How many times have you been in a Las Vegas sportsbook, staring at the dozens of huge screens broadcasting more sports than you could possibly consume at once?
And while you were there, did the thought that working in this industry must be one of the coolest careers cross your mind?
What about moving somewhere tropical to work at one of the sportsbooks that you play at online?
From a job perspective, there are lots of ways to break into the sports betting world. However, if you are considering getting into this line of work, you would be best served to do your research.
For example, it would be a good idea for you to read this entire article. I have been working in the gambling industry for over twenty years, and almost half of that time was spent working on the sports betting side.
While there has been a lot of upside to being in the industry (it sure beats a real job), I definitely was not prepared for what the sports betting industry would do to me on many levels.
To help you understand this industry and to give you a better sense of what it is like to work in it, I have outlined a few things you may not have known about sportsbook employment. Hopefully you will have a clearer picture of the space when you are done reading. I know I could have used this advice a couple of decades ago!
8 Realities of Working in Sports Betting
If You Are Looking for Glamour, This Is Not for You
I know there are some of you who think that watching sports all day is essentially the perfect way to spend your time, and to get paid to do so is simply the icing on the cake.
Or maybe you watched movies like Runner Runner and Two for the Money and think that it’s all parties and hot Latin girls. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but unless you are willing to take on all the risk of booking the action, then you aren’t likely going to live a Ben Affleck-style life.
The truth of the matter is that the bulk of sportsbook workers sit in front of a screen their whole shift, usually in a darkened office covered in televisions. If you are in a Las Vegas book, then you are dealing with a whole host of characters (many of whom are likely bombed).
If you are working for an online sportsbook, then be prepared for some crazy rushes of calls and action at the game time and halftime. This isn’t to say that this is any worse than any other office job; it is just not as glamorous as you may have envisioned.
The Hours Are Long… Really Long
One thing you will realize soon after you start working for a sportsbook is just how many hours of the day sports are being played around the globe. In fact, depending on where you are working, you may find the phone ringing 24 hours a day.
Let’s look at North American sports by themselves as an example. The early weekday college games start around 6:30 pm Eastern Time, followed by a steady stream of other professional sports, with the last game typically not complete until after 1 am.
Now, when you factor in weekend sports like football or the Major League Baseball season, you are looking at almost 12 hours of sports just in that one market.
Now, let’s say you are working at an online sportsbook that has players from all over the globe. Well, this can mean that you could be taking action on European soccer early in the morning, or Asian events overnight.
The bottom line is that a sportsbook wants to take as much action as possible,
and that means being available 24 hours a day.
Forget Having a Favorite Team
One thing I learned very quickly was that if you want to be successful as a bookmaker, you need to take emotion out of the equation. One of my first employers was a HUGE Chicago Bears fan, with memorabilia all over his office.
However, on game day, he would abandon his love of team depending on who he needed to cover the spread.
These days, while I have rekindled my love of my favorite teams in hockey and basketball, my childhood love of the Miami Dolphins has all but disappeared. Now, I am a fan of good point spreads and slam-dunk prop bets. It’s not a great place to be, but it is a side effect of being in the sports betting industry.
It Can Be Dangerous
You may not realize this, but there is still a significant portion of sports betting that takes place in the US even though it is illegal. Also, there is a lot of live betting that takes place, usually on credit.
This means that there are some people employed in the industry whose sole job is collecting money and transporting it. Not only is this not glamorous (or legal), but it is incredibly risky.
Imagine being a runner with hundreds of thousands of dollars that need to be collected and brought to a bookmaker. This is not a job for the faint of heart.
Office Life Is Office Life
Again, even though there are TVs on that are showing sports, at the end of the day, it is still working in an office. There will be office politics at play, along with the same issues faced by those who work in more “traditional” industries.
The difference in a sportsbook is that on any given day a company can get crushed by a missed extra point or field goal…and I wouldn’t say that the owners on the hook for this cash are the best managers.
I have been in rooms where games have not gone the book’s way. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Poor staff being berated, things being thrown…it makes the Wolf of Wall Street seem like a kid’s movie.
Offshore Life vs. Being Home
For a good portion of my time in this industry, I lived in Central America. There were a lot of benefits to living there, including an excellent tax rate and the lack of having to wear long pants most days of the year.
However, if you are thinking it would be amazing to work at a sportsbook in Costa Rica or any similar country, I am here to tell you to be very wary of your decision.
First of all, remember when I said that sports were on all the time? Well, that is true even in Latin America. The difference is that there aren’t exactly HR departments at offshore sportsbooks.
Working conditions are not as nice as some other office jobs, wages are lower, and shifts are longer. So, while you may be living in paradise, you are still working in an office.
I will say, though, that if you manage your time off properly, you can really enjoy yourself. The online gaming community is very tight-knit, and on your days off you are indeed living in paradise.
If you decide to head south to work at a sportsbook, then I suggest you find someone who will go to the beach with you every chance you get.
It’s Not All Bad…
I feel like I am painting a very gloomy picture of this industry. That isn’t my intention… I just want you to understand what it is like from the perspective of someone who is still working for online gaming sites. There are a lot of positives, including my favorite: getting in on the sharp action.
When you work at a sportsbook long enough, you start to know who the professional bettors are (assuming your book doesn’t kick them out for winning too much like Bet On Sports used to do to their sharps).
When you know who the sharps are and they make a bet, then you can follow their lead and make some money yourself. Now, this doesn’t mean one bet here or there – you’ll have to be dedicated. I remember getting phone calls with just the name of a horse and a race number from friends who worked at other books.
This was a signal to get online and make a big bet on that horse because a major handicapper had just done so. This is where the excitement comes in the industry. Knowing you are ahead of the curve or have some inside information is an exhilarating feeling… especially when your horse comes in!
You Will Learn a Lot About Other Sports
So, what do you do when the sports you know and love aren’t on, and you have hours to kill at the office? You start to brush up on your freestyle skiing, cricket, and 3rd division Spanish soccer.
I will say that this was one of my favorite parts of being in the sports betting industry. Getting to know more about these sports I wouldn’t have watched before gave me something to be a fan of, rather than just watching lines and totals move all day long.
It won’t be long before you are surprising your friends with a session handicapping the World Darts Championship!
Is the sports betting industry a grind?
You bet it is! It is by no means an easy ride for anyone working in it.
However, I have to tell you that despite the long hours and dark offices, I loved my time in the sportsbook, and I think it really helped prepare me for work in other parts of the online gambling industry.
As I said at the beginning of this article, if you are considering a job in sports betting, do your research.
Make sure you read forums, seek out others who have worked in the industry, and look for more articles like this one. If you still feel as keen after ingesting all this information, then maybe the sports betting industry is perfect for you!