Don’t Complicate Matters by Using a Bookie When Sports Betting

Sports Betting Bookie Considerations

Most people have this image of bookies as shady characters that exist on the fringes of society and prey on the weak, degenerate gamblers. That’s not painting the complete picture, but some of that certainly exists.

I don’t view bookies as the bad guy in the way Hollywood depicts them. None of the bookies I’ve known were affiliated with the mob, and most were pretty well-adjusted with an even temperament. Still, I never owed them money I couldn’t pay. For the record, every debt I’ve ever had to a bookie was on the golf course, and I paid up on the spot.

I like bookies in general; they are part of the romance and intrigue that attracted me to sports betting. But I wouldn’t use a bookie to make bets when I started gambling, and I won’t use them now.

Sports betting is a challenge, don’t complicate matters by using a bookie.

What Does a Bookie Do?

The phrase bookie is a shortened version of the bookmaker. The bookies are the modern-day underground bookmaker.

They operate primarily in the same way as the casino sportsbooks, with a few notable exceptions. Bookies take action on games. From there, the bookies will pay out winners and collect from losers if they don’t get the cash upfront. In essence, bookies act like local sportsbooks.

One of the more common depictions of the bookies is as they come to collect on a gambler that doesn’t have the funds to cover their debt.

These interactions are often portrayed as being incredibly violent.

Violence is not the go-to method for a bookie that wants their money, but it’s not out of the question. I have a bookie buddy and once asked him about getting physical with non-paying clients.

He was adamant that intimidation worked in the unlikely event a customer didn’t pay up. However, he also confided in me that he had used “contract labor” when someone refused to pay. Furthermore, he explained that he considers his line of work a public service. It’s none of his business what others do with their money, and there’s no real deterrent for degenerate gamblers. He looked at his relationship with gambling addicts like the liquor store clerk and alcoholics. It’s not his job to give life advice, merely to provide a service.

Still, I’ve met several problem gamblers who have a negative image of my friend because he stopped taking their bets. In my experience, bookies aren’t the bad guys’ TV makes them out to be.

How Do Bookies Make Money?

Bookies make their money off the vig. This vigorish is the same way casino sportsbooks make their money. The bookies charge a vig on every losing bet and take the remaining money to pay winners. So, like the sportsbooks, it’s critical that bookies can get even money on both sides.

That means the bookies will sometimes get creative with lines to even out a contest. For the most part, bookies will take wagers on anything. However, they must be confident that they can get money on the opposing side of the bet. That ensures they don’t ever dip into their pocket to cover winners.

Still, you won’t find bookies that offer all of the wagers you might find in a Las Vegas sportsbook.

It all comes down to where the bookmakers believe they can make money.

Another lucrative aspect of bookie life is credit lines. Most bookies are happy to extend lines of credit to known customers.

Please Note:
These lines of credit can draw in business that may otherwise be non-existent. When the customers pay up, it’s business as usual.

But when they don’t pay on time, the interest accrues at an alarming rate. While this makes for the stress-inducing inconvenience, it’s also highly profitable.

Why Do Gamblers Use Bookies?

The answer to that sports betting question isn’t as black and white as it appears.

Gamblers use bookies for a variety of different reasons.

Throughout most of America’s history, sports betting has been illegal in most areas.

Without the availability of local sportsbooks, the bookies fill a void for sports bettors. I know a select few sports bettors that up until recently would fly out to Vegas several times a year for the sole purpose of betting on games. Indeed, using a bookie is more convenient and less costly for making your sports bets.

A huge selling point is having a local sportsbook that’s only a phone call away and will deliver your wins to your home, office, or local Starbucks.

Another reason gamblers get wrapped up in using bookies is a bit more damaging. Problem gamblers are desperate for their fix, and when the money runs out, that desperation gets amplified to the fullest.

So, they turn to the bookies for lines of credit. Bookies aren’t stupid, and they won’t extend a line of credit to gamblers who can’t pay.

But the bookies don’t care whether your other bills get ignored; they want their money.

The problem that gambling addicts face with bookies isn’t that they risk physical harm; it is that they can gamble regardless of whether or not they can afford to make bets.

Here’s Why Convenience Shouldn’t Persuade You

The proliferation of legalized sports betting has dramatically broadened the scope of what sports bettors are allowed to do. That has had a tremendous impact on the bookie’s bottom line.

If you argue that your bookie is a must for all sports bets, pick up a smartphone, and I’ll convince you otherwise. There’s an argument that bookies give punters a personal touch that’s lost in online betting, but how much do you care about the transaction itself?

Perhaps you’re concerned with the delays from online casino withdrawals. There’s still not a more convenient way to have your money deposited directly into your account after a win.

Ten years ago, I would have agreed wholeheartedly that using a bookie was the most convenient way for most Americans to bet on sports. But the rapid expansion of local and online sportsbook options has ended that argument. Some of you may argue that betting online is illegal in your area. Well, so is using a bookie.

Regardless of the legal nature of sports betting in your market, using a bookie is illegal. You aren’t likely to be prosecuted for betting on sports irrespective, but you won’t be able to plead ignorance by involving a bookie.

Do NOT Take a Line of Credit from a Bookie

Maybe you’re broke and need a bookie to float you a line until payday. Stop right there, do not pass go, do not take a $200 line of credit from a bookie.

There’s not a single situation when taking a line of credit from a bookie falls under the heading of responsible gambling. If you can’t afford to make your bet with cash, you merely need to wait until your bankroll can accommodate the action.

Even if you have the money but want to use the credit offered to make a bet more convenient, you shouldn’t. There’s a chance you could completely forget.

What happens if an unexpected crisis arises, and you no longer have the funds when the bookie comes to collect?

I can assure you that they won’t sympathize with your plight. But will be reasonable with interest charged depending on the circumstances.

Please Note:
Borrowing money from a bookie only adds stress to an already stressful situation. The credit lines trap problem gamblers into a perpetual cycle of losing that they struggle ever to climb out.

Please don’t put yourself in a compromising situation by taking the bookies up on their generous offer. Instead, find a sportsbook you like and pay cash.

There Are Better Options

The number one reason sports bettors should avoid using bookies is simply that there are better options out there. We aren’t living under a total prohibition on sports betting the way we were a short time ago.

That means gamblers across the United States have more modern choices. Sportsbooks aren’t any less challenging when making money from sports betting. However, they do come with far fewer complications than using a bookie. Besides, you never really know what you’re going to get when you involve yourself with a bookie.

I’m a firm believer that most bookies are honest people that are merely trying to make a living unconventionally. But it only takes one lousy bookie to spoil the bunch; you don’t want to draw that one.


Sports betting is a challenge, don’t complicate matters by using a bookie. You can see more than enough potential hazards to steer clear.

Please Note:
If you can’t find a more suitable alternative, you aren’t trying hard enough. If you have a gambling problem, you need to cut all ties to your bookie and seek treatment immediately.

Many resources help you get on the road to recovery; you don’t have to keep chasing your money and sanity further into the hole.

Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.

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