How Illegal Crypto Gambling Operation BetOnline Promotes Itself to Americans Through Sports

Despite the expansion of regulated gambling in the US, illegal offshore operators like BetOnline are still thriving. Even though over 30 states allow sports betting, and seven have legal online casinos, some US gamblers bet with illegal operators.

What may weigh into that decision by US gamblers is seeing BetOnline ads without any asterisks saying the site is illegal. Plus, the site has physical ads at US wrestling and mixed-martial arts events due to sponsorship agreements.

For instance, Bonus reporter Heather Fletcher recently attended a Major League Wrestling (MLW) event at 2300 Arena in Philadelphia, where a BetOnline banner surrounded the ring, the site name appeared on digital screens along with wrestlers’ names, and more.

That happened in a state with legal online casino, poker, and sports betting. Legal sportsbooks don’t accept bets on professional wrestling.

Why US Gamblers Bet on Illegal Sites

While some US gamblers use sites like BetOnline knowing they’re illegal, many are unaware they’re playing or betting through an illegal website. Even in legal online gambling states.

One reason is the extensive misinformation online by mainstream media, which often promotes such sites. Another may be sponsorship agreements like the one viewed in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, a 2022 letter from members of Congress to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) that specifically names Bovada, MyBookie, and BetOnline as illegal operators and asks the DOJ to take action appears to remain unanswered. That apparent inaction has allowed sites like BetOnline to continue flourishing.

So it seems some US gamblers are taking matters into their own hands, like a Kentucky player who’s suing Bovada.

Is BetOnline Legal in the US?

Contrary to misleading information online, BetOnline is illegal in the US. The casino and sportsbook operator does not have a license to operate in any state and is not regulated by any state agency. Instead, BetOnline operates through a license from Panama, and its headquarters (and domain) are in the small Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda.

Another sign of the company’s status is the usage of cryptocurrency. Crypto is still a gray area and is unregulated by some federal agencies. As it’s unregulated and not considered legal tender, cryptocurrency like Bitcoin is illegal to use at regulated and legal online casinos.

US gamblers expose their personal and financial information by playing or betting at sites like BetOnline. Because BetOnline is not regulated, it might not pay winnings (there are many reports of such practices) or sell US gamblers’ information.

BetOnline is MLW’s Official Sportsbook and Title Sponsor

In February 2023, New York-based MLW announced a partnership with BetOnline to make it its official sportsbook and title sponsor. BetOnline’s sponsorship deal with MLW gives the crypto operator a platform to advertise to thousands of people in the US, where it’s illegal.

MLW is a smaller wrestling organization, which relaunched in 2017 after shutting down in 2004. The organization holds many of its events in Philadelphia in an arena of 1,300 people. Outside of the US, MLW occasionally has events in Tijuana, Mexico.

While MLW events are streamed and televised in the UK, Africa, and the Middle East, most viewers come from the US. According to Wrestlenomics, an analysis website for professional wrestling, MLW averaged about 62,000 viewers in the US across 10 televised events in the spring.

In addition, the organization has 174,000 subscribers on YouTube, with event replays generating 20,000 to 60,000 views. While not all views come from the US, the majority do. And people watching and those in attendance can see BetOnline featured heavily during the events. That includes the wrestling ring, the big screens, and more.

June 2023 video of an April 2023 show in New York includes a wrestling ring floor emblazoned with the BetOnline logo.

BetOnline Is a Sponsor of Legacy Fighting Alliance

BetOnline appears prominently during Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) events. The Las Vegas-based mixed-martial arts organization focuses on young players and development. Many of its fighters have moved on to the UFC, including former UFC champions Brandon Moreno, Kamaru Usman, and Valentina Shevchenko.
Through its partnership with LFA, BetOnline is featured on fight cards, social media, and in the octagon at some events. That gives BetOnline a lot of exposure, as the LFA’s events are streamed on UFC’s streaming platform, UFC Fight Pass.

While the UFC Fight Pass subscriber number is unknown, according to one digital marketing services provider, Semrush, the website gets about 402,000 visitors from the US monthly. Meanwhile, another company, Similarweb, estimates that the number is around 375,000. The number of US viewers who stream the events through other devices is likely much higher.

Additionally, LFA’s YouTube channel has over 500,000 subscribers, with some videos reaching well over 1 million views. The organization’s primary markets of focus are the US and Brazil. That means the BetOnline logo has been seen by US viewers millions of times.

BetOnline Was Also an Official Partner of Mesconi Cup 2022

In November 2022, British company Matchroom Pool announced that BetOnline would be an official partner of the Mosconi Cup. The nine-ball pool event at Bally’s Las Vegas features a battle between Team USA and Team Europe.

Through the partnership, BetOnline was featured throughout the venue, player jerseys, and the Mosconi set. According to Matchbox, there were 2,500 people in attendance, most of them likely from the US. In addition, the event was streamed on DAZN, giving it even more exposure in the US.

Nine-ball pool and the Mosconi Cup have a sizable following. Some videos of the event on YouTube have over 300,000 views and over 200,000 on social media. While the number of US viewers is unknown, thousands have seen the heavily-featured BetOnline logo across the event.

There Have Been Calls for the DOJ to Step In

Why isn’t the DOJ doing anything about it if BetOnline is illegal? We can only guess the answer, but going after offshore websites is always complicated.

One of the first things to note is that DOJ can pursue operators like BetOnline if they’re registered or conduct business in the US. The DOJ could also go after agents of such operators if they enter the country, as it did with Red44 earlier this year. Unfortunately, BetOnline is not officially conducting business in the US, so going after it is tricky.

That’s because, unlike sports betting’s “Blue Monday” or online poker’s “Black Friday” in 2011, offshore operators have gotten smarter and operated from countries that allow their activities.

A Call for Action

However, the inaction by the DOJ has been frustrating for many. In 2022, the American Gaming Association (AGA) sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking him to start cracking down on sites like BetOnline, Bovada, and MyBookie.

That letter was followed by another letter from members of Congress. Led by Nevada congresswoman Dina Titus, the group asked the DOJ to “make a concerted effort to fight illegal offshore sportsbooks.” The calls to Garland and the DOJ are continuing this year. In May, regulators from seven states asked the department to “make combating illegal, offshore sportsbooks and online casinos a priority.”

And that’s not all. There have been additional calls from regulators and organizations in other states. However, it seems the DOJ is not answering those calls. The department’s lack of action is surprising, given the amount of money US gamblers are losing to illegal operators. According to the AGA, states also lose about $13.3 billion in tax revenue annually.

About the Author

Chav Vasilev

Chav Vasilev

After years of managing fast-casual restaurants, Chav turned his passion for sports and occasional slot wins into a career as an iGaming writer. Sharing his time between Europe and the US, he has been exposed to betting and gambling for years and has closely followed the growth in the US. Chav is a proponent of playing responsibly and playing only at legal online sites. When not writing, you will find him watching and betting on sports, especially soccer, or trying to land the next big bonus on a slot.
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