Offshore Vs. Legal Sports Betting: What’s The Big Deal?

Written By Ian St. Clair on 02/16/2021 - Last Updated on July 8, 2022

Editor’s Note: The following article represents the views of the author.

As you glance through your news updates, you see that Deshaun Watson is “intrigued” by the Denver Broncos.

Curious, you look at the latest odds as to where he could end up.

You do a double-take because the odds are better for Denver than you thought they would be.

You think to yourself, “What the heck?”

So you put a few bucks down on the Broncos to trade for the star quarterback.

Fast-forward to early June, and the trade with the Houston Texans is complete. Somehow, new Broncos general manager George Paton made the impossible happen.

You log in to your account and … nothing; there’s no money deposited for your winning bet.

Unfortunately, this is at least a risk when you go with an offshore sportsbook.

As Dan Hartman, director of the Colorado Division of Gaming, told PlayColorado:

“The key ingredient in creating a thriving sports betting market has been to ensure confidence in the marketplace, both by bettors and by operators. Consumers in Colorado can feel confident in betting in the regulated market versus offshore betting knowing there is safety in accessing their funds, a regulatory framework around operations and betting, an agency monitoring events and practices, and multiple ways to participate in this new form of entertainment in a safe, secure way.”

What does ‘offshore’ mean?

Before we go any further, “offshore” is slang for “unregulated.” In the case of Colorado sports betting, that means the state doesn’t oversee what offshore books do or how they operate.

In the case of your winning Watson bet, if you don’t get your winnings, there’s not much you can do about it.

Now, does this happen all of the time? Of course not. But there is an ever-present danger of smaller offshore sportsbooks going belly up or running afoul of the law.

That’s the risk you take when you go with an offshore sportsbook. You’re gambling once already, so there’s no need to do it twice.

This isn’t to say that the regulated sportsbooks are perfect. They have their issues as well.

Look no further than the recent chatter on betting limits placed on casual and professional bettors, yet Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale is allowed to put down a $3.46 million bet on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Even industry expert David Payne Purdum don’t have an answer for this growing dilemma.

Still, when it comes to regulated versus unregulated, is this really up for debate?

Sports betting learning curve

Keep in mind, sports betting in Colorado is still in its infancy. It hasn’t even been live here for a year yet.

Heck, that’s the case for most of the country.

That means a learning curve is involved. Mistakes are inevitable.

Learning from those situations allows the industry to flourish and grow.

If taken seriously, this new form of “wager-tainment” stays on the right path. And that’s beneficial for not only the operators but the state, users and media covering the industry.

It’s imperative for those who cover and promote sports betting to know what they put out there for the consumers.

Offshore betting checklist

Are you pitching an offshore account in your story or tweet?

Not to play the offshore police, but if the sportsbook ends in “ag,” it’s not regulated.

Would the media push offshore marijuana dealers? Yes, there are actually laws in place to ensure this doesn’t happen. Yet even if there weren’t, it would still never happen.

How is sports betting coverage any different?

When it comes to offshore accounts, keep this checklist handy:

  • What you are doing is still of dubious legality at best.
  • You have no recourse if your bet is graded unfairly or the money disappears from your account.
  • While it may seem fun to bet on an election or the ending of Game of Thrones, the markets are heavily influenced by insider information and corruption.
  • In most cases, they don’t heed responsible gambling measures. So if you are a problem gambler, there aren’t measures in place to stop you from betting your mortgage or getting $50K in the hole.

That’s the other big issue with offshore sportsbooks: responsible gaming.

Responsible gambling

The regulated sportsbooks (most of them) take this issue very seriously.

This is one of the main reasons people are still so uneasy about gaming and sports betting gaining traction in America.

They know what happens when it gets out of hand and the damage problem gambling can cause people.

When it comes to regulated sportsbooks, there are measures available to help it never come to that. And they take it very seriously, again, in most cases.

How to attract offshore users

The other reason to go with regulated sportsbooks in Colorado?

One of the stipulations in place for sports betting revenue is 10% of the tax collected goes to water conservation.

When you use a regulated sportsbook, the state benefits.

You benefit.

That doesn’t happen when you use an offshore sportsbook.

Sports betting is meant to be fun and an added form of entertainment. It’s a way to enjoy the sports and teams you watch, with an added thrill that you may win.

But in moderation and when you know your limits. Put yourself in the best possible situation to succeed.

Is the regulated market perfect? Of course not.

But if Watson does end up in a Broncos uniform, don’t you want a guarantee you will reap the rewards?

You’re gambling once already; there’s no need to do it twice.

As Aubrey Levy, the VP of content for theScore, told PlayColorado in a recent interview about operators attracting offshore bettors:

“I think it’s very important. Those are some of the most endemic, hardcore bettors because they’re the ones who have to jump through the most hoops to get a bet placed. It’s not necessarily easy to get your money on or off in offshore book situations. There’s a vested interest for everybody. The operators, the states to service those users. I think the reality is the only way you’re going to get them is by making their life so much easier and it’s not worth it for them to go offshore. The headache around dealing with offshore, you simplify their lives to such a degree that that’s not an issue anymore.

“So I think it’s totally feasible and incredibly doable. Today, there’s still some work to be done. And are you going to bring everyone whose offshore, onshore? Probably not. I still think there’s a lot we can do to show value. Ask anyone who’s bet offshore, it’s not necessarily a fun experience for them. The onus is on us to make those experiences better so that they have no reason to bet offshore.”

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Ian St. Clair

Ian is an award-winning sports journalist and a University of Northern Colorado graduate. He’s a Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics. He broke into the gambling industry right as Colorado launched legal sports betting in 2020. Ian now manages the sites for some of the biggest gambling markets in North America and is an analyst for PlayColorado.

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