagmire that is U.S. law is fairly unique to the country, so most of our international readers should be able to get a much more direct answer as to the status of esports betting in their country.

Most online sportsbooks are fairly diligent at keeping up with regulations and will prevent you from signing up if you’re in a country that restricts online betting. Generally speaking, if you can sign up, you’re good to go. But, as a third party, we have no ability to guarantee anything.

How do I pick a site?

So you’ve navigated the turbulent landscape of gambling regulation and you’re ready to start wagering. How do you pick which site to place bets on? With dozens of options, the decision can be daunting.

The simple truth is, it probably doesn’t matter. At this point, most major sites offer lines on all of the major esports, have well-developed interfaces and very similar offered odds.

In fact, almost no sites even set their own lines. They either get them from one of a small handful of sources or look at what other sites are offering and copy those odds. If you’re looking for the site that can give you the best odds on a match, they’re unlikely to be more than a couple of points off of each other, swayed by the betting volume on their own platforms as they balance their books. Because of this, a site that gives you marginally better odds on one match is unlikely to have better odds consistently.

One possibility is to spread your bets across a few sites and, for each match you’d like to bet on, check the odds on different platforms and take the best one. This is a reasonable approach, though it involves a bit more effort and can get tedious. It’s up to you how much effort you’d like to exert to this end.

Things to watch out for

While most online esports betting sites are functionally identical, they all have to stand out and compete for attention and the biggest differentiator is their first-deposit bonuses. Most sites will offer to match your first deposit up to a certain amount, and there’s every reason to take advantage of this as it’s essentially free money.

In fact, this is another incentive to get set up on a few sites. If you’re planning on depositing more money than a given site will match with its bonus, spreading out your deposits and picking up those bonuses from several sites may be worth the effort.

Having said that, these bonuses are designed to look more enticing than they are. The first thing to be wary of is the maximum match that a site will give you. If one site is offering a 100% match up to $200, and another is offering a 25% match up to $500, the better deal depends on how much you were planning on depositing. While the first site feels like better value (100% is more than 25%), if you were going to deposit $2000 anyway, the first site would net you $200 in bonus while the second would net you $500. If you deposit $200 on the first site and $1800 on the second, you’d come out $650 richer, which is the best of both worlds, but then you’d have to manage two separate accounts.

More importantly, betting sites have “rollover” requirements. These are rules that dictate when you’re allowed to take your money back out, to prevent users from getting those deposit bonuses and immediately cashing out. A 5x rollover requirement would mean that you have to wager a total of five times your initial deposit plus bonus before you could withdraw anything. If you deposited $200 and received a $200 bonus, you would have to place $2000 worth of wagers before you could withdraw anything. If you’re planning on maintaining a wallet on a site to consistently place bets, this won’t be much of a detriment. But, if you’re spreading your bets to find the best odds, it could become a hurdle.

The future of esports betting

While there are some tedious hindrances in the world of online esports betting, the tide is clearly turning and it’s only a matter of time before this becomes a well-established industry. Esports is one of the fastest growing entertainment sectors, and regulations on esports and betting are loosening up around the world.