How We Review Betting Sites
The global betting industry is burgeoning at full throttle, marking record-breaking growth month after month. Statistics show that at the current rate, by 2027, the number of online bettors will exceed 170 million users and surpass $180 billion by 2030.
Betting is a risky business, but there is a good rationale behind the market’s inexorable expansion: the subsequent emergence and development of a highly regulated sector that, above all else, retains trust and security in the betting community.
Gaming regulators, betting watchdog groups, and independent organizations like ours that conduct sportsbook reviews are here to maintain the order of things.
However, every independent review organization has its approach to evaluating online sports betting sites. In this article, we will introduce you to our own review process and why you can always trust our team’s online sportsbook picks.
Table of Contents
We believe reviewing sportsbooks is a vital component of the online sports betting industry, and reviews present a key asset for prospective bettors. Where we stand out from other US-oriented review sites is that apart from online sportsbooks in the US, we also cover international betting markets. But there’s more.
We don’t just talk the talk. We walk the walk and take a hands-on approach where we simultaneously act as both sports bettors (read users) and evaluators. This way, we make sure we get a firsthand experience of how sports betting apps and sites perform in key areas.
We have commissioned professionals and industry experts to work on every review separately. Their collective experience, sharp eye for detail, and sports betting acumen yield professional-grade analyses for the wider betting public.
Although we have a standardized review methodology, legal online sportsbooks differ in more than one aspect. Therefore, we follow the same methodology but treat every brand differently and evaluate it based on its unique flaws and strengths.
We do this by examining a set of criteria, which, by the time we are done, will give us the complete picture of how a given sportsbook works. We will expand on these criteria in the following sections.
We examine and rate the best sportsbooks by performing a comprehensive evaluation of criteria common to all legal sports betting sites.
The sports betting world is a complex system of betting brands, state/country regulators, and gaming laws. All these facets are interconnected and directly affect the user.
Our examination entails breaking down sportsbooks into their main components and then closely analyzing each component individually. We have identified the top criteria that, when analyzed and rated separately, will form the basis for our final rating and verdict.
Before we break down our review process in greater detail, we’d like to quickly go over our review criteria. This way, you will know where to direct your focus and which parts to analyze when you’re personally appraising any established or new sportsbook.
Licensing and Legality
A valid license is the definitive standard in legal online sports betting. We have a zero-tolerance policy for unlicensed or downright illegal betting sites. We also eliminate any betting site that has acquired the necessary license but, at the time of writing, that license’s validity is expired. We will add such brands only after they have renewed their license.
Most sportsbooks in the US take advance action to renew their licenses. Regardless, we double-check to make sure this is the case for each state or country the site is licensed in. The image above from BetMGM shows you that the sportsbook holds an active gaming license in New York, issued by the New York State Gaming Commission.
We’d like to add that some of the best online sportsbook brands also operate in markets outside the US, such as Canada. In this case, we ensure the brands hold a license from iGaming Ontario.
Alongside the US and Canada, we cover the regulated betting markets in the UK, Europe, and New Zealand. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is the country’s primary regulator of all things casino and sports betting and the official licensor of legal betting sites.
Some operators with a UKGC license also provide betting services to bettors in NZ. The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is another gaming commission whose licenses are accepted on the NZ legal betting market. As for brands providing betting services in Europe, we look for a valid MGA license, as the MGA is the chief regulator of legal sports betting in Europe.
Whether you’re hunting for deposit bonuses or you just want to deposit funds for a limited betting session – online banking is crucial for an enjoyable sports betting experience. It is an aspect that has a major impact on the overall sportsbook ratings.
There are several sides to banking we take into account to round up our verdict. The main points of reference include multiple deposit and withdrawal methods, suitable banking terms (deposit/payout limits, fees, bonus eligibility, etc.), and security.
If you have a preferred payment method that your sportsbook doesn’t provide, you should have at least two similar options available. We prefer sportsbooks with low minimum deposit requirements, which makes the operator more accessible and friendly to casual players.
Accepting transactions in the appropriate currency is paramount. For instance, betting sites in the US, UK, Europe, and NZ must offer USD, GBP, EUR, and NZD payments, respectively. Also, we consider it an advantage if the operator doesn’t charge commissions for converting currencies.
Because many bettors are always reserved with their initial investments, we aim for sites with deposit limits convenient for low-budget players and small min./max. withdrawal limits.
Lastly, the betting site should accept country-specific banking methods, such as American Express, VIP preferred e-Check, and Apple Pay for the US market; Neteller, Skrill, and Trustly for the UK market; Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, and ecoPayz for the EU market; MasterCard/Visa, Skrill, Neteller, and other e-wallets for the NZ market.
Every active sports bettor will eventually want to collect bonuses to add to their experience or get some sort of boost. Many sportsbooks stock bonuses and promotions for new and existing customers, such as bonus bets, sign-up bonuses, and sports bonus codes, so bonus choice shouldn’t be an issue.
But there’s more to having many ongoing sports deals to choose from, such as the variety of offers, bonus eligibility rules, and access. For instance, some operators can limit the eligibility of specific promotions only to certain payment methods.
The example image from FanDuel’s promotions page shows you just how diverse the bonus offer can be. Bonuses are by no means a key criterion in our reviews, but we understand just how much they can improve a bettor’s experience.
While appealing at first glance, welcome and reload bonuses can have terms that may inhibit the bonus recovery process. So, instead of just looking for a versatile palette of offers, we dig deeper into their individual terms and conditions and use cases.
One of our primary interests is the wagering requirements (WR) attached to some offers. WRs can make or break a bonus, and unless you’re a large-stakes bettor with a deep pocket, high wagering requirements can quickly deplete your budget, or the bonus may expire before you get a chance to meet the WRs.
Among the sportsbook features we check are the available betting markets. All betting sites offer a full plate of markets for major sports, but we delve deeper and also explore the markets for niche sports. More markets means more betting options and the ability to place different bets.
We examine the betting market availability based on the region. For instance, in the US, we want sportsbooks to have a broad offer of markets for all major US sports, such as football, basketball, hockey, baseball, golf, motorsports, and soccer, among other options.
In the UK, Europe, and New Zealand, legal sportsbooks tend to focus more on regional sports, such as soccer, cricket, basketball, handball, volleyball, rugby, and horse racing.
Alongside the fixed odds markets and other traditional betting options, we check the availability of live betting markets. We come to a final rating based on the variety of straight bets, futures, and team/player prop bets.
One more thing. There are countless possible outcomes in sports, and the best sportsbooks offer special markets (‘specials’) that you cannot find anywhere else. This is yet another aspect of sports markets that we factor in in our reviews.
We review the markets and odds simultaneously since the two are mutually inclusive. That is, a specific betting market is ascribed relevant odds created by the sportsbook based on the possibility of an outcome turning out.
Our experience has shown us that while the odds can be almost identical, even a point or half-a-point difference can make a difference. In this respect, some sportsbooks have an edge over their competitors and can offer small but potentially valuable line differences.
There are several ways we determine the value of odds. One is by going line shopping to find the most competitive odds. Also, we zero in on the best odds for particular markets on sports popular in a given region/country.
In addition to inspecting the value of betting lines, we see if there are special bonus deals that can give you an odds boost. We also take into account live odds, exclusive odds, and so-called ‘partial game odds,’ which are mostly available for baseball matchups.
Customer support is the foundation on which all legit and player-oriented online gaming sites are built. No matter how familiar you are with the mechanics of online betting, eventually, you will have a question or need assistance. It is at this juncture that you will learn to appreciate your betting provider or will be left disappointed.
We closely assess the customer support department of every sportsbook on our review docket. The means of support and the department’s responsiveness are our focus areas.
Most betting sites allow you to contact customer support on live chat and email, while only some offer phone support. We always pick sites whose live chats are managed by actual support assistants over those that use chatbots.
Although 24/7 support is preferable, what matters even more is the way the assistants handle support requests. Some get swarmed with queries and can provide delayed or inadequate answers. This is not acceptable. We personally check the chat and email support to get firsthand impressions about the competence of the support agents.
The user experience category is an umbrella term that encompasses game quality, support, banking, and navigation. However, for us, the quality of the UX rests on the user interface (UI) and the overall design and functionality of the site cross-platform.
We like a multi-function interface where the functions, features, tabs, buttons, and categories are synthesized in a well-organized layout for optimal navigation. We evaluate the overall UX by spending hours tinkering with the website on desktop and mobile.
The bottom line is that user experience is an all-embracing aspect that prompts us to factor in a range of variables for a generic verdict on the site’s utility and navigability, as seen from the eyes of the average user.
Like the UX, security comprises many elements that determine the sportsbook’s overall security from both outside and inside threats. By threats, we don’t just mean cyber-attacks, fraud, or money laundering. Most of these are covered by the required policy standards mandated by the company’s licensor.
Inadvertent and unforeseen factors can also pose security threats to users. We want bookmakers to implement 128-bit or 256-bit secure socket layer (SSL) encryption. Both protocols offer optimal end-to-end encrypted communication.
Player account safety is also covered in our evaluation of this criterion, where 2-factor authentication and related safety measures are seen as an advantage.
Although the relevant gaming regulator monitors any suspicious, unfair, or illicit activity, dedicated sportsbooks often commission third-party organizations to perform regular checks and audits to maintain security levels at optimum capacity.
Mobile compatibility is vital to the user experience. Recent findings show the mobile betting industry was worth over $60 billion in 2022 and is projected to continue this rapid growth in the coming years.
These figures put US-based and other sportsbooks in a position of urgency to optimize their platforms for mobile betting if they haven’t already. Although a native mobile app for iOS and/or Android gives some operators an edge over competitors, we don’t overlook the browser-based mobile performance.
Optimal functionality, device compatibility, and overall performance are the benchmarks of a quality app. Any recurring lags, loading issues, or other annoying problems, or a lack thereof, will be taken into consideration.
We listed our review criteria, and now we will break down the step-by-step process for reviewing each sportsbook and what that step entails.
- Research: The preliminary general research into each sportsbook lays the groundwork for the more in-depth analysis that follows.
- Registration: Creating an account gives us an insight into any unfavorable registration requirements and the specifics of each step necessary to successfully set up an account.
- UI assessment: The design of the site, its user interface, and its content layout give us first impressions about its usability.
- Mobile experience: We download and test the relevant sportsbook mobile apps on iOS/Android devices to gain a firsthand look at their performance. Additionally, we do a quick test of the in-browser mobile software.
- License & Security: Since some rogue operators can misinform about their licensing credentials, we double- and triple-check the sportsbook’s license details.
- Banking: Along with looking at the choice of payment options and country-specific methods, we read the operator’s banking policy and look for any potential warning signs, such as steep transaction fees or higher-than-average min. deposits.
- Market coverage: In this step, our testers focus on the spectrum of available betting markets for individual sports.
- Odds value: We cross-reference existing odds from multiple legitimate sportsbooks to pick the ones that offer the best odds value.
- Sportsbook bonuses: The variety and accessibility of sports bonuses, alongside their wagering requirements, conditions of use, and eligibility terms, are all put under the microscope.
- Support services: Direct communication with the operator’s support assistants via live chat, email, and, if available, phone lets us know how competent its support service is.
When it comes to reviewing and rating sportsbooks, we like to take pride in being able to conduct expert analyses in-house. While we also consider impressions from current and former bettors, we rely heavily on the experience and analytical acumen of our reviewers.
Even mildly questionable practices are not tolerated. The layered review process, conducted for each sportsbook separately, is indicative of our diligent and meticulous endeavor to provide fair and objective evaluations.
We don’t take sides; we do not smear operators, and we leave personal and subjective views at the door before we commence with our review.
We’ve assembled a small group of experts with a keen eye for even the smallest flaws and commonly overlooked benefits. Their collective experience, individual skills, and inside knowledge of the industry’s operations, when combined, allow them to conduct informative and easy-to-digest reviews.
While the listed criteria and review process may overlap with those at other sites, our experts are our own, and they offer a unique broad-scope appraisal while having the necessary tunnel vision and outside-the-box approach to meticulously detect even the smallest details worth noting.
From legal experts to betting specialists and handicappers – our team comprises a diverse mixture of reviewers with specialized knowledge.
Online sports betting can be the source of endless thrills and excitement, but that doesn’t diminish the risk of losing. But we cannot stop bettors from betting; we can only ensure they get the best services possible from the best online sportsbooks.
What we can do, however, is raise the warning signs and underline the importance of responsible gambling.
Each sportsbook we suggest guarantees access to safe gambling measures. We encourage readers not to neglect these tools and their utility and to take full advantage of all measures dedicated to responsible gambling.