Want to know how to become a bookie online? In 2023, starting a business as a bookie is easier than ever. Thanks to the Internet, you don’t ever have to meet your clients face to face.
But what about the legal aspect of making book? Is it safe and legal to act as a bookie in 2023?
This post explains everything you need to know about becoming a bookie. It’s as companion piece to my post about finding a bookie near you.
Is Being a Bookie Legal?
If you’re a guy who likes sports, you’ve definitely been in the vicinity of a bookie before. They often work out of bars, especially places that show a lot of sports. You’ve probably even been approached by a bookie before, or at least a guy asking you if you wanted to make a bet. That’s what bookies do – they find sports fans and set up bets right then and there.
Okay, so, is being a bookie legal?
The simplest answer here is, “No.” I could put a stack of legal opinions on the table to support me saying that. There’s federal law making unlicensed sports betting a crime. You also have state law to contend with. It’s not legal to make book in any US state without a license. I guess you could say that being a bookie is about as far from legal as you can get.
In states where sports betting is becoming more accessible, you could say it’s even worse to engage in illegal bookmaking. Those states have rigorous licensing processes that operators have to go through, and millions of dollars change hands. No state government is going to let Bob from down the block chip into their revenue stream.
How to Become a Bookie
You’re not going to read a book or a couple of blog posts and learn how to become a bookie. Most of the guys I know who do this work fell into it in college, making a few bets for friends. My brother-in-law ran a sportsbook out of his college home with his roommates. He said they made so much money that they had to quit because the partying they could afford was getting dangerous. Or they got into it later in life, after realizing they’d never really make any money placing the bets.
That said, if you take bets on sporting events, that kind of makes you a bookie. If I’m at the bar and I get a couple of guys to bet on the basketball game with me, I’m technically making book. That means learning how to be a bookie is all about jumping in and starting to take bets. Of course, I’m assuming you’re doing something more involved than putting together NFL betting pools; those require no skill at all.
Making book isn’t complicated. Becoming a bookie means finding clients, taking bets, paying out winnings, collecting losses, and then doing it all over again. The complicated part is dealing with customers. If you’re not prepared to deal with interpersonal problems, becoming a bookie may not be for you.
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Bookie?
If it were easy to make book and turn a profit, more of us would be doing it. As it stands, I’ve never even thought about operating my own bookie service, even though I have lots of experience and knowledge about sports and sports gambling. I’ve always figured I just don’t have the skill set required.
Okay, so, what skills do you need to be a bookie?
Here’s a short list I came up with off the top of my head:
- tons of sports and gambling knowledge and experience
- excellent people skills
- a high-level negotiation ability
- cool under pressure
- the ability to do math quickly (in your head sometimes)
- an understanding of all of the rules and betting laws related to sports
- an outgoing personality with lots of energy
Add a big bankroll to that list and you’ve got yourself the makings of a good bookie. You’re not going to have a successful bookmaking service without a big chunk of seed money so you can pay off winners. While it’s true that no sports bettors really win consistently, you will have occasional ups and downs, and your budget needs to be able to deal with that.
The Life of a Bookie
I’ve never worked as a bookie. My information about the life of a bookie comes from talking to guys over the years who’ve worked making book. I’ve also read more than my fair share of books written by former bookies.
To me, the life of a bookie seems stressful. You’ve no doubt got to extract money from some clients, pay out money to others, and keep records of all this in and outflow of cash. Oh, yeah, and there’s all the handicapping and mathematics you need to work on a rolling basis as new information and new money comes in.
One of the biggest things bookies have to worry about is balancing their book. A lot of local bookies place bets at offshore books in order to keep the money balanced on either side of a bet. If you’re interested in this, check out our post on the 5 best offshore gambling sites of 2023.
Bookies spend a lot of time in and around some less-than-desirable places. I’ve met bookies in bar bathrooms and alleys behind restaurants and all sorts of places where you’d normally see drug deals. Bookies seem to spend a lot of time in places I wouldn’t want to hang out in for very long. That’s got to be an occupational hazard.
Another thing to consider – making book requires a large network of people. Bookies operating at even a medium scale probably have agents who bring them players. Those agents earn a commission. You’ve also probably got a couple guys helping you organize your work. If these guys just happen to be big hulking monsters that can intimidate a customer, so much the better.
A Reading List for Future Bookies
Before you start making book, you should do your homework. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you read up a little on what other bookies and sports betting types before you have written.
I like The Book on Bookies by James Jeffries, Soccernomics by Simon Kuper, Stanford Wong’s Sharp Sports Betting, and Gambling Wizards by Richard Munchkin. You can read those then branch out into other areas that interest you.
An educated bookie is a profitable bookie.
How to Start Your Own Sportsbook
If you want to know how to become a bookie online, you’re really asking how to start your own sportsbook. I’ve already explained (briefly) the legalities involved, and I’m sure that anyone who’s planning to start their own sportsbook understands the consequences.
Here’s how to become a bookie online and how to start your own sportsbook:
First of all, do you have enough money? A big part of learning how to start your own sportsbook is just having enough money to get your bookie operation going. The best suggestions I’ve read from other bookies is that you be able to cover twice your total amount of bets taken in per week. For some people, this may be a huge number. But if you’re just starting out and you’ve only got $500 in bets, having $1,000 stashed isn’t too tall an order.
If you’ve got plenty of money, the next question is – do you have enough clients? It seems like the days of meeting a bookie in a dark corner of the bar are fading away. It’s all done online now. How will you find your online sports betting clients? Will you use an agent or hosts or something to make new contacts? This is something you need to consider before you start making book.
You’ll also need to figure out how to set your own lines. The basic options here are to set the lines yourself or copy them from another source. My best advice to anyone considering making book is to please do not set your own lines. Odds available from the big global bookmakers will work just fine and using them will protect you from making costly rookie mistakes.
How to Start Your Own Tout Service
Starting a tout service might be an easier option if you’re interested in doing business in the sports betting industry. I recommend NOT buying sports picks, but if you’re confident in your ability to beat the spread, there’s nothing wrong with starting a service selling your picks.
The easiest way to get started is by offering free picks via social media and via your blog. You can prove your worth that way. Then, when you’ve established a track record and have a following, you can move on to selling your picks.
Making Book in Florida
Now, to complicate things – there’s at least one big exception to everything I’ve said in this post about the legality of making book. Are you surprised to find out that the exception is Florida?
In Florida, America’s most hilarious state, you can legally act as a bookie. However, the conditions under which bookmaking is legal in the Sunshine State are really tight.
Here are the stipulations for making book legally in Florida: first, you have to keep your daily bet volume under $500 and your weekly bet volume under $1,500. You can’t take more than five bets a day. You can’t charge vig or collect any kind of juice from your bettors. And you have to work alone, with no outside help from anyone else.
If you know much about the business of sports betting, you know it’s that restriction against vig that really puts a damper on the idea of being a Florida-based bookie. Still, you can legally take bets (within certain parameters) and act as a bookie without running afoul of the law. That’s pretty cool, unless you’re only in it for the big bucks.
Just don’t get caught breaking those bookie-friendly Florida laws. If you’re caught breaking those bookie rules in Florida, you’ve committed a 3rd degree felony. You could face up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. So long as you remain basically a non-profit bookmaker, Florida law doesn’t care that you’re making book.
I’m pretty sure sports betting has existed as long as professional sports. Actually, I bet people were betting on sports long before professional leagues were conceived. Sports competition lends itself naturally to betting. Wagering adds an element to sports fandom that’s hard to find anywhere else.
If you want to become a bookie online in 2023, you’ll need a large skill set and a healthy bankroll. You’ll also need to be aware of the potential legal pitfalls and lifestyle issues that come with making book.