What is a Bookmaker or Bookie?

Table of Contents

A bookmaker aka “bookie” is a person or an establishment that takes bets from different people, calculates and sets odds, and pays out to the winner, keeping their side of the profit of course.

It's a profitable business if you’ve got the brains for it. It’s not necessary to calculate the odds on your own (that may backfire sometimes), but hiring a professional analyst for the job is a much better idea.

Gambling has been there for decades but mostly in illegal form. But now things are starting to change. According to a reportBy January 2023, 30 states and Washington D.C allowed sports betting (made it legal). Nevada, a popular state for sports betting, had 126 sports books

Bookies have a sharp eye and better intuition than the people around them. The bets are usually placed on sporting events like soccer, horse racing, or a cricket match. The bookie’s job is to keep things fair by tweaking the odds. They have to make sure that there’s an equal number of people betting on both sides.

Let’s take a peek into the interesting world of bookmakers and how these bookies operate.

How It All Started

Bookmaking dates back to ancient times in Rome when bets were placed on gladiator matches and chariot races. Bookmaking in its modern form emerged in 18th-century England.

In 1975 England, Harry Ogden(the mad genius) shook things up big time in the betting world. He brought in a fractional odds method making it easier for people to figure out what’s what and ways to earn a good profit for themselves. As a result, about 15K betting shops opened up in the UK in a short span.

Fast-forward to now, the internet has opened doors for many online bookies and now everyone is about mobile betting and live streams.

As per a reportIn 2022, the gambling industry in the US earned a gross revenue of $60.42 billion

Still, most countries have not legalized bookmaking but in countries like the UK, Germany, Australia, and the US (Nevada, New York, and New Jersey), laws are in favor of this lucrative business. 

What is the Role of a Bookmaker?

To define it simply, a bookmaker facilitates gambling. They can be a manager of a betting shop or a solo guy offering services online.

Bookies provide a space whereby individuals can place their bets on sports events, political outcomes, or other situations. Overall, the following responsibilities are performed by a bookie.

  • Offer their services to potential clients (people looking to bet on sports events or others)
  • Set a goal for themselves
  • Collect bets from different individuals.
  • Set odds based on various outcomes and manage risk by avoiding imbalance betting. 
  • Record and keep track of all the transactions
  • Payout Winners
  • Earning their share of the profit (Vig or Juice)
  • Follow gambling laws
  • Utilize technology to make the experience a smoother one
  • Deal with complaints
  • Keep an eye on changing patterns in the industry

How Do Bookies Operate

From accepting bets to earning commissions, these bet facilitators have a lot going on in the middle. Adjusting odds is crucial to the entire process. They must understand the money lines and point spreads to ensure a good profit. The bookmaker makes sure that both the playing teams receive an even amount of bets so they can earn their profit regardless of the outcome.

When bookies take your bet, they charge a fee known as vig or juice. The sportsbook doesn't earn from every bet placed but one's that do win make up for it big time.

Imagine you are betting on a football match. Both teams have an equal chance of winning. The bookie steps in and throws 1/2 odds for either team to win and receive bets of say $10. The winner is paid $15 while the losers get none. In the end, the bookie can earn a commission of up to $50 if 10 bets are placed on each winning and losing side.

The odds are different in different sportsbooks. So, it’s smart for you to do a little digging and pick the ones with better odds and lower juices. However, the odds may be impacted by external factors like injuries or weather.

How Much Do They Charge

Bookies usually charge a fee of around 10% but this percentage may vary in different events. If you toss in $50 on a game with -110 odds. If you win, you get $150 back (your bet plus $100). If you lose all your $50 goes to the bookie which they payout to the winner and earn a handsome vig on it.

Legal Gambling VS Illegal Gambling

If you enjoy gambling, you gotta know the rules to avoid getting into trouble. What works in some countries/states might not work elsewhere. Underage gambling and organizing illegal animal fight clubs are really not such a good idea. You might end up with heavy fines and even imprisonment.

Legal stuff includes lotteries, bingos, and betting on sporting events, races, and matches. In most places, the legal age is 21 if you want to be a part of this activity but in some States, you can start off at the age of 18.

Casino-style gambling is allowed in Nevada and Louisiana while other styles of gambling work in other states. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized sports betting, with 33 states opting in and others choosing to stay out of the game.


No doubt, being a bookie can be a cash cow, even for a college student looking to earn some extra money. Just gotta know the ropes – state laws, a bit of sports or industry know-how, risk calculation, and how to set those odds.

You can become a successful bookie if you have good networking skills and the art of persuasion. Anyone can become a bookie provided they are willing to do their research on the topic. It’s a business that brings fresh challenges and truly tests your strategic thinking.

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