What Is a Sportsbook?

A sportsbook is a gambling establishment that accepts bets on the outcome of sporting events and pays winners an amount that varies according to the odds on each event. Historically, people bet with a bookmaker in person. But more recently, some states have made sports betting legal and regulated and have moved to an online model.

A good sportsbook will offer a large selection of bets. It will also provide a variety of ways to place a bet, including online and mobile platforms. And it should also offer bettors a number of value-added features to keep them engaged and coming back for more.

Some states have legalized sportsbooks, but many people still bet with unlicensed operators. These operations range from one-person bookmaking outfits, sometimes called bookies, to full-scale sportsbooks that accept bets over the internet. Some sportsbooks are geographical specialists, while others offer bets on global events, from the Oscars and Nobel Prizes to election results.

Most sportsbooks have two main business objectives: to attract bettors and to earn money on all wagers placed. The goal is to balance the amount of bets on each side so that, in the long run, a sportsbook will make a profit. In practice, however, bets are rarely perfectly balanced and a sportsbook must mitigate risks by either altering the odds or taking bets that offset their exposure (known as laying off).