A lot of the scam sportsbooks we cover in our articles involve larger operations that have gone under, particularly those where the management have run off with the funds. Players can find themselves out of pocket to the tune of hundreds of thousands, and sometimes even millions of dollars. If experienced bookmakers can run into trouble, how do you think amateur linesmakers fare when it comes to running their own online bookmaker?
If not too well was your answer, then you’re quite correct. FreeSportsbook.us is something of a unique case, even in an offshore betting world populated by a large cast of frequently unsavory characters. The “sportsbook” has a few huge red flags, along with the traditional attributes of a scam sportsbook.
A Disaster from the Start
There are a couple of huge no-no’s when it comes to choosing an online sportsbook, and one massively important one is avoiding a shop that is operating from inside the United States. FreeSportsbook.us was doing exactly that.
While offshore operators don’t have the legal authority to take bets from US citizens, they do have the law on their side in their host nations. These operators bring a lot of jobs and tax revenue to an often relatively small local economy. In return, they get the benefits of being regulated by said countries, and are also able to operate legally in most other countries across the world.
FreeSportsbook.us opened in the summer of 2011, and was immediately flagged as operating inside the US. The book even had the audacity to suggest that they were legally operating inside the country. Of course, online sports betting is illegal in the US. The one exception is the legal licensed bookmaking industry in Nevada, and this operates only at an intra-state level.
FreeSportsbook.us didn’t market themselves as a traditional post-up shop, but instead sold packages that allowed players to bet using their own form of currency or tokens. This Covers thread from July 2011 illustrates players’ frustrations with the book. Not so shockingly, the shop was behind on payouts, in most cases not paying at all. Their customer service staff also seemed non-existent, something that we will go into more in a second.
However, most alarming of all was the inclusion of PayPal as a deposit option. This trusted e-wallet and payment processor is a fine way to move money around online, but it is explicitly outlawed from processing online gambling payments from Americans.
Sending money to FreeSportsbook.us through PayPal would be extremely risky regardless of the book’s status. Even if the book was excellent and willing to pay, it would only be a matter of time before the transactions were frozen by PayPal. If you ever see PayPal as a deposit option at an offshore bookmaker that services Americans, run far away.
Perhaps if the US becomes a regulated market for sports betting, it may eventually be made available. For example, English punters can legally use PayPal to deposit and withdraw from online bookmakers.
With all that said, it didn’t matter which method of deposit or withdrawal the players chose – FreeSportsbook.us had no interest in paying. PayPal was no help in settling disputes of players who realized they had been scammed. Neither did bettors have any success in receiving a payout via bank wire or check.
What Was Really Going at FreeSportsbook.us?
The OSGA shares their insights in one of their ‘Bad Bet Updates’. Apparently, the “sportsbook” was “based” out of New Jersey, and was attempting to ensnare players by offering them a free no-deposit $2.50.
What OSGA also added was that the operation was a one-man show. The same guy was taking wagers, doing support, and also handling the book’s “accounting.” They used a tout service to lure players into “deposit packages.” After months of not paying players, their “manager” sent out an email telling players that they would soon be “under new management.”
While it’s unfortunate that players were ripped off during this scam operation, it’s hard not to find some humor in this situation. One guy is essentially running a sportsbook from his basement in New Jersey. Maybe it’s his mom’s basement? He’s trying to make it big booking bets online, but he’s breaking all the rules.
The funniest part is that even if FreeSportsbook.us had become profitable, they would, without a doubt, have been raided by the Feds or local law enforcement at some point. Taking wagers on US soil via PayPal will eventually draw some negative attention.
Total Damage to Bettors
Because FreeSportsbook.us was a clear Mickey Mouse outfit, the damage done to gamblers was relatively minimal compared to that of many of the other betting sites that have gone under in recent years.
Most bettors saw through their fraud, and many of those that did sign up didn’t deposit any funds. Instead, they took advantage of the free $2.50 and hoped to get a payout if they were able to win some cash. That obviously did not happen.
Overall, the amount lost by bettors was probably less than $20k. As I mentioned above, this is a rather small amount when you consider the balances lost when other books go under or disappear. As such, this is more of a cautionary tale for sports bettors.
FreeSportsbook.us has been offline for some time now, but it should go without saying that you should avoid the site if it comes back online, along with any related properties.