Betting at an Online Sportsbook vs In Person Betting

We’re just going to go ahead and be upfront with you about where we stand on this great debate. Betting online is a much more profitable and convenient experience. If you asked us a few years back where we stood on this, we would have said the exact opposite.

But the online books have grown so much (mostly thanks to technology), and we feel strongly that they have surpassed the benefits you can get from a brick-and-mortar location. There’s a reason that most brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are trying to create their own mobile platforms.

As you can probably guess, betting online versus betting in person is completely different. You have different perks, different ways of doing things, and different ways to approach your betting. If you’ve never bet in person or online before, this guide will have a lot of great information about betting online and how it all works. If you’re someone who is used to betting in person but is transitioning to betting online, you’ll want to pay particularly close attention. We’re going to cover some major differences that you need to be aware of before you head into the inter-webs and start firing away.

The Benefits of Betting Online

You might be thinking we’re just biased towards online sports betting because that’s the industry we’re in. For that exact reason, we’d like to start this guide off by covering some of the major advantages and benefits you’ll see when you choose to bet online. We want to make sure that you see we’re not just saying online is better because it fits our narrative. We’d like for you to clearly see that it really is the best option for you in today’s sports betting world.

You Protect Your Profits

Male Holding Credit Card and Using a Blue Computer Tablet

Did you know that sports betting in person is significantly more expensive than placing your bets online? What a lot of people fail to realize is that when they are forced to go to the sportsbook every time they want to bet and cash in a winning ticket, it costs them money. These costs and expenses have to be deducted from your profits if you want to have an honest look at how much money you are making betting.

A win on a $20 bet at the sportsbook might not be worth anything once you factor in all of the costs associated with it. First, you have to look at transportation costs to and from the sportsbook. If you don’t have a personal vehicle, you have to pay for public transportation. If you do have your own vehicle, you have to pay for gas, tolls, parking, and wear and tear on your vehicle.

Then, what if you have kids or pets at home? Well, you might have to get a babysitter or pay someone to come over and give Rover a walk. If you have a significant other who isn’t into sports betting, you might have to pay for them to do something fun so that you can escape and get to the casino or sportsbook.

Remember, you also have to make two trips: one to get your ticket and then one to cash it in when you win. If it costs you a few bucks each way in gas or public transportation, that $20 win is quickly going to vanish. Even if you live close to a book, that can be a lot of money. Let’s say you live 10 miles from the book, your car gets 20 miles to the gallon, and gas is $3 a gallon. That’s 20 miles on the first trip and 20 miles on the second trip for 40 miles total. That’s two gallons of gas, which is $6. If parking is something low like $2, then that’s a total of $4 in parking. Even if you are lucky and have no other costs and choose not to factor in wear and tear on your car, that’s half of your $20 profit already gone!

When you choose to bet with an online sportsbook, all of these costs vanish. You’ve most likely already got a computer or a phone, and you’re most likely already paying for phone or internet (otherwise, how would you be reading this guide?). That means that you really don’t have to pay for anything extra to make your bets. If you’re new to betting and making smaller bets, this is going to be pretty important to protect your small bankroll.

We’d hate to see your sports betting tombstone read something like, “Here lies Bobby McBettor. Sports betting career died because of high gas prices.”

Overall Convenience

If comfort and quality of life are not important to you, feel free to skip right over this section. No one left? That’s what we were thinking would be the case. You see, everyone loves to make their lives and the things they do easier. When online sportsbooks were created, this is the issue they were trying to solve. They were looking for a way to make the practice of sports betting more convenient.

How’d they do at it? They crushed it. Online sports betting makes the entire process from start to finish much easier, headache free, and that much more enjoyable. Let’s talk about a few of the reasons why.

First, you don’t have to leave your house or wherever you might be to place your bets. Want to bet from the couch while watching football on Sunday? Done. Hungover and stuck in bed on Saturday morning but still want to bet the college games? You don’t even have to come out from under the covers. If this isn’t reason enough to get you on the online sports betting bandwagon, we’re not sure what it’s going to take.

Second, you don’t have to deal with the inconveniences of the brick-and-mortar sportsbooks themselves. This starts with your trip to the book. You don’t have to deal with traffic, tolls, or parking. The conveniences don’t stop once you get inside. Are you a fan of waiting in lines? Yeah, neither are we. Anytime you need to place a bet or cash in a ticket, you’re going to be waiting in some sort of line.

Depending on how well staffed your sportsbook is, this could be a short line or a long one. It also depends on what day, time, and what is going on in the sports world. If it’s a major sporting event weekend, you can go ahead and kiss a huge chunk of your day goodbye while you wait to get all your action in. Every other person who hasn’t discovered betting online will be at the book trying to squeeze in their action before the game starts.

Also, maybe you’re not a people person. Maybe congestion, smoke, and drunk people aren’t what you’re looking for when you’re looking to take your sports betting more seriously. When you bet online, you only have to deal with the people at your own house. If they’re not bearable to be around, well, you’ve got bigger problems you need to deal with.

The bottom line here is that online sportsbooks offer an incredible number of new conveniences that just aren’t available when you bet in person.

Never Get Shut Out of a Game or Miss a Line

People Waiting in Line at a Sportsbook
If you think those lines at the brick-and-mortar sportsbook only matter because they’re annoying, think again. What happens when you see a line that you like or want to squeeze a bet in right before the start of a game? Well, if there is no one else in the book with the same idea, you’ll have no problem. But if other people have the same idea or have their own bets they want to get in, you’re going to be waiting in line.

While you’re waiting in that line, a few things can happen. One, the line can move, and you can miss out on the opportunity you were looking to capitalize on. Two, the game can start, and you can miss out completely on the bet. Both of these are not ideal situations.

When you bet online, you don’t have to worry about how many people are in line. If you see a bet you like and want to make, you just make it. There is no “virtual queue” that you have to get into. As soon as the line pops up, you can bet it within seconds and not have to worry about what the rest of the world is up to. This goes a lot further than just convenience and starts improving your bottom line and profit.

The Ability to Shop Lines More Efficiently

If you don’t already know the importance of shopping lines, you soon will. Say you have the option of making the same $20 bet at two locations. The first place will pay you $18 in profit if you win, and the second will pay you $25. Where are you going to place your bet? We’d hope you say that you’re going to place it at the second location.

Sportsbooks adjust their lines individually to accommodate the type of action they need coming in. This means you can get paid better or worse at a particular book based on the level of action they are looking for. If they’re looking to drive more action on what you want to bet, expect to get better odds. If they’re trying to slow action on the side of the bet that you’re taking, expect worse odds.

Comparing these lines when betting online is as simple as opening a few browser tabs to see what odds are available at different sportsbooks. If you wanted to do this in person, you’d have to get in your car and drive to the next closest sportsbook. If their line was better, you could bet there. But if the line is worse, then you’d have to drive back to the first sportsbook and hope that the line was still the same there. Sound like a nightmare? Yeah, one that you don’t want any part of.

When you bet online, line shopping is probably the biggest perk and the easiest to take advantage of.

Promotions Are More Attainable

When you’re betting at the sportsbook in person, the bulk of the rewards that you’re probably going to see are a few free drinks. If you go for months and months and see the same manager there and bet a lot, you might be able to squeak out a free buffet or food comp if they have that ability. Outside of that, you really shouldn’t expect to see much in the way of rewards.

When you bet online, though, the rewards are wider and much more attainable. Smaller bettors are able to take advantage of promotions like deposit and reload bonuses, free bets, match bets, and money back on losses. These are things you don’t see in brick-and-mortar locations. Why? It probably has to do with the lower overhead of running an online sportsbook where you don’t have to pay as many employees, rent, etc.

Regardless of why they offer better promotions, we’re fans of it, and you should be too.


The last perk of betting online versus in person that we want to talk about is safety. Believe it or not, your money and you are a lot safer when you’re betting online versus at the sportsbook or casino. When you bet in person, you’re required to carry large sums of cash to a place filled with sketchy people who know everyone probably has large sums of cash on them. Does this sound like a recipe for safety to you?

Not only are you at risk of getting robbed, but you also run the risk of dropping or losing your bankroll. If you don’t think this happens often, spend some time in a casino or sportsbook. You’ll frequently hear announcements of people offering rewards for dropped bankrolls and wads of cash. We’ve seen a few rare occasions where the money was returned, but for the most part, it never happens.

Sure, you have threats online to worry about, but none of them will ever end up with you taking bodily harm. We’ve heard too many stories of sports bettors getting robbed in the parking lot or followed home from the book and beaten to steal their bankrolls.

When you bet online, you don’t ever have to handle money. It gets transferred from your bank account or credit card online and then gets transferred right back the same way or sent to you via check. If someone tries to steal your check on the way to the bank, they aren’t going to get too far with being able to do something with it.

Things You Need to Do Differently

While there is a lot of crossover between the above section and this one, we did want to draw attention to some functional steps that you should take to get the absolute most out of your online betting experience. By now, it’s probably clear that betting in person and betting online are two completely different experiences, and as such, they should be approached differently.

Fill Out Your Withdrawal Paperwork Early

Guy Tryping on a Laptop

When you cash out a winning ticket in person, there really isn’t a lot that goes into it. You hand your ticket to the agent, and they hand you money. If you happened to win a huge ticket, you might be asked to fill out some tax paperwork, but that is rare unless you’re firing huge.

Online, though, they can’t just hand you money. They still haven’t developed a way to print money out of your computer screen, and until they do, things will have to be done a little differently. The way that you receive your winnings from online sports betting is through transfers to your bank account, checks, or transfers to third-party companies like PayPal or Neteller.

If this sounds like more of a hassle, remember what we talked about during the convenience section above. You don’t have to leave your house or wherever you are plopped down to get any of this done. You click a few buttons, and the sportsbook takes care of the rest. Usually, in a few hours or a few days, your winnings show up in your bank account.

That being said, the first time that you make a withdrawal, the sportsbook is usually going to need some additional information from you. Why? Well, it’s not for IRS reasons or anything like that. They need additional information to confirm that they are releasing your money to you. This is for your safety and usually only takes a few minutes for you to handle.

Here’s what we recommend:
When you first create your sportsbook account with a new book, ask them what documentation they are going to need for a future withdrawal. Typically, this is a copy of your driver’s license or ID, and maybe a copy of a utility bill in your name. Again, this is only to confirm that they are releasing the money to the right person.

Fill this information out way before you ever need to make a withdrawal. That way, when it’s time for you to pull off your winnings, you just have to click a few buttons. People get frustrated with this because they don’t realize that it’s coming (usually by their own fault for not reading or not knowing). It won’t bother you that it takes them 48 hours to process these forms when you aren’t waiting for a cashout. But if they tell you that it’s going to take an additional 48 hours while you’re actively waiting for your money, you will probably get annoyed.

So, bottom line…ask customer support what documents they will need for a future withdrawal, fill out these documents, and turn them in right away. You will be happy about this when you go to make your first cash-out.

Pay More Attention to Timing Your Bets

When you’re placing your bets in person, there is one crucial factor that must be true – you must be there in person at the sportsbook. This means that unless you are planning on camping out at the book all day and night, you have to take the odds that are offered at the time you show up. But with online sports betting, you are able to check lines at any time of the day as long as you have your smart device and an internet or phone connection.

This means if you’re at work and want to check a line on your 15-minute break, you can. If you’re at home and the kids give you a minute break, you can check the lines. Sitting in traffic (not driving) and want to check the lines? Go for it. Because you are able to pounce on a line at any point from basically anywhere, you’re able to look for more optimal lines.

Additionally, this means you’re going to want to put some effort into timing your bets. If you can determine which direction you think the payout odds and lines are going to move, you can decide if you should bet immediately or hold out and wait for a more favorable situation. There’s a lot that goes into this, but it’s an added way for you to squeeze out some extra value on a lot of your bets and a way for you to find additional opportunities.

Shop Your Face Off

Not only are you going to have the ability to time your bets for optimal lines at a sportsbook, but you’ll also have the ability to shop lines between multiple sportsbooks quickly. It’s common to find different payouts and different lines for the exact same bet.

When you’re betting in person, you really can’t run to the next casino or sportsbook to compare lines unless you live somewhere like Las Vegas. Even then, most of the sportsbooks are connected, and it’s still not really feasible.

But when you bet online, the process is simple. All you have to do is open up another browser tab and see what odds are being offered at that particular sportsbook. If you check two or three books for each bet, you’ll often find better lines that will increase the amount of money you win on correct picks and also increase your odds of winning with totals bets and spread bets.

Utilize the Resources at Your Fingertips

When you’re at a lot of brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, they don’t allow you to use your phone inside the book. Additionally, many sportsbooks are inside of casinos or big structures where cell phone reception is poor. What happens when you see a bet that you’re interested in but want to do some research? Well, you have to leave the book, go outside, and hope you can get the information pulled up on your little phone screen (no offense to your phone, of course).

But when you’re betting online from your home on your computer or tablet, you have access to all of the betting resources that you need. You can have your sportsbook open in one window and all of your research and stats open in others. You can quickly toggle back and forth as you research bets and decide what you want to bet on. If you’re doing in-game betting, this is going to be even more helpful.

The point is that when you’re betting at home, you have access to a lot of information and resources to help you succeed. Take advantage of this.

The Wrap-Up

At this point, we hope you can see why we’re so big on online sports betting over in person, and it’s not just because that’s our industry. The benefits far outweigh any negatives that you can come up with. Additionally, we hope that you understand the differences between the two and how your approach needs to be a little different.

At the end of the day, it’s still sports betting, and at the core, it is no different than what you may have already been doing in person. With a few procedural changes and taking advantage of some of the benefits available, you can get maximum value from this incredible technological advancement. Even if none of that matters to you, we have one word that should – convenience.

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