Latin America plays a huge role in the online sportsbook industry.
The two countries in Latin America with the biggest impact on the sportsbook industry are Costa Rica and Panama. Both countries act as licensing bodies, issuing gaming licenses to sites that provide sports betting over the phone and Internet connections to bettors all over the world.
Costa Rica has the distinction of being the world capital of sportsbooks, with more sites and services headquartered in that country than in Gibraltar and the Isle of Man combined. Panama has the distinction of licensing more sportsbook sites than any other jurisdiction. In Costa Rica alone, the online sportsbook industry brings in $100 million in tax revenue. Sportsbooks are a big deal across Latin America.
Of course, the sportsbook presence in Latin America is much larger than that found in those two countries. After all, “Latin America” includes some twenty-six countries and regions from North America to Europe. Some 617 million people live in an area that can be described as “Latin America.” Licensing bodies all over Central and South America provide regulations for providing and accessing sportsbook operations, and if you’ve placed a sports bet online in the past few years from the United States, no doubt your money (at some point) ended up in a Latin American country.
Of course, not all the news is good. If you do a little research, you’ll find that the majority of rogue casinos and sportsbook sites are licensed by jurisdictions in Latin America. This might have something to do with the sheer volume of gambling licenses coming out of this part of the world, but then again, you almost never hear of a rip-off site holding a license from the UK, or Gibraltar, or the Isle of Man. We’ll get into this subject in-depth later on in the article – for now, just know that you have to be a little cautious when considering a site that’s licensed out of a Latin American nation.
Are Latin American Online Sportsbooks Legal?
There’s some good news here – for the most part, gambling law in Latin America is extremely liberal. In fact, the reason Costa Rica and Panama are at the head of the pack in terms of issuing gaming licenses is because of the general lack of regulations for gaming businesses. In layman’s terms, Costa Rica and Panama are where you go when you want to open an online sportsbook business on the cheap and with little government oversight.
Because we can’t speak of “Latin America” in general legal terms, and because we just don’t have space to list out the various gaming laws of the two-dozen or more Latin American regions of the world, let’s focus instead on the legalities of placing sports bets at Latin America-based sites as a customer from the United States.
I’m not a lawyer, I’m just a guy who’s done a ton of research on this subject. In my opinion, placing a sports bet at a licensed online betting site that’s either headquartered or licensed by a Latin American country IS fully legal if you’re an American customer. The only entity that’s breaking the law in that scenario is the sportsbook itself, for accepting a sports wager over the wire from an American citizen.
You could point to language in the ’61 Wire Act that indicates that even the bettor is subject to a fine or other punishment, but I’d point out to you that no individual bettors have ever been prosecuted under the Wire Act. I’d tell you that it is most often used (in the rare occasions it is used) to attack illegal providers of gambling operations available on American soil, not to prosecute a guy for betting $5 on the Lakers.
What to Look for in a Latin American Sportsbook
As a bettor, you have more serious concerns than whether or not it is legal to place a sports bet in Chile, or whatever. When you send your money to a sportsbook located in Latin America, you’re way more likely to encounter a rogue operator than if you fund an account based in Canada or the UK. This is not to say that Latin American countries are acting as predators in this scenario – I think the best way to categorize the general response of Latin American governments toward gaming sites is: “Meh.” They just don’t seem to care that much. That means you have less bargaining power as a member, if you feel you’ve been ripped off.
With that in mind, here’s what I would BEG you to consider before you open an account at a Latin American sportsbook, or a book that holds a license from a Latin American country:
- Proper Licensure
I’ve spent a little bit of time discussing the relative merits of Latin American licensure – generally speaking, licensing bodies in this part of the world are low on the totem pole, in terms of legitimacy. But that doesn’t mean that all sites licensed by a Latin American jurisdiction are rogues. This is where you have to insert some common sense into your search. For my part, I research a book’s reputation a ton before I join, especially if they hold a license from Costa Rica or Panama. Check blacklist sites, legitimate reviews (like the ones here at Picks.org), and message boards for reviews by actual members. This is often the only way to gauge a site’s legitimacy when it’s licensed by a Latin American body.
- Strong Bonuses & Promo Offers
Once you’re sure that a book is legitimate, it’s time to compare bonus offers. This is true even for those of you who don’t care at all to acquire bonus cash – you should use these offers to judge the general customer service and friendliness of a book. Books that offer decent bonuses designed for bettors of your play level are the most likely to be friendly to you wagers, deposit methods, and other features.
- Available Deposit & Withdrawal Methods
As a US bettor, you’ll have to work really hard to make a deposit to any sportsbook website, Latin American or otherwise. If you live outside the US, a Latin American sportsbook site will be a lot easier to access. Either way, you want to find an inexpensive method that works with both your budget and your available deposit and withdrawal methods, based on where in the world you live.
Top Deposit Methods for Latin American Online Sportsbooks
The best deposit methods used to fund and withdraw money to and from Latin American books are pretty much identical to these methods as available in other parts of the world. You’ll find the standard lineup of credit, eWallet, and alternative methods, all designed to give bettors from all over the world SOME means of sending in their cash. Here’s a list of popular and available deposit methods at Latin American sportsbook websites:
- Major credit/debit/gift cards
- Direct bank transfer
- Wire transfers
- Check by Mail
- Check by Courier
Our Most-Recommended Latin American Sportsbooks
Here are brief reviews of the best online sportsbooks located in Latin America:
- Bodog Sportsbook
Bodog is one of the most established online sportsbooks in the business. They have been around since 2000 and have added another brand called Bovada. They are very big in Latin America and have recently started taking bets from even more South American countries. They offer a generous 50% bonus up to $250 to help you get started.
Bet365 has been in the business of accepting sports bets for well over a decade, making them one of the oldest services still available. If you make a deposit to their sportsbook today, you’re eligible for a 100% deposit match worth up to $200. They are one of our favorite books to be ton for Latin American players.
Bookmaker.eu is a Costa Rica-based sports betting service that’s something of a household name among sports bettors. Make a deposit to their sportsbook as a new customer and you’ll earn a welcome bonus: specifically, a 50% deposit match worth up to $300 on your first deposit.
GTBets is a new entry to the Latin American sportsbook scene, open since 2011. GTBets is an up and coming combination site with a really nice sportsbook layout and a variety of betting markets. GTBets is helping our readers out with a special bonus offer – sign up for an account at GTBets through Picks.org, and you’ll earn a totally free $10 Super Bowl futures bet. You’ll also be eligible for their standard 100% sign-up bonus worth up to $250.
>> If you live in the US, you can’t join GTBets if your address is in the following states: Louisiana, Maryland, Oregon, Missouri, New York, and Kentucky.
BetOnline is another household name in the sports betting business, a Latin American site that’s open to bettors from all over the world. BetOnline is offering our readers a special 50% bonus up to $1,000 if they sign up using our bonus code: “NFL15.”
Latin America is a hotbed of sportsbook activity. So many sites are headquartered and licensed by Latin American nations, it sometimes feels like the entire sports betting world lives somewhere tropical and exotic. A few concerns aside, I’m a big fan of sportsbook sites located in Latin America, in no small part because of the size of the industry located there. If you use common sense, and have access to a couple of different deposit and withdrawal methods, wagering at a Latin American site is a perfectly safe and player-friendly way of doing business.