Why the US Professional Sports Betting Dream Could Soon Die

American Flag Waving, Baseball Stadium Aerial View
Nevada previously had a monopoly on the US sports betting market. Those who wanted to legally gamble on sports needed to travel to the Silver State.

Many Americans were left without any safe betting options as a result. Those who couldn’t make it to Nevada had to resort to shady bookies or offshore betting sites. The latter is a decent option for the most part. However, they’re not subject to US laws, leaving the potential for a bad actor here or there.

The US betting scene just recently changed, though, with the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

This 1992 law previously banned sports gambling outside of Nevada and three other states, none of which offered traditional sportsbooks.

Each state is now free to decide whether they want to legalize this type of gambling. Several states have already done so, while others have legislation in waiting. If you reside in a US state that has legalized sports betting, be sure to choose a quality sportsbook to wager at. Do your research and check out what to look for when choosing an online sportsbook.

While regulated sports betting seems like a good thing for everybody from recreational gamblers to pros (a.k.a. sharps). After all, more bettors will have opportunities to place bets at licensed online sportsbooks and brick and mortar sportsbooks.

However, sharps don’t really stand to benefit from regulated betting. In fact, they’ll find it even tougher to make a living through this type of gambling.

I’m going to explain this matter by covering the difficulty of winning in sports today along with how pros could get squeezed out of the US.

Sports Betting Has Already Gotten More Difficult

Even sharps don’t have a completely easy time beating sports wagering. In fact, their job has gotten even tougher in recent years.

According to “Gambler X,” a sharp who recently wrote an anonymous piece for ESPN, their edge has decreased for multiple reasons.

“It’s well documented that most books are banning winners, but my edge has decreased for other reasons.”

The anonymous gambler claims that sportsbooks are getting sharper and making fewer errors. This pro used to be able to find an abundance of soft lines throughout Vegas. However, he’s now seeing fewer opportunities than ever before.

Why Sharps Fear Legalized Betting

The concept of legal sportsbooks spreading throughout the US would appear to be a good thing. It only stands to reason that more options equal better opportunities.

But regulation is actually having quite the opposite effect. It’s convincing major European players like William Hill to enter the market.

Outside Entrance to Euro William Hill

This trend presents a problem for pros, because European bookmakers aren’t very tolerant of their kind. Euro sportsbooks frequently ban suspected sharps.

Nevada and New Jersey have already welcomed William Hill with open arms. Delaware, meanwhile, is essentially letting the UK-based bookmaker run their state-backed betting operation.

“The book [in Delaware] is owned by the state lottery, and William Hill sets the lines and decides what bets to take for a very small percentage of profits,” Gambler X explained.

“This strategy leads to dealing one-way lines, on which they are taking action on only one side and then banning anyone William Hill in Las Vegas deems likely to win money.”

“If the State of Delaware is the primary beneficiary from the sportsbook, then shouldn’t it be required to offer a fair system in which anyone can play?”

The Search to Find Profitable Opportunities

Gambler X hasn’t had much success in the bigger regulated markets lately. They haven’t given up hope, though, and have tried finding lucrative markets. Unfortunately, their search hasn’t turned up much so far.

Gambler X’s goal is to find smaller sportsbooks that aren’t backed by corporations with anti-sharp policies. These types of bookmakers used to be more prevalent in Las Vegas. Lately, though, they aren’t found in as great of frequency.

“For me, independent books that set their own lines and manage their own risk are the lifeblood of my business. They mean more chances to pick off bad lines, opportunities to arbitrage and more places I can go fire the same bet at the number I want,” Gambler X stated.

With fewer options, pros like Gambler X are finding it difficult to make a living in the way that they used to.

Sports Betting Legalization Is Good for Pros on One Front

Legal sports wagering may be hurting pros in many areas. However, the increase in opportunities at least offers sharps something to look forward to. With the addition of legalized sports betting, there have been more places for sharps to sneak bets without moving the lines by much.

Inside a Casino Sportsbook

Gambler X may be bullish on having more chances to put down large bets without changing the odds. However, he also fears that bookmakers will keep consolidating and have a greater chance at rooting out sharps.

“More casinos sharing liquidity and information to stay one step ahead of bettors. More jurisdictions and hodgepodge shops where one is the majority owner, but lines are set by another, and software is provided by a third. It’s just more stuff to make my life miserable.”

Will Americans Still Be Able to Beat Sports Betting?

Sharps already have a tough task in beating sports gambling. They need to be good at handicapping, finding opportunities, and timing their bets.

Now, they must worry more than ever about getting banned from the best sportsbooks. After all, larger players are entering the US industry and kicking sharps out at an alarming rate.

This means that fewer pros than ever will exist in sports gambling. However, it doesn’t necessarily ruin the dream for everybody.

Skilled professionals will still find ways to beat lines and evade bookmakers. Time-honored methods, such as sharps using “beards” to place bets for them, can still work.

Of course, not everybody who wins money with sports betting has to be a serious professional. Recreational gamblers will still have an opportunity to win money for the time being.

Regulation is moving at a very slow pace. Therefore, most Americans still look to offshore bookmakers as their primary betting outlets.

Skilled semi-pros will still be able to make decent profits at these softbooks. The strict betting limits at offshore sites all but eliminates the chances of becoming a full-time pro. But the soft lines at these sportsbooks still create profitable situations.


Sharps rely on opportunities just as much as their handicapping skills to win profits. Unfortunately, their opportunities will become more and more limited with each passing year.

Large corporations will be capitalizing on most of the regulated US sports gambling market. Unlike the small independent bookmakers, these operations are known for banning sharps or featuring tight lines.

Some of those who’ve relied on sports betting for income may find the changes to be unbearable. This will leave a smaller percentage of professional bettors than ever before.

But certain sharps will still find a way to win, even with the changes. As Gambler X noted, more markets will exist in the future.

Of course, many of these markets will be controlled by the larger players. But some independent sportsbooks with softer lines and more tolerance may open up in bigger states.

That said, the dream of becoming a professional sports bettor isn’t completely dead in the US. However, the prospects don’t look great right now either.