And betting is no longer just a casino bookie setup in Las Vegas. Online sports betting is now legal in 29 states and in D.C. Professional and casual bettors alike can turn to their smartphones to download an app and dream of winning parlays. The American Gaming Association expects 11 percent of adults to place their wagers online this year.
At the Help Desk, we try to help you make sense of the technology in your life. If you’re going to wager on the Super Bowl, that means knowing how to keep your data and bank account safe. So let’s run through what you need to know about online sports gambling — and remember to keep a budget in mind.
A beginner’s guide to sports gambling
Simple. Instead of going to a casino and placing a bet in person, you deposit money via your bank account or another payment method into the app’s account. From there, the world is your oyster on how much to wager and which bets to place.
But there is a caveat. Your chosen app will verify your age when setting up your account. In most states, you must be at least 21 to participate in legal sports gambling.
A quick internet search of “online sports betting” will bring up a bevy of websites. Same for if you’re searching on the Apple App store or Google Play store.
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Some of the more popular names — especially ones you may see as advertisements during the game — include DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM. Other sites you may come across are Caesars, PointsBet and BetRivers.
What are the biggest risks?
These apps can be viewed as a more valuable target for hackers because it’s a richer set of data that links back to your bank account, says Gregory Moody, professor of information systems at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
If you’re going to use sites such as DraftKings, FanDuel and others, it’s important to keep your digital hygiene in mind.
Tips to keep your betting safe
Use a reputable app: If you’re new to online sports betting, searching Google Play or the Apple App store for a reputable option can be daunting. But there are telltale signs that one app is better than another.
First, see if the app has a high number of users and a high number of reviews. Next, if those numbers seem reasonable and reviews don’t seem automated or fake, do a quick search on Reddit, Trustpilot and the BBB for user issues.
Set up two-factor authentication: Once you pick your sportsbook, set up two-factor authentication if applicable. Outside of setting up a strong password, 2FA allows you to verify your identity through another method such as a text message to your phone when you log in from a new device.
Sportsbooks offer this extra layer of protection, but it might be up to users to turn it on. To do so, go to your account settings in your preferred app and look for security settings.
If you’re trying to protect your privacy, scroll down to the data sharing section of your settings and look for “do not sell or share my personal information” or a variation of that phrase. You might have to search hard to find it, though. You can also look for privacy opt-out forms on the sportsbook website via a desktop computer or laptop. Finally, use an alias email address when signing up, such as the ones offered by Apple or Gmail.
Do not link your bank account: It sounds counterintuitive for a gambling website, but you want to avoid linking your bank account directly.
Moody suggests using third-party payment apps such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo or PayPal to place your bets if the app allows.
“The [third parties’] specialty is payment transaction processing. They have a whole cyber team set up to detect and deter these types of things,” Moody says. And their goal is to not get hacked, otherwise people will stop using their service, he adds.
If you have to link your bank account, make sure your account has a strong password attached to it and multifactor authentication; monitor your banking activity to look for suspicious activity.
You also need to know who to contact in case your winnings are stuck in Ethernet limbo. Before casting your bet, make sure you know your sportsbook helpline as well as its withdrawal policy on winnings and refunds. Double check how bonus bets and any winnings attached are handled, as well. Bonus offers cannot instantly be withdrawn for the cash equivalent.
For example, DraftKings does not allow users to withdraw winnings to a different payment type. Winnings are deposited via the same method used to make the original bet.
Make sure you’re not forgetting any tax documents.
Major wins from sports bets are considered taxable income according to IRS Publication 525.
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Your chosen sportsbook may be required to generate a Form W-2G if your winnings meet the criteria.
Even if a form such as a W-2G is not issued, your winnings are taxable income and should be reported to the IRS, says Eric Bronnenkant, head of tax at Betterment, a digital investment advisory firm.
You will report any money earned when you file your income tax returns in 2025 covering the 2024 tax year. You are taxed at your normal income tax rate.
Heather Kelly contributed to this report.