Explaining The Differences Between Offshore Betting, Legal Sportsbooks For New Maryland Bettors

Posted on April 29, 2022

As the wait for the launch of mobile sports betting in the state continues, Marylanders may grow impatient. This could lead to some exploring other options to satisfy their sports betting fix.

A popular way for bettors to stay involved is through offshore betting companies. These entities enjoy some perks by staying away from laws in the United States. On the flip side, however, this outlet can be very risky, and in some cases, illegal.

In an effort to inform novice Maryland bettors, PlayMaryland laid out some key differences for one to consider before venturing into the betting space below. For those unsure whether any given sportsbook is offshore or not, there are a few quick ways to tell.

  • Offshore sportsbooks typically boast licenses from Curacao, Costa Rica, and Panama, among others
  • Legal sportsbooks have an official U.S. address
  • Offshore sportsbooks highlight crypto deposits

Reminder: While retail sports betting has been live in Maryland since December 2021, those in the Old Line State are still unable to place online bets. The initial best-case scenario was for mobile sports betting to launch by Week 1 of the NFL season, but there is currently no firm timeline on when it’ll be ushered in.

Deposits/Withdrawals

Legal sportsbooks benefit from connections to the global financial markets, which allows customers to easily add and remove funds from betting accounts. When it comes to depositing, one can use PayPal, bank transfer, in-person, etc. You can also use a Visa or Mastercard in some states.

Offshore sportsbooks operate in a grayer area. U.S. banks cannot receive or send money to offshore companies. That doesn’t really stop people from trying, and usually succeeding. But in the sports betting world, the delay to circumvent the system may not be helpful for those trying to place an immediate wager.

Offshore companies accept credit cards (albeit because they mask who they are to these companies), but there is a deposit fee. With the rise in cryptocurrency, there has been a growth in money coming in via Bitcoin and other cryptos.

Promotions

Offshore sportsbooks don’t pay U.S. taxes, so they keep more of their earnings and use some of their bonus cash on promotional offers. They offer both free bets and deposit matches. Usually, sending money in via crypto gives customers the largest match from the company.

Offers from legal sportsbooks center around risk-free wagers. If your bet misses, you receive a free bet equal to the original wager.

The American Gaming Association sent a letter to the DOJ claiming that offshore companies enjoy “competitive advantages” that allow them to offer better promotions. But right now, while U.S. sportsbooks pay taxes, they are still pumping millions and millions of dollars to make their promos just as enticing.

Safety

Legal sportsbooks have an obvious leg up when it comes to peace of mind for their bettors.

First, sportsbooks must apply for a state license and open themselves up to the subsequent investigation by the government. This guarantees that each applicant can properly and safely process a large number of wagers.

Most importantly, your account balance is protected. Legal sportsbooks cannot simply close shop and keep your deposits. In Virginia, for example, betting companies must have a separate special account for every user’s account balance. Also, sportsbooks must adhere to both federal and state data security rules.

Offshore gambling websites have had an unfortunate history for their customers. Companies like Full Tilt, World Sports Exchange, and Lock Poker closed their doors to players trying to withdraw their funds.

As recently as March 2022, Sportsbook.ag locked its users out for over 60 hours without explanation. Its customers were unable to withdraw their money while they waited for the site to finally resume normal operations.

Finally, these regulations can help vulnerable bettors. In the U.S., you have to be at least 18 (in most states, you must be 21) to gamble. With mobile sports betting, you must provide detailed personal information to create an account and withdraw your winnings. The same goes for self-exclusion lists and widespread information to seek help if you have an addiction.

For PlayMaryland, the question of whether or not to try out these offshore sites has an easy answer:

“Offshore sportsbooks are not a good idea for Americans to use. They can be sloppily or unfairly run and have the potential to be outright criminal enterprises. Without the backing of the Maryland and US legal systems, you should not feel comfortable sending a single scrap of information or a dime of your money to a sportsbook site.”

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Ethan Matthew

Ethan Matthew was born and raised in Silver Spring and has written articles for PlayVirginia and George Washington University's HNN. He also researched and wrote content for museum exhibits in both Boston and Washington, DC.

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