Online betting has brought about considerable changes in the general mechanics of betting on major sports and other events, but the underlying principles remain pretty much the same. Still, the internet has made things rather slipperier than they were before, and the introduction of online sportsbooks has begun to create headaches for lawmakers and regulators. It was already questionable whether they really could keep a rein or some form of control on the betting industry. But now with the introduction of the internet, and the resulting changes in the ways of making bets and receiving payouts, a whole new can of worms has been opened.
Sportsbooks began as literal books, or ledgers, where people’s bets were written down. When sport betting grew as an organized industry, the term continued to be used, and gave rise to words like “bookmaker” and “bookie.” Thus, “sportsbooks” now encompass the odds set for an event by the bookmaker, the official organization that establishes those odds, and the location where the bets are placed. Before internet betting came into the picture, the sportsbook organizations were tied to physical locations, mostly in Nevada casinos because such organizations weren’t legal elsewhere. But of course the internet has changed all that.
Now you can engage in online betting through sportsbook organizations anywhere in the world. They now allow people to bet not just on sports events in their own country but in other countries as well. These organizations tend to be officially registered in jurisdictions that have favorable tax and regulatory regimes. In theory, because they have less overhead and can handle more customers, they pass cost savings on to those customers. But the very fact that they take advantage of loose regulations means that these offshore sportsbooks can also potentially defraud customers, who have little recourse. It may take some bad experiences to learn which sites are actually reliable.
Governments trying to regulate betting in their own countries are just beginning to struggle with the implications of online betting. The U.S. government apparently feels that its citizens should not be allowed to place bets at an offshore sportsbook even if it’s registered in a place where it’s legal. The government has also arrested citizens of other countries, with sportsbooks that are perfectly legal in their own countries, because Americans were allowed to place bets. Clearly, as betting online becomes more and more common, questions of regulation and government jurisdiction are going to loom very large, very quickly.
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