How To Speak Sports Betting In New Jersey: Odds, Handle And Hold

If the first year of legal sports betting in New Jersey has proved one thing it’s that there’s a market for it.

NJ sportsbooks took in upwards of $3 billion in bets in year one.

Year two should prove even bigger now that the market has grown to include 10 retail sportsbooks at Atlantic City casinos and NJ racetracks. Plus, 14 different NJ sports betting apps and more preparing to launch.

Clearly, it’s more than just professional handicappers driving this new NJ sports betting market. People who have never placed a sports bet and don’t exactly speak sports betting are doing it, too.

Removing barriers

That’s partly because NJ sports betting apps and self-serve sports betting kiosks at retail sportsbooks have helped remove one major barrier to market entry.

Having to visit a betting window to place a bet can be intimidating. But for the most part, NJ sports betting apps and self-serve sports betting kiosks eliminate the need to do it.

However, another major barrier to market entry may still exist.

The language used at the window is a big part of why visit one can be so intimidating. There’s a sports betting jargon employed by operators and veteran sports gamblers that may sound like it takes years to perfect.

While some NJ sports betting apps and sports betting kiosks have done away with this complicated language in favor of something even novice sports bettors can understand, much of it is still exists.

However, it’s really nothing to be afraid of. You too can speak sports betting.

The language of sports betting is rooted in common sense. Plus, those who show a desire to learn can easily understand it.

A little refresher on the meaning of some of the most common sports betting terms is usually all that’s required. Start with the three terms described below and you’ll speak sports betting like a pro in no time.


Odds are basically a numeric expression of a team or individual’s chances of winning. NJ sportsbooks generally post what are referred to as moneyline odds, American odds or US odds. Sportsbooks use the odds posted at the time you placed a bet to determine how much to pay out when that bet wins.

Odds are posted with either a plus [+] or minus [-] symbol in front of a number. The plus symbol indicates that team or individual is an underdog and the number is how much each $100 bet on that side will pay.

The minus symbol indicates that team or individual is a favorite and the number is how much you’ll need to bet to win $100.

Sportsbooks also return the original bet to winners in both these cases.

For example, FanDuel Sportsbook is currently offering +280 odds on the Los Angeles Lakers to win the 2019-20 NBA Championship. That means a $100 bet on the Lakers would pay $280 plus the original $100 bet back if they win the title next season.

Similarly, DraftKings Sportsbook is currently offering -121 odds on the Chicago Cubs to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night. That means you’d have to bet $121 on the Yankees to win $100 and your original $121 back.

Sportsbooks may also refer to odds as the price offered on a bet.

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Handle is a sports betting term referring to the total amount of money bet at a sportsbook, group of sportsbooks, on an individual event or group of events.

That $3 billion in bets taken by NJ sportsbooks in year one mentioned above is the NJ sports betting industry’s first-year handle.

Of course, handle is an industry term you don’t necessarily need to know to place bets. However, it’s not a bad idea to seek out some information about the industry you’re betting in. Knowing this term is as good a place to start as any.

Handle is not revenue. Revenue is what sportsbooks have left over from handle once all winning bets have been paid.

Another example of handle is the $34.8 million in Super Bowl bets NJ sportsbooks took in this past February. One might say NJ’s 2019 Super Bowl handle was $34.8 million.

One can also look at May 2019 numbers released by the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement and see that NJ sportsbooks posted $318.9 million in monthly handle.


Hold is essentially the amount of handle sportsbooks keep after they pay out winning bets. The industry also refers to hold as win or revenue.

Once again, hold is an industry term you don’t necessarily need to know to place bets. However, the more informed you are about the industry the better choices you can make inside of it.

Hold can tell you how much money a particular sportsbook is making before taxes and other expenses. A number that you might want to consider when it comes time to choose a place to bet.

One reason a sportsbook could have a higher hold percentage than a competitor may be less competitive odds.

Those May 2019 numbers released by the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement mentioned above list hold as sports wagering revenue.

Operators running under the Meadowlands license, including FanDuel Sportsbook, are leading the industry so far this year. These operators have posted a combined $53.4 million in sports wagering revenue.

Those operating under the Resorts Digital license, including DraftKings Sportsbook and BetStars NJ, are running a distant second. These operators have posted $26.7 million in sports wagering revenue so far this year.

No other NJ sports betting licensee has posted more than $10 million in hold so far this year.

About the Author

Martin Derbyshire

In his over 10 years covering the US online poker, legal NJ online gambling, and land-based casino industries, Martin Derbyshire has worn the hats of award-winning journalist and video and film producer. He has logged countless miles reporting on the world of high stakes gambling.