Guide To Legal And Safe Betting In North America On Women’s Sporting Events

Written By Derek Helling on April 28, 2022 - Last Updated on October 3, 2022

Both the 2022 NWSL and WNBA regular seasons are just days away. That means an array of opportunities for those interested in safe sports betting in both Canada and the United States. Many fans of these leagues have a lot of questions about how to do just that.

The questions range from what the legal options are, whether they can use them where they live, how to get started with a legal sportsbook, how sports betting works, and what are the ways to bet on their favorite athletes, clubs, and games. While this isn’t a completely exhaustive volume of answers to every question a novice bettor might have, this guide is a good starting place.

What is safe sports betting?

There are two hallmarks of safe sports betting. The first is wagering through a regulated system. The second is gambling responsibly. While both of those issues merit further looks on their own, the basic concepts are simple.

In both Canada and the US, individual provinces/states regulate gambling activity within their own borders. In many of them, the legal gambling options include sports betting. That doesn’t mean that any online sportsbook a person in those places can access is legal to use, however.

Our sister sites PlayCanada and PlayUSA have a list of which provinces and states allow legal sports betting. If you are in a place without legal options, unfortunately, you’ll have to travel to do so legally. However, in many places, that’s as simple as crossing a border.

Why is it important to only use regulated books?

Legal sportsbooks in permitting places have licenses from the province/state to operate. The laws in those places make it illegal to bet with any bookie or app/website that does not have such a license.

How do you know which apps or websites are legal in your area, then? The best thing to do is check with the gambling regulatory body in your area. Their websites will have a list of all the licensed operators.

Additionally, the apps/websites with such licenses will have a statement on their landing pages to that effect. If you’re in New York, for example, the website will say that it is licensed by the New York State Gaming Commission.

There are many reasons why only wagering legally is important. They are largely for your own benefit. For example, regulation ensures that sportsbooks will handle your financial and personal information in an ethical manner. Using a bookie or an illegal website is gambling with your identity on top of your money.

What is responsible gambling?

Responsible gambling is not only the best way to avoid developing a pathological gambling issue but the key to actually enjoying your sports betting. The sportsbooks certainly have a role in it. Most of the onus falls on the bettor, though.

PlayUSA again has a page with a lot of great information on this. The four main pillars of any form of gambling responsibly are:

  • Expect to lose: An old saying is that if you expect the worst, you can’t possibly be disappointed. This is very true for gambling.
  • Keep your gambling social: Share your gambling activity with your family and friends. They can provide great feedback on whether your behavior might be treading toward dangerous territory.
  • Set a budget and stick to it: You should never gamble with the money you need to make investments or pay bills. This goes for budgeting your time, too.
  • Take stock of how you’re feeling: If you find yourself getting too worked up to keep a clear head while you’re gambling, take a break. Betting on sports should be fun! If it isn’t, that’s a possible red flag.

So now that we understand what safe sports betting is, it’s time to get into the nuts and bolts of how it works.

How do I bet on women’s sports in North America?

If you’ve taken a look at a sportsbook website or read an article on this site about an event, you might wonder what those minus/plus signs and those numbers after them mean, like -110 or +1600. Those are what’s called American odds and they are a kind of “math” that sports betting operates on.

That sign and those numbers tell you several things. Among them are:

  • Whether an athlete/team is the favorite in the appropriate sporting event
  • The likelihood of a particular outcome of an event
  • What your payout would be if you win your bet

We’ll start with the – or + sign. American odds will always feature one or the other. In our -110 example, the negative sign shows that:

  • the potential outcome attached to the odds is the sportsbook’s favorite
  • the number proceeding the sign is how much you would need to wager if you want a $100 profit on your bet (so in this case, you would need to bet $110 to make $100 in profit)

From our +1600 example, the positive sign says:

  • the potential outcome attached to the event is the underdog
  • the number proceeding the sign is how much you would profit if you wager $100 (so in this example, if you bet $100 and won, you’d get $1,600 in profit)

The number tells you how likely or unlikely an outcome is. The general rule of thumb is that the larger the number, the less likely the outcome. A bet with -250 odds is far more likely to actually hit than a bet with +400 odds.

Now that you know how to read American odds, it’s time to dip our toes into the myriad options for wagering on women’s sports.

The basic markets for most events

On most sporting events, there are five basic types of bets. These are:

  • Futures (usually for things like which team will win a championship of an entire season)
  • Moneylines (sometimes also called straight bets)
  • Props (short for proposition)
  • Spreads (similar to the margin of victory)
  • Totals (point totals are the most common)

All the links above lead to more detailed guides to these types of markets. All of them use the same American odds format, though, so it’s just a matter of understanding exactly what you’re betting on with each.

Let’s say you’re going to a WNBA game and you want to bet on the contest before you go. Before you can do that, you’ll need to sign up for an account with a regulated sportsbook in the game’s location. The process for that is pretty similar across North America.

How to sign up for a sports betting account

In both Canada and the US, permitting provinces/states have bettor eligibility requirements. Chief among those is bettors’ ages. No Canadian province or US state allows anyone under the age of 18 to legally wager.

In some places, the minimum age is even higher, as much as 21. To prove your eligibility, you’ll need to provide the sportsbook with some information so it can verify your identity. In some jurisdictions like Nevada in the United States, you have to complete your verification in person.

Usually, the app or website walks you right through the process and it only takes a few minutes. Verification normally only takes a few seconds. At that point, you’re ready to make a deposit so you can place wagers.

Handing over some cash

This is when it’s crucial to remember your safe sports betting keys. That’s because sportsbooks offer some of their best promotions to new customers. However, many of them come as matches of your first deposit, with caps in the thousands of dollars.

Don’t deposit more than you can afford to get the maximum benefit. The sportsbook is happy to have you as a customer even if your deposit is $10 and your first bet is a single dollar. Once you have decided on an amount, the app or website should walk you right through the deposit process as well.

After the sportsbook verifies your deposit, you’re ready to consider your options for your first bet. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the app or website, including the house rules on betting.

Knowing the rules of the game before you play is important to gambling successfully. For sports betting, successful wagering also depends on your knowledge and avoiding pitfalls.

Don’t fall for the “scamdicappers”

As legal wagering on sports becomes more common across North America, so have “tout services” of various levels of legitimacy. These are people who offer to advise you on your sports betting for money, also called selling picks.

Not everyone who offers such a service is trying to scam you. However, paying for picks can often not make sense financially. That’s because it adds to the cost of your sports betting. Thus, you need to win more money more often to actually turn a profit.

You should treat considering such a service as you would any other. If you cannot verify the service actually has a strong winning record in the sport you want to bet on, then do not use the service. A simple web search for reviews on the service can be a good source of information as well.

Doing a little bit of research, you can avoid the scamdicappers. If you have any further questions, you can always hit us up on Twitter. We’re here to help you enjoy your safe sports betting.

Photo by Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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