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How to Be a Bookie: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting Your Own Sportsbook Business

By Justinas Bėčius
Becoming a bookie revolves around two main goals. Make more money and minimize risks. Those are just the end goals, though. Running a sportsbook business is a complex process that goes beyond risk management. As early as now, it's crucial that you discover the inside scoop to sports betting. That's why we wrote this in-depth guide to starting your own bookie business. We'll discuss sports betting legalities, scaling, and management. Plus, we're giving out trending tips on how to beat your competition, step by step.
How to Be a Bookie A Comprehensive Guide to Starting Your Own Sportsbook Business

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Table of contents

What Is a Bookie?

A bookie, short for bookmaker, serves as the middleman in sports betting platforms.

To become a bookie is to facilitate the whole betting process. This requires key responsibilities, including the ones below:

  • Setting odds: A bookie has to be an expert in sporting events. They should monitor team performances and player skills to set the odds. Accuracy and fairness are important in odds setting.
  • Placing bets: This is about accepting bets from bettors. Placing bets now mostly occur digitally, particularly for an online sportsbook. Mobile betting also takes place online.
  • Balancing the book: A bookie service can balance the odds to guarantee profit. This manages the risk of losing large amounts of money. However, a sports betting platform must exhibit fairness in balancing odds. They should adhere to regulations like transparency and minimum payouts.
  • Paying out winnings: Ultimately, a bookie or a sports betting platform will settle the bets. The winnings will be based on predetermined odds and losing bets.

Customer management is another skill that bookies should have. This goes beyond offering accurate and fair odds. They should handle disputes and manage the sportsbook efficiently.

One happy customer can lead to thousands down the road. That’s always a goal when starting an online casino or sports gambling business.

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Legal Considerations and Licensing for Bookies

The sports betting industry is an intersection of different regulations. From licensing to operations, legalities vary and evolve.

First, securing licenses is essential to become a bookie. Here’s a quick overview of how it’s done in 2024:

  • Bookmaking legality: Is the bookmaking business legal in your target location? You should know the answer before doing anything else. Consult your legal counsel or check reputable resources like the American Gaming Association.
  • Licensing requirements: Each jurisdiction has its own licensing authority. There’s the Nevada Gaming Control Board in Nevada, while the Gambling Commission is in the UK. Their licensing requirements vary in costs, assessments, and background checks.
  • Document preparation: Prepare necessary documents for submission. These documents would include business plans, financial statements, and ownership information.
  • Licensing costs: The licensing fees for starting your own sportsbook vary in location. Some authorities charge a one-time payment, while others require ongoing fees.

Compliance is key when starting a sportsbook business. It’s not just about incurring sizable fines or jail time. Even a minor issue can damage your reputation as a bookie service.

Avoid losing money by taking care of your reputation. Secure all required licenses and don’t take any shortcuts.

Legal Considerations

Before You Start Your Sports Betting Business

Complete this three-step list before launching your brand in the sportsbook industry.

Research the market and your target audience

The sports betting industry is such a large market. By 2029, the online sports betting market will reach $17.1 billion in revenue. Mind you, that’s just for the online sportsbook niche.

Don’t face this enormous market head-on. Do your research first by following these proven strategies:

  • Monitor market trends: It’s not just about the sports bets you’ll offer. How can you integrate current trends in customer experience? Think about blockchain technology, mobile sports betting, and AI-based odds.
  • Identify your target audience: Who are your audience in your target geographic location? Understand their preferences on sporting events and betting platforms. You should even research about their preferred payment methods.
  • Determine potential competitors: Do you want to know the current state of the market? Identify your potential competitors. Uncover their customer base, marketing strategies, and products.

Don’t do everything in front of a computer. Attend live events about online betting and casino gaming. This way, you can research and build connections at the same time.

target audience

Create a comprehensive business plan

To become a bookie, you need to manage risks. Your business plan plays a big role in achieving that goal.

Creating a business plan gives you a headstart. This is your playbook when you encounter challenges or market changes. Here are key elements of a sportsbook business plan:

  • Market analysis: This includes information on market size, customers, and trends. Prepare for market fluctuations by studying historical and current data.
  • Product line: Lay out the specific betting options that you’ll offer. Are you focusing on point spread or prop bets? Which sport are you offering your own odds?
  • Marketing strategies: Craft unique promotion tactics and pricing plans. Choose social media platforms where your audience is mostly visible. These strategies can boost your sports business’s visibility.
  • Financial projections: Save money by tracking and projecting your cash flow. Track startup costs and operating expenses. Moreover, set your projected profitability period and revenue streams. This sets your profit margin as a sportsbook business or bookie agent.

Your sportsbook business plan encapsulates how prepared you are. This bodes well for future fund-raising campaigns and partnerships.

business plan

Plan your budget

Working within your budget is key in risk management. To become a bookie, you need to plan your finances carefully.

Budget planning isn’t just about making money. It’s also a way to attract investors and sponsors. Follow these steps when budgeting for your sportsbook business:

  • Startup costs: On average, you need to spend up to $12,000 for a sportsbook website. That’s just for the website development and technology. You also need to consider licensing fees and advertising costs. Moreover, your business location could dictate your startup costs.
  • Operational expenses: The daily business expenses is where it gets tricky. This includes office space costs, employee salaries, and payment processing fees. An online sports betting platform might also need to pay for online cloud service.
  • Revenue streams: Predict your revenue on the betting options you’ll offer. Consider profit margins and customer habits. You can also think of other revenue streams for maximum profit.
  • Profitability timeline: Don’t be too optimistic about your profitability. Project your monthly, quarterly, and annual cash flow. Set aside some budget for unexpected expenses. These elements will impact the start of your profitability period.

We recommend using financial software to manage your expenses. Tools like Quickbooks and Xero can streamline your budgeting efforts.

Plan your budget

Choose the Right Software and Tools

Automate your sportsbook business with these sports betting software and tools.

Odds setting tools

Setting appealing odds is the priority for your sportsbook business. Striking a balance between appeal and profitability is essential.

As such, there are odds setting tools to help you. We studied each tool and discovered their strengths. Here are our recommended tools for setting odds:

  • Sportradar: Sportadar is a game-changer in odds setting. Its flagship feature “Pinnacle Solution” analyzes data with advanced analytics. It’s fast, casino-style betting also allows for more bets. Moreover, it allows customers to place bets on a wide range of performance-based markets.
  • SportyTrader: SportyTrader is not a bookmaking tool itself. However, it is useful for comparing and simulating real-time odds. This is a bookie software for comparing competitors’ odds and betting trends.
  • Genius Sports: Genius Sports is an all-in-one sports betting software. Its “Edge” platform automatically adjusts odds based on real-time bet and liability data. You’ll have access to unique betting markets, too. This way, you can offer odds that are different from your competitors.
  • Odds Portal: Similar to SportyTrader, Odds Portal is not a bookmaking tool. Still, its historical odds data is a great resource for a bookie agent. You can identify patterns to help adjust your real-time odds.
  • Kambi: You can use Kambi to launch your own sportsbook. It’s a versatile platform for setting odds, prices, and margins. Its user-friendly interface is great for novice bookies.

Some of these tools offer all-in-one solutions. Still, you should find other solutions for customer management and payment processing.

Odds setting tools

Customer management systems

This business is more than just helping customers place bets. If you want success, you need to have a loyal customer base.

Don’t focus on making too much money. To become a bookie, you need your customers to trust you. Prioritize customer support and user experience.

Thankfully, there are online betting platforms that offer customer management. Here’s our list of recommended tools:

  • SBTech: SBTech is now part of the DraftKings umbrella. Along with odds compilers, SBTech also offers player segmentation and targeted marketing. It’s an excellent Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool for bookies.
  • GoldenRace: GoldenRace is a head bookie software for customer management. It offers account management and a loyalty program engine. Its intuitive and clean layout sets it apart from the competition.
  • EveryMatrix: EveryMatrix is widely known for its omnichannel betting feature. But it also offers “GamMatrix”, which you can use for customer management. You can monitor customer activities and transactions, and integrate with third-party solutions.
  • BetConstruct: BetConstruct allows you to interact with customers through the sales funnel. Their CRM tool includes segmentation, nurturing, and personalization. They can even do A/B testings to optimize your marketing campaigns.

Sure, customers will be winning wagers or losing wagers. But to become a famous bookie, you should make the betting experience as smooth as possible. Listen to your customers and address pain points through these tools.

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Payment processing solutions

A bookie collects bets and pays out winning bets. That’s a never-ending cycle in the sportsbook industry.

Now, what would happen if your payment processing breaks down? It’s not just about losing a few thousand dollars. You’ll lose loyal customers and take a hit on your reputation.

That’s why it’s crucial to have reliable payment processing solutions. Here are tools that can streamline various payment methods:

  • PaySafe: PaySafe is a popular choice for high-risk merchants. It offers room for scalability, and its customer support is top-notch. They have specific solutions for both small businesses and enterprises.
  • eProcessing Network: This tool offers a comprehensive fraud control feature. Through eProcessing Network, sportsbooks can implement tokenization and encryption. You can protect customer information while offering various payment methods.
  • Braintree: Braintree is a payment processing platform under PayPal’s name. Its payment gateway for online transactions is very secure. Plus, it can integrate PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
  • E-wallets: Some bettors might not have traditional debit or credit cards. Make sure that you can process payments from e-wallets like Stripe or Skrill.

You can also invest in specialized fraud prevention software. Tools like Riskified and Kount add another layer of security to your own sportsbook.

Payment processing solutions

Building a Client Base

Prioritizing user experience and addressing trends are crucial in building a client base for your own sportsbook.

Marketing tactics

Offering popular betting options isn’t your only growth driver. Your marketing acumen is essential in becoming a bookie.

Brand visibility is crucial at the start of any online betting business. That’s why we studied some of the best sports betting marketing ideas today. Take a look:

  • Marketing localization: Your priority is your local audience. All marketing materials should utilize local language and cultural nuances. Feature local sports trends or figures in your promotions.
  • Helpful content: Produce content that provides solutions to customer needs. Write blogs about winning wagers or placing future bets. Publish case studies of successful bettors in history. These content forms boost your brand reliability.
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about increasing website visibility. People now turn to Google to answer their questions. Getting your sportsbook visible there is a worthwhile investment.
  • Influencer marketing: Leverage social media and partner with influencers. Just make sure that you collaborate with sports-related influencers and bloggers. This way, you can reach audiences in your niche.
  • Referral programs: A referral program is becoming a must for sportsbooks. The betting niche is still sensitive for some people. Therefore, seeing referrals from their friends can increase brand trust.

Moreover, make sure that your marketing materials are optimized for mobile use. Most people use their smartphones, so your website should be mobile-responsive.

SEO in google search

Offering competitive odds

Strike a healthy balance between profitability and appealing odds. This will help you reel in new bettors and reduce customer churn.

So, how can you offer attractive odds while still making enough money? Here are several proven tips:

  • Competitive edge: Track competitors’ odds and monitor their commission rates. These information dictate how you can offer more attractive odds. You can discover competitors’ odds through tools like SportyTrader and Sportradar.
  • Sharp odds: Offer sharper odds to casual bettors. Of course, this requires player segmentation. Tools like SBTech help you segment experienced and novice players.
  • Dynamic pricing: Consider demand, betting volume, and market trends. Adjust your odds based on these factors.
  • Bonuses: Promotions and bonuses don’t directly influence odds. However, promos like free bets are sure to attract bettors.

Of course, profitability is your end goal. There are even ways to offset losses, such as making a layoff account. But if you want sustainable success, aim for competitive odds.


Providing excellent customer service

When you become a bookie, your customers become your lifeblood.

This is an industry where everything revolves around money. Your customers should be confident in placing bets on your platform. One way to guarantee that is through customer service.

Excellent customer service leads to free word-of-mouth marketing. We all know how important sports betting is. Here are customer service strategies that we’re recommending:

  • Multichannel support: Your customers are present on multiple digital platforms. Be sure to offer customer support on SMS, social media, email, and live chat.
  • Automated workflows: There are customer inquiries that only require generic responses. Utilize AI-powered chatbots for these inquiries. This way, you’ll have more time to deal with complex inquiries.
  • Tailored support: Don’t rely on AI chatbots, though. Complex issues like wager disputes need a more personalized attention. Promptly attend to these inquiries to avoid losing customers.
  • 24/7 availability: You should have customer support ready at all times. If that’s not possible, display your business hours on your platforms. This way, your customers will know when to contact you.

Moreover, you can be more proactive in helping customers.  Post FAQ sections and how-to guides regarding common customer inquiries. These articles can improve your customer service’s efficiency.

rating customer service

Managing Risks and Finances

To become a bookie, you have to be adept at minimizing risks and managing your finances.

Setting limits and managing odds

As much as possible, control the things you can control. That includes setting payout limits and managing odds. Doing these can create a financial safety net for your business.

Some sportsbooks use a layoff account to manage risks. Others manage payouts through these strategies:

  • Single bet limits: Set limits to wager amounts and potential payouts. Don’t allow a single payout to cause a major financial strain. You can do this on significant events where interests are very high.
  • Tiered accounts: Implement wager limits on tiered accounts. For example, you can set higher limits on high rollers. This could even encourage customers to climb up tiers.
  • Self-exclusion: Provide easy ways for customers to self-exclude for a pre-determined period. You can also allow them to set their own credit limit. This is a great way to promote responsible gambling.
  • Competitive margins: Always monitor competitor odds and market fluctuations. Ensure that your odds are competitive while keeping your profit margins. Utilize tools like Odds Portal to compare market odds.

You can also mitigate risks through a layoff account. A layoff account allows you to transfer wager portions to another sportsbook. Brands like Betfair Exchange have dedicated layoff account services.

Setting limits

Balancing the book

Balancing the book is a fundamental skill in becoming a bookie. Essentially, you’re making sure that you won’t lose large money in any outcome.

So, how do you reduce risks through book balancing? Here are steps that you can follow:

  • Identify imbalances: Use a bookie tool to track wagers. Point out instances where more money is placed on a specific outcome. Pay attention to only the most significant imbalances.
  • Adjust lines: Encourage more attention to the less popular outcome. You can do this by lengthening its odds and shortening the other side. However, don’t overdo the balancing as this could also discourage bettors.
  • Set limits: Implement limits on deposits, wagers, and payouts. Make sure that you have these regulations clearly showed on your platforms. Moreover, don’t set very low limits. Track competitors’ wager limits so you can offer competitive payouts.
  • Create a layoff account: Offset risks by putting up a layoff account. This allows you to negate heavy losses or liabilities.

Consider using a risk management tool in book balancing. For example, Betradar is a risk management tool that offers constant monitoring and analysis.


Scaling Your Bookmaking Business

Make full use of these strategies to wisely scale your sportsbook business.

Expanding your market reach

When you become a bookie, you want to reach a vast audience. It comes with certain risks, though. You’ll see an increase in operational costs, customer issues, and fraudulent activities.

Improper scaling management leads to lost revenue and customer churn. That’s why you should follow these effective scaling practices:

  • Team partnerships: You can’t go wrong with sports team partnerships. Sure, the investment might be significant. But you’re tapping into an audience filled with sports fans. You’ll get brand recognition and high-potential conversions.
  • Pay per head service: The responsibilities increase when you scale your business. Manage these tasks by outsourcing to a pay per head provider. They’ll help in odds management, customer support, and record tracking. They charge on a pay per head basis, giving you more financial flexibility.
  • SEO outsourcing: Sustainable visibility is the focus of SEO. However, a scaling sportsbook might find it difficult to focus on this aspect. Instead, you can collaborate with digital marketing experts. For example, sportsbook SEO experts like Fortis Media can boost your brand. They integrate advanced strategies to drive sustainable, organic traffic.
  • Market research: Constantly researching market trends is essential. To become a bookie, you have to know every market movement. Always monitor trends in the sports betting and online gambling niche.

When it comes to expanding reach, you need to work smarter. Manage your resources and prioritize effectively.

Team partnerships

Diversifying your offerings

Once you’ve done your market research, the next step is to diversify. You could cater to a different audience and keep existing customers engaged.

Try following these practices in expanding your services:

  • New sports betting genres: Try new genres like esports betting and fantasy sports. Even DraftKings have ventured into online casino games these days.
  • Betting limits: Segment your customers into beginners and high rollers. Offer different options, from simple wagers to high betting limits.
  • Free games: Keep your customers engaged through free-to-play games. Offer them on your website or mobile app.
  • Sports news: Rotowire is a fantasy basketball brand that offers news and updates. In turn, they have established a high niche authority. Providing sports updates can increase your brand reliability and visibility.

Before diversifying, make sure that you’re compliant with regulations. For example, US-based sportsbooks should understand online gambling laws in the United States. This is essential in becoming a bookie and diversifying your products.

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Becoming a bookie requires skills on all bases, not just in sports. You’ve got to understand risk management, financial operations, and legal compliance.

Plus, there are specific technological infrastructures to consider. Think about your online cloud service, mobile app, and website architecture. All these contribute to a sportsbook user experience.

The good news is you don’t have to do these alone. You have sportsbook tools to use and expert to consult with. The key is to understand your resources and use them effectively.


  • What licenses do I need to become a bookie?


    To become a bookie, you need to secure licenses required by your local regulators. Depending on your location, you need general business licenses, gambling licenses, and location-based permits. Make sure that you review licensing requirements and regulations in your target location.

  • How much capital is required to start a bookmaking business?


    On average, you need a capital of $5,000 to $12,000 to start a bookmaking business. The total startup costs depends on numerous factors, including business model, size, technological infrastructure, and location. You should also factor in marketing costs, which are crucial when starting a sportsbook business.

  • What are the most profitable sports for bookmakers?


    Typically, bookmakers collect significant profits from major sports like American football, soccer, and basketball. Significant matches like Grand Slam tennis tournaments and boxing main events are also very profitable for bookmakers. Market trends and customer interest play a huge role in a sportsbook’s profitability.

  • How do I attract and retain customers?


    Your sportsbook can acquire and retain customers through appealing odds, welcome bonuses, loyalty programs, and personalized experiences. Customer engagement through excellent customer service and helpful content can also increase your sportsbook’s visibility. Moreover, offering sports news and updates can help improve your brand’s reliability and authority.

  • What are the risks of being a successful bookie?


    A successful bookie can still encounter major challenges, including regulatory compliance, fraudulent activities, and unexpected wins. Moreover, negative customer experiences and illegal associations could damage a bookie’s reputation. To avoid these roadblocks, bookies need to stay updated on risk management techniques and compliance requirements.

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