The announcement by Pinnacle Sports today that it will no longer take bets from U.S. customers has come as a surprise to everyone. There was no indication that the company was about to make this decision, and consequently the immediate reactions of customers have been ones of shock, sadness and disappointment. Without a doubt, Pinnacle has been an innovator with their low vig options, high limits and full track payouts on all exotic bets for horse racing (not to mention the rebates). But this decision does not spell the end of online gaming in the United States, as some people have been suggesting.
As someone who has been associated with the industry since the late 1980s, I have heard every single doom and gloom prediction. When Dial-A-Bet and Rich's Sportsbook closed up shop in the late 1980s, many suggested it was a sign that the industry couldn't be profitable, and that places like Bowman's and Intertops couldn't survive. Instead, the latter operations flourished. When Charlie Therwhanger left Curacao with the post up funds from thousands of customers who played at Ace's Gold and Sportsmarket, "industry insiders" suggested the end was near. Even smart amalgamations among established books were met with doom and gloom predictions. Yet despite all the pessimistic predictions, the industry grew to a $12 billion industry as of 2006. Pinnacle Sports made a decision to leave the U.S. market for reasons of their own, but for Americans who still want to bet with offshore sportsbooks there are plenty of options out there, and these sportsbooks have proven to be nothing short of exemplary and honest. Pinnacle will be paying out every penny that Americans have in their accounts, and the options still avaialable to bettors are vast.
For example, look first at World Sports Exchange (www.wsex.com). The company has been in operation since 1997, formed from an idea by its founders to combine sports betting with the stock market. The company's future markets and interactive betting have been hugely successful and created a whole new betting opportunity from the traditional form of sportsbetting. At the same time, for those who prefer the traditional forms of betting, WSEX offers every option from game lines to futures to matchups on practically every sport, and their limits are quite large. Plus, parlay and teaser lines are offered at full multiple odds comparable to what Pinnacle offered, and WSEX offers something no other sportsbook does - pleasers where you can give an additional 6 points to the line in hopes of getting astronomical payouts. Jay Cohen stood up for the company and the industry in 1999, and created a remarkable book which still flourishes to this day under a tremendous management team that will go out of their way for its customers. As well, World Poker Exchange gives back every penny raked from live games or tournaments to the customer.
The Greek Sportsbook is another operation where one can put their money and bet with confidence. The company, which started up as Olympic Sports in 1996, has been one of the innovators in the industry. They are first with lines on most sports and have a wide array of sports betting options available nowhere else. The company is always quick with grading and payouts, and limits are quite large - especially on the four main U.S. sports. The Greek, owned by one of the nicest people I've had the pleasure of meeting in the industry, has top rate customer service, and the operation, along with its companion book Bet Jamaica, is considered a must have from almost anyone who bets on sports offshore.
Five dimes is another operation which has been a gift for the American bettor. The company offers practically every single sport that other books offer, albeit many times the lines are just copied. But their limits are decent and the book stands by their offers. The company's motto is that if the software takes your bet then the company will honour the line. With that in mind, five dimes has brought a new dimension to the sportsbetting industry, and to this day I have yet to hear one negative comment about the company. Plus, the company offers wagers as low as 50 cents on horse racing, which adds a new option for those who want to take a shot on a 4 or 5 horse superfecta box without the huge outlay.
Belmont Sportsbook is another operation that has taken wagers since 1996 and offers all sports with relatively high limits. Plus, like Pinnacle Sports, the company has a rebate program for all horse wagers made. The 3 percent rebate is lower than Pinnacle offers, but Belmont also offers every United States track for both thoroughbred and harness racing. Again, I have never been made aware of any complaints regarding payouts or customer service with Belmont.
Carib has been around about as long as the other books mentioned and has immediate and exemplary customer service and feedback. The book, which operates from Antigua, has been a mainstay for many American customers, and they too offer a wide array of casino and sports games not offered anywhere else.
The 6 books mentioned are just a small sample of books that happily cater to American markets, offer high limits and fair vig on their bet offers. MajorWager.com lists many other books that fall into this category, some which advertise on the site, and some of which don't. Aside from the dozens listed on Majorwager.com, there are the Horizon Sports sites and Intertops.com.
In the event that this still isn't enough, and you feel you must have Pinnacle Sports as an out, consider moving from the country. Pinnacle, along with many sportsbooks, won't allow anyone to bet from the United States. However, there is no reason an American can't bet from elsewhere in the world. Canada, for example, doesn't preclude people from betting, and Pinnacle along with almost every other sportsbook except Bodog and Cryptologic books will take wagers from people with a valid Canadian address and ISP. The country has a similar infrastructure to the United States, and contrary to what some hysterical American politicians want you to believe, you will not freeze to death in an igloo in Canada, nor will you die on the operating table waiting for heart surgery. You may die of a heart attack when you see the income tax system, but there are always tradeoffs regardless of where you live. As well, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, many of the Carribean Islands and Amsterdam all allow people to bet, many with more favourable tax systems for the professional sports bettor than the United States offers.
In an article that will be posted at MajorWager in the next few days, I'll examine all the options for those wanting to move from the United States if the ability to wager is a priority. The articles will include, but will not limited to, citizenship issues, along with sojourning laws, tax implications, health care and environmental issues. The article will be limited to Western cultures and English speaking countries. Moving to a new country not only allows one to continue betting at Pinnacle, but also opens the door to European based sportsbooks and exchanges, like Betfair, which offer a whole new array of betting opportunities.
In any case, Pinnacle's decision not to cater to the U.S. market is a setback, but it is hardly the end.