While legal sports betting is the hot new topic in the United States, particularly as New Hampshire on Wednesday became the 14th state to offer the pastime domestically, there is one aspect that enthusiastic gamblers often overlook: the more reasonable, rational lines at offshore betting sites.
Today, with the NFL’s Wild Card Weekend kicking off in less than 24 hours, the main storyline in Philadelphia is how local bookies “will be rooting” for the Eagles to win their showdown against the Seattle Seahawks.
Well, when the line opened in Philly, the sportsbooks there (and even those in nearby legal sports betting states like New Jersey) actually had the Eagles – the just-squeaked-by-at-9-7 Eagles! – favored by two over the 11-5 Seahawks.
Pat Eichner of PointsBet was slightly ahead of the curve, explaining that his book will avoid the potential hole that so many other domestic operators have dug for themselves.
“Our [opening] line was at Seattle -1 while almost every other book went up with the Eagles as small favorites. We had Eagles at -1 for a very tiny bit, but the Seahawks seem to be the correct favorite and the line has continued to move their way to support that.”
According to industry insiders tracking the action on Sunday’s Seahawks-Eagles tilt (4:40 p.m., NBC), over 80 percent of all the money wagered on the contest has been on Seattle, while roughly 75 percent of all spread bets were on the Seahawks. This, no doubt, was spurred along by domestic bookmakers giving a much stronger Seattle team a two-point buffer against Philadelphia.
Of course, this didn’t happen at offshore betting sites.
At Bovada, the moment the regular season ended and the first round of the 2019-2020 NFL Playoffs was finalized, odds immediately went up. Bovada had the Seahawks at -2.
Similarly, sites like BetOnline and MyBookie had the same spread, while their straights pegged Seattle’s moneyline at around -130 compared to the Eagles at +110.
So, why were the offshore books able to get it right when local US books muffed things so badly?
It’s all about the home-town skew.
In Pennsylvania, the legal sports betting industry is now well-established, with books in Philly, Pittsburgh, and surrounding areas. The state even has online betting up and running.
But remember: Sportsbooks have to sell their product, and in a state with local teams and large fan bases for said teams, the vast majority of bettors usually wager with their hearts and not their heads. For bookmakers, years of experience bear this out.
Books in Philadelphia and neighboring New Jersey simply wanted to attract as much action as possible, and they pandered to the PA home crowd, thinking they could gin up a flood of Eagles bets even while installing them as favorites, with all the built-in vig that implies.
Unfortunately, that strategy proved unsound, as even the most die-hard Iggles lifer knew in their gut that this injury-depleted squad isn’t likely to beat the Seahawks, much less cover a two-point spread against a team they just lost to in Week 12 of the regular season.
So the money came in on the other side, and many books simply took too long to shift their lines. Now, they’re almost all carrying outsize liability on the actual favorite.
This is how sportsbooks lose money.
Offshore USA sportsbooks, on the other hand, have no such compulsion.
Because sites like Bovada, BetOnline, and other top sports gambling providers accept wagers from across the US and are not limited to any specific audience or fan base, they aren’t driven to manipulate local betting interests in the furtherance of their bottom lines. Instead, these books get immediate tempered action and thus set their football betting odds accordingly.
For bettors, this may not seem like a particularly important consideration. Indeed, for those lucky Philly gamblers who got in at Seahawks +2, the weekend is looking pretty bright.
Naturally, all that can be obviated with an Eagles victory on Sunday, but the necessary approach that local domestic betting shops take in setting lines will likely pay off for many who took Seattle and the points. For them, this time, domestic books have offered more value than the offshore sites.
Still, for bettors in general, offshore books offer a better indication of how the majority of gamblers think a given game will go. As a resource for line shopping, then, such online operators are worth their weight in a fat bankroll, even if you never actually gamble with them.
But even as a de facto starting point for researching and placing your bets, offshore books provide immediate realistic lines that casual bettors – that is to say, the vast majority of bettors – will definitely appreciate.
By all means, if your state has legal online betting available, sign up and browse the boards at those domestic books. But always remember to compare their odds against what you see overseas, and wager with the outlet that offers you the most bang for your buck.