It's always hard to choose between your corner bookie or online sportsbook. There are pluses and minuses to both, but overall, you're safer placing bets online than with someone who may be involved in criminal activity. The reason: Online Sportsbooks physically operate in jurisdictions where it is legal to place bets, whereas your neighborhood bookmaker might be breaking well established legislation against sports betting "in person".
Corner bookies are prevalent in many urban areas, where casual gambling is easy to find. They may not actually work on a corner: instead, some local bookies operate out of pool halls, bars, restaraunts, or in community centers like parks. The best corner bookies are successful because they are able to pay clients on a win, and keep them coming back by offering quality service and no gimmicks. If it feels like you're getting scammed by a local bookmaker, you probably are, so steer clear of those who act particularly shady. Most importantly, talk to other bettors before you put your money down. If a bookie suddenly appears out of no where and begins taking bets, be cautious. If, however, a bookie has been working the same area for years, you can be reasonably sure that they're good businessmen.
The problem with local bookies arises when they offer credit to place bets (See our article about "PostUp or "Credit" shops). If you're playing with scared money, or don't physically have the cash in hand to place a bet, DON'T MAKE A WAGER. Wait until you can afford to lose, or else you'll dig yourself a deep hole. It's true that some credit bookies will send tough guys out to collect bad debts. The best way to bet and have fun is to play with money you have, never take a loan, and make good on all your debts. If you can do this, you and your bookie will have a great relationship.
Isn't my bookie operating illegally? Why doesn't he just open an office? To be perfectly honest, bookmaking and taking bets IS ILLEGAL in some areas. If you're in Las Vegas (or any other part of Nevada) it's legal to place bets on sports, and many well regarded casinos have sportsbooks to cater to sports betting customers. So, check your local laws first before placing any bets. In areas where legality issues are murky, be on guard and always choose your bookie carefully. It's one thing to set up an office pool for March Mania betting with your buddies, but it's another to meet some guy in a bar to place a big wager on Monday Night Football. This and other more blantant examples of "bookmaking for profit" are generally discouraged in most states.
Ok - so why is online sports betting any better? First of all, 9 out of 10 are situated in countries where it is 100% legal to place bets on sports. Furthermore, because they are considered legal operations in their respective juridictions, the business of running the online sportsbook is as legitimate as any brick and mortar gambling operation in Reno, Las Vegas, or Monte Carlo. In other words, well regarded offshore sportsbooks are not people camped out in a hotel room taking bets online. Instead, they are large, organized businesses that employ local workers, pay taxes, and must also pay liscensing fees to take bets. As a result, it's generally a safer bet to go online than with your local bookie because you have the benefit of being able to research online sportsbooks first - or get advice from friends, before placing a bet. If you can't call or find a real address for an online sportsbook, it's probably a shady operation. If, however, the website displays membership in online watchdog agencies, is legally liscensed, and is favorably reviewed by other players, your're probably not going to have any issues.
The ability to research and make your own decision about where to play online is probably most important difference between dealing with a bookie in person or playing online. Intelligence and customer reviews of the local guy at the pool hall is probably not well publicized information, whereas internet sportsbooks are written up, reviewed, and regularly audited by many different interest groups.
The bottom line? Place your bets online and play it safe. Don't bet and take loans from people you don't trust, or, who are blantantly breaking laws to provide a bookmaking service in your jurisdiction. Online sports betting is much safer because you're dealing with reputable business groups that rely on customer retention and best practices in order to be a profitable and trustworthy gambling operations.
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