By Max Bichsel, Vice President of U.S. Business, Gambling.com Group
In just a short time since the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May 2018, the U.S. has seen nearly half of its states legalize some form of sports betting – whether land-based or online – with more on the horizon in the coming years.
However, despite this widespread push for legalization, the sports betting industry remains largely unregulated outside of legal casinos and sportsbooks. Efforts have been made to tighten up the process, but the reality is a gray area still exists.
Almost anyone can start a company or establish a website for a picks service and call themselves a handicapper – someone who studies games and researches trends in order to determine which team or individual is a smart bet. Picks services are designed to help casual bettors and are often marketed toward three specific types: Those who have limited knowledge about sports betting or gambling, those who don’t have time to do the research, or those who want to bet big and win big. There can be valuable advantages gained from paying for sports picks, such as making greater profits and giving you another source of information to analyze potential bets. Because of this, it’s important to distinguish the difference between a potential scammer and a reputable, legitimate picks service that provides analysis on top of their predictions.
If you’re new to the handicapping business and want to gain some insight into whether it’s right for you, here are seven things to know before committing your money:
Transparency: The most important thing to consider when deciding whether to use a handicapper or a picks service is how transparent they are. As a customer, you should be able to monitor what types of bets they’re placing and how they’re publishing their selections. Even if you are able to determine that, dig deeper to see what their win-loss record looks like and the composition of plays they’re betting on in order to get a full picture of what is being offered. Do your due diligence just like you would with anyone else that provides a service to you – check for references to see if someone can vouch for them or look at reviews online if available.
Forms of payment: The different forms of payment that a particular handicapper or picks service accepts can be a strong indicator of their legitimacy. Look for those that can process credit cards effectively, not ones where you’re sending someone a Cash App or something similar. If they process payments through PayPal, Square or another known provider that people are aware of and transact with, the process will look very familiar and feel more legitimate. If you choose to send money through another option, the risk is fairly high, and you have no recourse to do anything afterward if they don’t hold up their end of the deal.
Minimum winning record: Generally the rule of thumb is that you need to hit 52.5% of your bets to make money, assuming all of the odds are exactly the same. That figure may be skewed if you take a lot of favorites or underdogs but hitting 52.5% is a difficult threshold to reach. With that said, if someone or a service touts a winning percentage of 80%, for example, it can be misleading for customers. You may not be speaking the same language in regard to what constitutes a win or loss, or the handicapper or picks service may only be taking heavy favorites to boost their winning percentage.
“Double-siding”: One tactic that some shady handicappers or picks services use is “double-siding,” which is when they send out one side of a bet to half of their customer base and the other side of the bet to the other half of their customer base. For example, if the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers are playing one another on a given night, half the customers are sent the Angels pick and the other half is sent the Rangers pick. No matter what happens, half of the customer base is guaranteed to win and means they are likely to stick around and continue to buy picks.
Time & Personal bankroll: Before deciding anything, ask yourself: What is my sports betting budget and am I able to control it? If you’re a recreational bettor and are laying down $15 or $20 bets on a couple of games every week, then spending more than that trying to get winning picks for even money is probably not worth it. It is likely you’ll end up paying more for your picks than you will end up winning from those bets. However, if you’re placing $100 or $200 bets fairly often during the week, spending a chunk of money for picks might not that big of a deal. It’s all about shopping in your lane and staying with what makes sense for you financially.
Finding value: People find value in different things, so it’s important to determine what your betting style is. If you’re a recreational sports bettor and you like to bet on Saturdays and Sundays or big events like the NBA Finals, World Series or Super Bowl, those are good places to find value. If you’re someone who treats sports betting as an investment to make money, there’s a great deal of value to potentially be found in international sports or lower-level U.S. sports like mid-major NCAA conferences or the WNBA.
Does it take the fun out of sports betting? Part of the appeal of sports betting comes from doing research and strategizing, which may not come into play as much when you take bets from handicappers or picks services. But at the end of the day, no matter if you do the research yourself or get insight from others, you’re still getting the emotional highs and lows of winning and losing. That’s a major aspect of sports betting that doesn’t get lost no matter which option you take.
Gambling.com Group owns and operates Bookies.com, the go-to source for online sports betting featuring live odds, expert picks, betting tools, betting strategies and reviews and deals for the best sports betting sites.
BookiesEDGE is a premium picks subscription service featuring several of the industry’s top professional handicappers.
Max Bichsel is vice president of U.S. business for Gambling.com Group, a leader in performance marketing for regulated online gambling. Max is an expert on the American online gaming and sports betting markets; he is responsible for growing business with operators and partners as more states legalize, regulate, and offer online gamin