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History of Gambling, Betting and Bookmakers in the UK
Having a bet is a pastime for many in Britain and abroad and most of us couldn’t imagine a time when we were unable to gamble freely. We take it for granted that we will be able to wager on pretty much any event or market from around the world and the huge competition in high street and online bookmaking means we also expect good prices and prompt payouts from our bookies when we do bet.
For most of recorded history however having a bet was fraught with difficulty and uncertainty. Before the Victorian era wagers were simply placed between men under a gentleman’s agreement and this was usually a straight up bet with no odds, there was also not much you could do if someone ran off with your stake and/or winnings.
Things didn’t get much easier in the 1800’s. Early bookmakers were often illegal and those that were legal were tightly regulated and only allowed to practice at licensed tracks and courses. It was the 1960’s that saw the biggest change in bookmaking as off course gambling was legalised resulting in the rise of the betting shop, and subsequently when the internet was invented, online gambling.
In this article I talk about the early days of bookmaking, the first bookies, changes in the law and the way we bet, the rise of online bookmakers and the future of online betting.
The First Bookmaker
Betting is older than written history itself, people have been taking bets on anything they can think of since before money was even invented.
Most early wagers were crude, often with just two possible outcomes. One would bet on one side to win, such as the Roundheads to win the English civil war, and the other would bet on the alternative outcome, the Cavaliers to win.
Odds were rarely used and most wagers were effectively taken at ‘evens’. This is fine if you are predicting an evenly matched event but in life we know things are rarely even. This could be even worse if you were betting on a horse as quite often the bet choice was ‘Horse X to win’ vs ‘Horse X not to win’, hardly an even bet (in most cases).
Bookmakers on the other hand are people who lay actual odds creating a ‘book’ encompassing multiple scenarios or results, which, if balanced, will always ensure a profit. With this new type of business, rather than two people pitting their wits against each other over one possible outcome, a bookmaker will take multiple bets for several outcomes from different sources. If they have their prices right then this should always ensure a profit.
Back in the 1700’s the new sport of horse racing was really beginning to take off among the upper and middle classes in Britain.
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The Lancastrian, Harry Ogden, set up a pitch on Newmarket heath close to Britain’s oldest and most famous racecourse in the 1790’s. He was close enough to the course that he and his punters could see the racing but far enough away that he didn’t get hassled from the owners of the course.
Rather than pricing all horse the same Harry realised that as some horses were better than others they will have different chances of winning, therefore he set different prices across the field. This gave punters a choice, for the first time they could bet tactically deciding whether to go for more security by backing the favourite, but with low returns, or taking more of punt on an outsider, less likely to win but will pay out more if it does.
The clever thing that Harry Ogden did however was to build in a profit margin into his book. On balance the odds he set never quite reflected the real chances of the result, for example, a 10/1 horse priced by Ogden may have an actual chance of winning more like a 12/1. The art of bookmaking was born and gambling has never been the same since.
Of course it is likely there were others doing similar things around the same time, however it is Harry Ogden who was recorded in the annals of history.
History of British Gambling Laws
Early Gambling Law
In the very earliest days it was the Bible that was used to discourage people from betting, cited as a sin, having a punt could easily land you a spot in hell.
Of course this didn’t really work and having a bet among friends became common place in European culture. In 1190 The King of England (Richard I) and France (Phillip) created the first known gambling law. This outlined who would or would not be allowed to gamble and for how much, of course they excluded themselves. The punishment involved a good whipping and a fine paid to the church.
The rise of the sport of horse racing in the 1600’s onward increased betting and gaming as leisure activity, gambling was also spreading to sports such as cricket and pub games. Gaming Acts resulted in 1739 and 1745 banning wagers on a wide range of pub games, including roulette and darts. This had little effect on those who played behind closed doors however – such as the majority of the aristocracy.
Like many aspects of British culture early gaming and gambling laws were brought in to control the working classes. By the 1800’s however gambling had become rife in all classes of society requiring a more stringent set of laws.
There were three big problems with the rise of independent bookies like Harry Ogden in the early 1800’s.
The first issue was a lack of regulation. There were no specific laws to ensure that bookmakers paid out correctly (or even at all) and conversely, unprotected away from the course, bookies were often lynched by sore losers and other unscrupulous agents. Most bets therefore were placed with a written contract and this meant courts were becoming clogged up with debt settling cases. The government now took the view that if you were stupid enough to bet, or lay odds, you shouldn’t receive legal protections.
Secondly the government of the day did not much like the fact that all this gambling was going on tax free, like most pleasures in in life they are only acceptable if you can tax it (e.g. smoking).
Finally this was the Victoria era and gambling was a heathen pursuit, an ungodly practice that poisoned the soul. Like most other ‘fun’ things the Victorians wanted to have full control of all public vices.
Gaming Act 1845
In response to the opinion that gambling was having damaging social effects in the 19th century a House of Lords select committee was formed. The committee set out a series of recommendations that resulted in the first piece of legislation brought in by parliament in England to help control gambling was the 1845 Gaming Act.
The act did not make betting illegal but rather sought to discourage the practice by making all wagers unenforceable as a legal contract. This meant bookmakers, or bettors, could run off with the money and the law would offer you no legal protections.
The Act was set up this way to give police more powers over the working classes while still allowing gambling to take place amongst the upper classes and elite. How very British to have a law that applies differently based on your class!
Parts of the 1845 Act remained in place right up until 2007. Namely sections 17 and 18 which made cheating illegal, punishable by two years in jail and a £200 fine (a huge amount back then), and any gambling contracts void in the eyes of the law.
If caught accepting bets you now could be imprisoned and so few bookies now risked the exposure of the racetrack. Whether the Gaming Act did much to stop illicit gambling away from racetracks is unlikely, many carried on regardless as if the Act didn’t exist in various betting houses and dens.
1853 Betting Act
The 1845 Act didn’t make betting illegal and so what ensued was a huge expansion of betting houses. According to Charles Dickens a house had «sprung up on every street».
The 1853 Betting Act was therefore brought in making it illegal to use or keep any property for the purposes of betting or gaming.
In combination with the 1845 Act this effectively outlawed off track betting. In reality the result was a huge increase in on-street gambling instead.
Legalisation Of On Track Betting
What the Gaming and Betting Acts of 1845 and 1853 did do for sure is help create the Britain’s love of a day out at the horse racing. The Acts allowed restricted forms of gambling at designated race tracks and I doubt the government could have predicted how popular this would be with the public.
New Victorian social reforms, such as paid holiday for workers for the first time, a growing middle class and new forms of advertisement coupled with the new technological advance of the railway saw attendances grow sharply. New race courses opened all over the country in response to this demand and special excursion trains were put on to allow all classes of people to attend the new meetings.
This is one reason why today Britain plays host to some of the oldest and most famous courses (Newmarket, Epsom, Cheltenham, etc.,) and races (St Leger, Guineas, Gold Cup, Derby, Oaks, etc., ), all of which attained a large part of their prestige at this time.
Greyhound Racing – Working Class Gambling
Having licenced gambling at race courses was all well and good and maybe for one week each year working families could travel to one for a day out. For the most part however having a bet was largely restricted to those who could afford to attend races or send agents on their behalf to place bets.
Brought over from America, Greyhound racing took off in the UK in the 1920’s with the first characteristic oval track opening at Belle Vue in Manchester in 1926. Most greyhound tracks were within inner cities and driven by increasing living standards and worker affluence they flourished at this time.
Dog racing offered a way for working class people to have a bet on their own doorsteps. Most meetings were scheduled in the evening to allow workers to attend after work.
The great depression in the 1930’s had little effect on the rise of the sport and the Tote (see later) began operating at track. Following the end of WWII attendances spiked with reportedly over 30 million people attending course in 1946, that’s more than the whole population of Britain at the time.
The gaming act in 1960 in combination with the rise of other sports and games and television saw greyhound racing decline from over 100 tracks to now around 20. Read more about the demise of greyhound racing in our article.
The Football Pools
It was difficult to bet legally on anything other than horse or greyhound racing in the middle decades of the 20th Century. Many in the aristocracy had ‘places’ they could go and play various games or bet for money without interference but for those in the working class there was not much facility.
When the football pools came along in 1923, founded by John Moores Littlewoods in Liverpool, it offered working class men a means to have a punt on the football that was full of fun but cost very little. A national obsession was born. The game escaped the gambling laws of the time as it was cited as a game of skill rather than chance, the low stakes nature of the game and popularity amongst workers helped it to survive. The government did tax it well though, 40% for most of its existence.
Various companies started a football pool but the two most famous were Littlewoods and Vernons and they distributed coupons outside major football games and factories. The lure of the game was the ability to win potentially tens of thousands of pounds for fraction of a penny for each line.
The football pools remained the most popular weekly ‘betting’ coupon up until 1994 when it was eventually superseded by the National Lottery in the hearts of the nation. You can however still play the pools online if you like.
The 1960 Betting and Gaming Act
The biggest change in the history of Gambling in the United Kingdom came in 1961 when Harold McMillian’s government legalised betting shops under the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act. This was an unusual move for a conservative politician but it ultimately reflected the times.
The early 1960’s was a time for change, people demanded more freedom to do what they wanted, and placing a bet changed overnight from something you did at licenced tracks and in seedy back alleys to a national institution.
I won’t cover the act itself in much detail, if you would like to read more about this see our article on Gambling Licences and Law.
Over the next 40 years gambling law became more and more relaxed as restrictions were progressively listed. For example, it was only in the early 1990’s that the trebles rule was lifted on football betting. This stipulated all football bets must be multiple bets with 3 or more selections up to this point.
Changing Tax Law
Until 2001 all bets placed in the UK carried a betting levy, this was a 9p in the pound tax that could be paid either on your stake or on your winnings. By the mid 1990’s many traditional British bookmakers were begging to move abroad to avoid the betting levy. Victor Chandler (now BetVictor) famously moved to Antigua in the late 1990’s allowing them to run a tax free book for eastern clients.
Fearing an exodus abroad Gordon Brown (then chancellor) issued a review of gambling, chaired by an old teacher of mine, Sir Alan Budd. The review resulted in a new law that instead taxed bookies 15% on their gross profits. For the first time punters could gamble tax free – although in reality punters were still paying this tax as bookies increased their odds margins to compensate.
In the internet age many bookies could get around this tax by basing their online operations abroad, this is why you see so many betting sites based in Gibraltar or Malta. In 2020 the law therefore changed again to a point of consumption tax. This now meant if you took bets from the UK you had to pay the tax, win, win for the government. This was enforceable under the new Gambling License (see next).
See our article for more about gambling and betting tax for more.
2005 Gambling Act and the Gambling Commission
The same 2001 review that resulted in changes to the tax laws around gambling also recommended that all gambling legislation should be streamlined into a single Act with a regulator to be set up to enforce it. This resulted in the 2005 Gambling Act and the new regulator, the Gambling Commission.
Before the 2005 act anyone could set up a website anywhere in the world and take bets from UK customers. Not only did this not result in any tax for the government it also meant punters had little protection from crime and fraud.
The 2005 Act was principally focused around creating an open and honest industry where vulnerable people were protected and fraud minimised. The new act also oversaw the new National Lottery (as well as other lotteries) to ensure maximum proceeds were given to good causes.
All bookmakers and betting sites were now required to possess a Gambling Commission licence in order act as a bookmaker in the UK, no matter where they are based. This act still applies today, to gamble safely in Britain you should only bet with licensed operators. To find out more about the 2005 Act and the Gambling commission read our licencing article.
2020 Gambling Bill
An amendment to the 2005 Gambling Act was brought in in 2020. This effectively closed loopholes that allowed companies based abroad to advertise in the UK without a gambling licence. It also changed the tax arrangements to ensure all operators must pay tax on UK profits irrespective of their location.
Much of the legislation today focuses around protecting vulnerable people, such as under 18’s, from gambling. Massive fines are now levied to companies who fail to promote responsible gambling in particular.
As the world of betting progressively moves online it is becoming harder for law makers to ensure they can police the whole landscape. Saying that the UK in general is ahead of the curve on its gambling laws and better positioned than most countries moving forward.
Ladbrokes — Oldest Bookmaker Still Around Today
The oldest bookmaker that still exists today is Ladbrokes, I think they can claim the crown of the oldest bookmaker in the world as well as in the UK.
Back in 1886 two gentlemen known as Schwind and Pennington went into partnership together acting as commission agents for horses trained at Ladbroke Hall in Worcestershire. Pennington was the trainer Schwind the agent, Schwind’s job as commission agent was to back the horses trained by Pennington.
In 1902 the pair were joined by Arthur Bendir who founded the Ladbrokes name, based on the Ladbroke Hall sign. Some say the same was a pun on the words «broke lads» although this seems to have been thought up afterwards.
Bendir changed the business model of the company from just backing horses trained at Ladbroke Hall by also betting against other horses. This model made the company both punter and bookmaker.
The new bookmaker achieved almost instant success and quickly moved to the Strand in London, upgrading to Hanover Square in 1906 and as a sign of their success ended up in Mayfair in 1913.
From their Mayfair location Ladbrokes established themselves as an exclusive bookmaker for high class clients and aristocrats. This model worked well until the outbreak of WWII, following the war facing a dwindling list of clients and an outdated business model the company was eventually sold in 1956 to Mark Stein and his nephew Cyril for just £100,000.
Five years later off-course betting was legalised in the UK and Ladbrokes opened some of the first betting shops. The company were embraced the new times and were innovators, they were the first to introduce the fixed odds football coupon for example. By 1966 the company floated for £1,000,000, ten times what the Stein family bought the company for.
Ladbrokes have never looked back and having merged with Coral in 2020 are now the biggest betting and gaming brand in Britain and one of the biggest in the world. In 2020 the company revenue approached nearly £2 billion and they now employ over 15,000 people and still maintain 400+ shops (including Coral shops). It goes to show there is a lot of money in modern bookmaking.
The Totalisator Board – The Tote
Until the legalisation of off course gambling nearly all official wagers were placed at the racecourse on horse or greyhound racing. Following the 1845 and 1853 gaming and betting acts the government were now able to monitor and even tax this form legal betting from on-course bookmakers.
In 1928 the government went one better, realising there was still a lot of illegal off course gambling and seeing the amount of revenue coming from gambling they set up their own Racehorse Betting Control Board under the Racecourse Betting Act 1928.
The board, set up by Sir Winston Churchill no less, established a state controlled bookmaker with a presence at racetracks across the UK. The first race meeting at which the body had a presence was the flat meeting at Newmarket in July 1929.
Pari-mutual betting was the model of the new state controlled body. Rather than having fixed odds that you could bet any amount on instead you all stakes would go into a central pool. Taxes and margins would be taken out and then the winners would receive a share of the pool.
As part of the 1961 Betting Act the body was renamed the Horserace Totalisator Board, or Tote for short. The original body was responsible for both state-controlled betting and redistributing racing funds. The later function was transferred to the Horserace Betting Levy Board.
The Tote opened a high street shop in 1972 and for a long time was the only place where you could place pool pari-mutual bets. In 1992 the body expanded to allow other bookies to be able to contribute to the pool and this resulted in the Tote becoming one of the biggest bookmakers in the country with bets accepted in over 7000 shops.
The Tote teamed up with Channel 4 in 1999 launching the massive jackpot Scoop6, where punters could win hundreds of thousands to millions by predicting the winners of 6 races. This bet and other totepool bets proved, and still prove today, to be popular with punters. To read more about these bets and how to place them see our Totepool article.
The Tote even managed to stay up with the times launching a hugely successful betting site, www.Totesport.com. Inevitably, like most things owned by the state in Great Britain, the Tote was sold off to Betfred in 2020 for £265M.
Betfred have maintained the totepool as a separate brand but have internalised all totepool bets into the main site making the modern totesport site basically a clone of Betfred. If you want to know who was responsible for this it was no other than Jeremy Hunt – what a massive Hunt he is too.
The First Betting Shops — 1961
Following the new gaming act in 1960 betting shops opened rapidly. The new laws came into place on the 1st May 1961 after which shops began opening at a rate of 100 each week and by the end of the year there were an estimated 10,000 shops open across the country.
It is not recorded who opened the very first shop but by the late 1970’s there were over 15,000 betting shop premises. The landscape was dominated by Ladbrokes, William Hill, Coral and Betfred in Britain and Paddy Power in Ireland the same names that still dominate the industry today.
Additional Acts passed in 1963 and 1968 brought in licences for other forms of betting, such as casinos and bingo. The 1970 Gaming Act brought together all forms of gambling, including slot machines, under one law controlled by the new Gaming Board. The Gaming Board directly answered to the Home Office.
The First Online Betting Site – Intertops 1996
Online gambling began first with online casinos. Casino sites were set up from 1994 onwards following the Free Trade & Processing Act passed in Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua granted online gaming licenced to remote casinos based in the territory. This was coupled with the launch of the first casino software, Microgaming, and secure payment system, Cryptologic.
Seeing the impressive early adoption into online casinos bookmakers began to sit up and take note. Intertops became the first recognised online sports betting site on the web in 1996, regulated by the then new and first of it’s kind, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. The site is still running today, although it has certainly fallen behind the times and looks like a 20+ year old site. Intertops does not have a UK gambling licence and so cannot legally accept UK customers.
What followed was a cascade of new sites opening, by 1998 there were at least 100 known sports betting sites globally. At this time some of Britain’s biggest bookies began their move online, from the likes of William Hill, Ladbrokes, Betfred and Coral. Before 2000 online betting represented less than 1% of the overall gambling market, just 15 years later the online bookmakers overhauled the old land based operations to become the most common way to place a wager.
Exchange Betting — Betfair
Set up in 2000 the Betfair exchange offered an innovative new model for placing wagers. Rather than accepting the odds you were given by your bookmaker you could instead bet directly with other real people acting as their own micro bookmaker. This meant you could often get better odds by cutting out the middle man. The exchange instead makes a profit, in the same way financial exchanges do, by charging a commission on winnings. The commission rates are generally far less than a bookmakers margin and so on the whole you can get better value with an exchange.
The model, the brainchild of Andrew Black and Edward Wray, also offered punters a means to become their own bookmaker. For the first time bettors could lay odds to other people, winning now when the punter lost.
This system allowed people to arbitrate, placing bets at favourable odds with a bookie and then laying those bets on an exchange, so that no matter the outcome you guarantee a profit.
Exchange betting has taken the industry by storm and has certainly taken a slice out of the fixed odds bookmaking market. Then again it has also become a tool for bookmakers themselves who can lay bets on exchanges to balance a book on an event.
Most people still however just want a quick and easy way to place bets and don’t want to think too much about the maths behind their wagers. Therefore the exchange market won’t completely replace fixed odds bookmaking and there is certainly room for both products in the vast online landscape.
If you would like to read more about exchange betting and arbitrate visit our exchanges page.
The Future of Gambling Online
It is always hard to predict what will be the next big thing, if we could do that we would all be millionaires as we would know where to invest our pennies for the future.
There are some gambling trends that are certain to continue, for the near future at least. The biggest changes we will see will be dependent on faster connection speeds and better technology:
Gambling is moving away from clunky desktop machines to smaller devices and this is driving changes in the way people bet. Punters are now betting less in advance choosing to wait until closer to the event with the convenience of being able to bet any time, any where.
Faster devices and faster internet will only serve to accelerate this tendency. Many new betting sites are now designed for small screen devices and are simply scaled up for desktop.
Live In Play Betting
The rise of mobile and faster internet connection speeds means more and more bets are placed live in play during events. This trend will only continue to grow with many betting markets tailored to this form gambling.
Faster algorithms means odds can now be calculated almost instantly with less reliance on odds traders. This means more and more markets will become available and betting on actions that occur within seconds not minutes will become more common. Recently it even became possible to bet on horse racing live during the race.
The ability to cash out your wager before the end of an event has added a whole new tactical dimension to betting. It allows punters to use their own objective (and subjective) insights to choose the optimal moment to cash out a bet.
This is effectively a means of mitigating risk, and used correctly can be hugely profitable, or at least can reduce loses. Beware however when cashing out you are in effect giving the bookmaker a double margin.
The popularity of exchange betting is sure to rise as more and more people become familiar and more trusting of the system.
The rise of mobile betting will also help the exchange as exploiting changes in the market is critical to making a profit and to do that effectively you need to be online as much as possible.
Specialist Betting Sites
The trend so far has seen most online bookmakers spread into multiple products, betting sites now offer poker, casino, Vegas, games, financial, exchange sections., etc. This is great for those that like to have lots of options in one place however for many the size and complexity of modern online bookmakers is a put off.
Over the next few years I expect to see more and more specialist sites popping up, designed to offer just one type of betting. This is already common with horse racing, an example being RaceBets, and betting this way can be more valuable if you only wager on certain sports.
Safer and More Responsible Gambling
Gambling law in the UK is some of the best in the world for protecting the vulnerable, short of banning gambling entirely, but no matter how good the laws are there will always be vulnerable people that get caught up with addiction. Thankfully licenced UK bookies must take this seriously and are expected to monitor suspicious or unusual behaviour.
Overall bookmakers do a good job of spotting unusual betting activity and offer plenty of tools to help those who want to restrict access to sections or the site entirely. I expect in the future this will only get better, although this must be a balance between protecting people’s privacy to make a wager vs. protecting those with addiction.
More Sports & Markets
With access to so much information these days we as a nation now bet on more sports and markets types than ever before. The future is going to see a dramatic rise in popularity in less traditional sports such as eSports and virtual reality sports.
Don’t get me wrong these new games will never get near the likes of football for betting interest but they will become more everyday markets. Many of those now excited by the likes of eSports are fairly young, as this demographic ages we will see more interest in this type of gambling. As these sports are primarily streamed over the internet faster connection speeds and better gaming tech in the future will no doubt also bolster the rise.
Many of us now spend more time watching content online rather than through television. Watching online gives us access to millions of streams from thousands of sports and games and this increased exposure will drive an increase in interest in ‘lesser’ sports and leagues from both punters and bookies.
The recent increase in the number of online bookmakers that stream sports is also likely to grow. Many sports are cheap for bookies to stream and they are also investing more in streaming services with the knowledge that a lot of punters now prefer to watch when betting. Smaller sports themselves are also realising that access to more viewers is more important than revenue form broadcast rights.
This is a model tennis has followed with most matches now widely available to watch from betting sites such as Coral. This has served to increase interest in non-Grand Slam tour matches which has in turn increased attendance and sponsorship revenues for the sport.
Pricing markets is still largely down to human factors but in the future we are going to see more intelligent artificial odds predictions that will increase market size and speed.
Even today algorithms are responsible for setting most odds lines, particularly for live betting markets, however the odds trader will still manually check the vast majority of these lines as well as constantly adjusting their book to optimise exposure to the market. As artificial intelligence gets more sophisticated we can expect less manual interaction and in return punters will see larger depth of market and quicker price updates.
Less 5000/1 Outsiders
One thing that bookies have learned more so than ever is that predictions are exactly that, predictions, and this was seen in particular back in 2020 when bookmakers got it badly wrong no less than three times.
Leicester City won the Premier League and were initially priced initially 5000/1, this cost bookmakers millions. In reflection, the odds are outlandish, here you are saying a team like Leicester wouldn’t win the league, on average, in less than 5000 attempts. Remembering there are only 20 teams in the Premier League and that football is a low scoring game favouring underdogs, It is absurd to suggest an upset like this is that unlikely.
A similar story was seen again with the British decision to leave the European Union which at one point was priced near 15/1 and Donald Trump to win the presidency at over 25/1 when he announced his decision to run.
The reason you see what we think in retrospect are high odds is because bookies seek to balance books. To do this they need people to bet on other options other than the favourite and so will price these higher than their real chances of occurring. I doubt in future however you will see odds as ridiculous as 5000/1 for a team to win the league before the start of the season.
I’m waiting for the day that a bookie is going to launch voice betting. With the tech now available you shouldn’t be far away form betting just by talking to your phone or computer.
I still find it very strange that you can have an online account but if you walk across a border from say Spain to France you may suddenly be restricted from placing a bet. This is down to the fact that every country has their own perspective on gambling and their own laws to go with it.
It is also bizarre that a traditionally conservative country, the United Kingdom, has some of the most open gambling regulation in the world whereas in the United States, a country the proclaims liberty and freedom as its base, gambling online is largely illegal.
The future will either see greater restriction on online betting or we may see international agreements that allow gambling control on a global level. I hope it is the latter option, not just for peoples freedom to have a bet but also because it will help to reduce illicit, illegal and fraudulent betting sites that tarnish the legitimate industry.
Multiple Account Betting
With so much choice in life we have less and less loyalty and this couldn’t be more true with online bookmakers. In the old days you would usually have a favourite high street bookie, usually the closet to your house, but now you can choose between hundreds of sites from any location you like.
Bettors are exercising their right to choice more than ever before and why not. Online bookmakers have far lower overheads than their land based cousins and so they pour more resources into providing high value bonuses and free bet offers when you sign up as well as a suite of regular reward offers. This makes it difficult as a punter not to shop around.
I’ve found I now bet with more bookies than ever before although I still have a go to betting site for most of my betting. For me that is Ladbrokes as they are the best all round online gambling site. I do however place certain bets wit other bookies, sometimes based on offers and sometimes on odds. Doing this I am trying to maximise my chances of winnings, just as you would shop around to save yourself money when buying anything else.
There are on the other hand better reward schemes for existing customers than ever before. Whether these are enough to stop you being tempted by the various price boosts, freebies and other features available elsewhere I’m not sure.
If you can’t be bothered having multiple accounts and want an online bookie for that rewards loyal custom then check out our best offers for existing customers. If on the other hand you want to see shop around for the best deal have a browse of our offers page.
Live Betting Sites
Online sportsbooks have been around for 20 years. There’s never been more sports, leagues, games and betting options available to everyone around the globe. Obviously, we’ve never had as many sportsbook operators as we do now, either.
Anyone interested in keeping their money safe should choose a sportsbook that’s reputable, accessible and has a proven track record.
You’re trusting these folks to hold your hard-earned cash and to pay your winnings – as much as we’d like to live in a perfect world, the vast majority of these sites are not worthy of your trust.
By only reviewing betting sites that accept live bets, though, we have an easier job. Not all sportsbooks accept in-play wagers since doing so requires lots of resources – therefore we primarily review the biggest in the world because the smaller ones lack ample resources.
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Sites That Accept Live Bets
Almost every major online bookmaker offers live odds these days. Just like with regular odds, they differentiate from each other by offering different depth, focus and quality in their betting selection.
Additionally, they compete with each other by offering live streams of sporting events. It’s especially popular in the U.K. where you’ll see loads of ads during half-time, urging you to put your money on propositions such as ”does Wayne Rooney score during the second half?”
If such ads were allowed in the U.S., you’d undoubtedly see quite a few of them as well.
U.S. sportsbooks offer live betting options as well, although the selection of sites offering it and the selection of sports, leagues and games offered are significantly smaller than in countries outside of the U.S.
Out of those four, 5Dimes and Bookmaker (especially 5Dimes) offer the best betting lines consistently. That’s not the only consideration, though, as it’s the quality of the overall service that matters, and that especially goes within the U.S. market which includes a high penetration of dishonest gambling sites.
Canadians have more options. Even the giant Bet365 accepts Canadian customers in addition legendary sites like Bodog, Sports Interaction and Pinnacle Sports. Compared to their U.S. counterparts, Canadian sports bettors have it good.
There are also fewer markets and options in the U.S. than, say, at the biggest U.K. online bookies like Bet365, William Hill, Betway, Paddy Power, and Ladbrokes.
Some U.K. online bookmakers stream live events so you can watch the event at their site and bet at the same time. Bet365 streams more events than any other site (they claim to offer live streaming for 70,000 events).
You can watch and bet on domestic football matches, as well as Italian Serie A, UEFA Cup, La Liga, Portuguese Superliga, MLS and more.
They also offer live streaming video for cricket, tennis, rugby, NFL football, MLB baseball, NHL hockey, NCAA college football & basketball, golf, F1, volleyball, and a number of international basketball leagues. All games streamed on Bet365 Live are equipped with an in-play betting menu so you can instantly place your bets as you watch the events.
Australia prohibited gambling on live events due to it being ”too addictive” relative to pre-match betting. Bookmakers were able to get around this restriction because telephone betting is allowed (William Hill was the first to do so), so you could place a bet online which automatically initiated a ”call” to the bookmaker to make the bet (also known as “click-to-call”).
The Australian government, however, wants to close the loophole.
Online sports bettors in general have a wide range of options in Australia, such as Bet365, William Hill, Sportsbet, and Pinnacle Sports.
What Makes a Good Internet Sportsbook?
In addition to accepting in-play bets, what does a good sports betting website offer its customers? What should you expect from some of the best gambling sites in the world?
- A range of sporting events on which to wager. All major sports should be included.
- Easy and fast deposit and withdrawal methods.
- Competitive odds. (Compare odds at various sportsbooks before joining one.)
- Various types of wagers on events, including basic bets and exotics.
- 24/7 support via at least two of the following: toll-free phone number, chat, email.
- Explanations of how each wager type works, including odds, payouts and restrictions.
- Evidence of solid service such as ratings and evaluations from unbiased organizations.
- A track record of at least five years.
- FAQs, information about the site, including its mission, history and location.
Those are the most important requirements. There are various other features that a sportsbook may provide that can enhance your experience. Here are a few of them:
- Deposit bonuses, special prizes and new wagering opportunities for special events.
- Live updates related to specific games (injuries, trades, weather conditions, etc.).
- Articles, such as strategies for wagering.
- A blog or forum.
As you can see, running a high-quality betting operation is not all that easy. As bettors, we take a lot of stuff for granted so understandably many bookmakers fail to meet our standards.
How Sportsbooks Make Lines and Odds
When you place a sports bet with a sportsbook, you’re either going to be putting cash down on a point spread, moneyline, over/under or some form of exotic. Before a betting slip is ever posted, someone or many people have worked hard to create that slip.
Sportsbook post odds and lines that they believe will help spread the bets out between the two teams on the betting slip. Although the sportsbook can make cash on losing wagers, they really make their money consistently on the commission or “juice” that they charge each bettor on every wager that they make.
It’s important that they get action on both sides of the bet because that allows them to easily payoff bettors while collecting their commission.
Handicappers, who are also known as oddsmakers, are professionals who know a lot about sports betting and specific sports. Some sports handicappers specialize in the NFL, while others focus on college basketball and still others may devote their time to MLB or soccer.
These professionals develop the odds and lines for live betting websites. In order to do this accurately, they have to keep up to date on every aspect of the sport. One of the things you’ll notice about many oddsmakers is that they tend to be creatures of habit and often they are slow to change their minds about a team.
In other words, handicappers are often slow to acknowledge that a team that has performed poorly for years has made a major break through or to downgrade a club that is in decline. This is important for every sports bettor to remember when checking out lines and odds. You may be ahead of the curve on some developments and some oddsmakers may be behind you.
The fact is that stability in terms of odds and predictability when it comes to any team’s performance is what allows handicappers and sportsbooks to make cash. For this reason, handicappers are reluctant to acknowledge changing tides when it comes to a team or a sport because it may simply be a blip on the radar screen and not a lasting change.
How Accurate are the Odds?
Odds are as accurate as they can be. The fact is that every day in Major League Baseball, every week in the National Football League and every time a sport is played anywhere an upset can happen. If you follow the NFL, you know that often within one week 60% or more of the favored teams don’t beat the spread and 40% or more may lose outright.
The accuracy of odds is determined by numerous factors, including:
- The handicapper’s skills, knowledge and methods.
- Last minute injuries or other such factors.
- Coaching decisions.
- Each player’s individual performance and effort.
- Factors that are hard to evaluate, such as a team’s motivation, fan pressure, etc.
The other thing to remember about betting lines is they are not true odds in terms of who may win or lose. When playing the moneyline or fractional or decimal odds, you should realize that sportsbooks charge a bit more than they should for you to wager on the favorite and payoff less than they should on the underdog. This is how they make their commission.
How to Use Odds
Don’t follow odds blindly. Use them as a guideline and in doing so when you decide on which team you’re going to wager you should shop around and look for the best odds. Betting slips vary from sportsbook to sportsbook and if you do shop around, you can often find that one book will offer a better deal than all others on a specific game. Make the odds work for you.
Overall, sports wagering is a safe endeavor as long as you’re going with an established sportsbook. That’s the first rule of thumb in making sure you don’t get caught up in sportsbook scams. Register with a sportsbook or handicapper that has at the minimum a solid five-year record.
Here are five of the most common sports betting scams:
The Deposit Only Sportsbook
They won’t say they are a “deposit only” bookmaker but that’s how these folks work. They take your cash and your bets and when it’s time to payout… they don’t. They may go as far as to send you a real check that will bounce real high when you try to cash it. Make sure any in-play bookamker you signup with has a good record regarding payouts.
These are people who sell themselves as handicappers but really aren’t. They’ll even offer you two free picks to try out their service and both of those picks may actually hit. But these folks are really scam-dicappers. Here’s the way it works.
They offer picks on two games. For example, let’s say they offer two NFL picks. The picks are for the Jets versus Oakland and the Cowboys versus the Buccaneers. They rotate the choices for every four sports bettors.
Here’s the way it goes:
One of these bettors will be 2-0 and two others will be 1-1. One bettor will go 0-2. There’s a decent chance that the 2-0 person will purchase the pick service and the two who go 1-1 may stay interested. You buy into the service, which is really not a service at all.
Many legitimate services offer free picks. But you must make sure that whatever handicapper you decide to go with is a real service. Check how long the service has been around and also make sure they have a solid guarantee regarding their product.
The Hard Sell with Huge Bonuses
A new site is offering 25%, 50% or even 100% on signup bonuses. That’s unusual for a sportsbook. If they’re giving you a hard sell and promising large bonuses be careful. Again, some legit sites will offer decent bonuses. If the bookmaker has been around for numerous years and it has a good record, then the fact that they offer a bonus is icing on the cake. But new sites with big bonuses could be scams.
The Cold Call on Hot Bets
If you get a call from someone offering you hot picks, simply hang up. This is one of the biggest red lights you’ll ever see. Somehow they got your number and they may even know that you’re into sports betting. Don’t do business with anyone who calls you cold.
Sports Betting Systems
There’s a lot of debate surrounding schemes of all kinds especially those that are software based and that cost money. A lot of these systems make exorbitant claims that are just about superhuman. Winning 75%, 80%, 90% of your wagers is truly an amazing feat and many systems claim that they can do that. These systems may or may not work. Do your research, perhaps even try a test run but be careful. Many of the big name systems have garnered a lot of complaints.
Research is the Key
The key to making sure someone is legitimate is found in research. Scour the Internet for information on the site, service or software. Check out any complaints on independent monitoring websites and blogs. You can even post a question on many of them (like TwoPlusTwo and Casinomeister) about particular companies.
Never give any of you financial or personal information to anyone unless you are certain that they are for real. Beware of scam sportsbooks. If you’re going to lose your cash to a bookmaker do so through your picks and not by picking a bogus company with which to do business.
If you’re new to this, you may believe that this type of gambling is based on chance. Although there is chance involved in any type of wagering, you should participate in a skilled form of wagering that’s based on knowledge, research and analysis.
In this article we’re going to consider what’s required to get started. That means we’ll examine three major elements—sports knowledge, industry information and money management.
Successful sports bettors know sports inside out. First and foremost, they become an expert in one sport and then usually expand to other sports. They understand how the sport is played, all of the rules and strategy.
They also possess in-depth knowledge about the players, coaches, organizations, trades and much more. They keep up on daily developments in the sport and closely monitor any and all changes.
They eat, breathe, drink and live one particular sport.
Why do they do this? Because when it comes to wagering, the sports bettor wants any edge that they can get and usually that edge starts with knowledge. Sports betting is not about wagering on a hunch or a whim. Top-notch professional sports bettors do their homework.
You also have to know everything you possibly can about betting theory and strategy. Along with understanding odds, the various types of bets and payouts, you need solid knowledge regarding which bets offer the best value on your investment.
As an example, many novice bettors will play three, four and five-game parlays. A parlay payout looks inviting. A three-team parlay pays 6:1. That means for every dollar bet you make six if your parlay hits. An eight-team parlay pays 175:1 and a 10-team parlay results in a payout of 600:1!
But many parlays involve point spreads and this really skews the odds. The chances of hitting a three-team parlay are 7:1 and the chances of being right on a 10-team parlay are 1,023:1.
In order to win any parlay, every team you pick must win. If you’re wrong on one bet, you lose everything. Although the payouts are much better than the even odds you often get on a single bet, parlays are deceptively difficult to hit. There’s a lot more risk involved wagering on a parlay than when you bet on single games.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t play parlays or other such bets. Some professionals believe in them and have developed systems for improving your chances. However, whatever wagers you decide to make, you need to bet knowing the benefits and risks.
Too often those new to this will bring $100 to the table and expect to transform that $100 into $1,000 in one day. Can it be done? Sure it can. Would you need to be amazingly lucky to turn a profit like that? Yes, you would.
The size of your bankroll determines how much power you have as a bettor and how much profit you stand to make. It doesn’t mean you need to possess a huge bankroll to make money as a sports bettor, but you do need to bring realistic expectations to the table or you’ll walk away angry, disappointed and broke.
Money management involves wise decision-making, solid record keeping and vigilance. Treat your sports endeavors as you would a business and you’ll stand a much better chance of making a profit.
As you begin your journey, take some time to address each of the major elements—the sport, the industry and money management. Don’t wager in a vacuum. As with any other business, knowledge equals power and profit.
СТАТЬЯ «LIVE BETTING» — Прочая гемблинг литература
Last Modified on 6/19/2020
Which Are the Best Arbitrage Friendly Bookmakers
Both advanced and novice punters take advantage of arbitrage to increase their income through guaranteed profits. The problem is that many bookmakers are not fond of arbitrage and you face seeing limits on your or even closing of your betting account when you arbing.
Nonetheless, there are arbitrage friendly bookmakers that are also known as surebet bookmakers. Bookies that accept arbitrage include both leading world bookmakers and smaller market players. Another way to benefit from arbitrage betting is to use one of the existing betting exchanges that are neutral to arbing. We will look at how you can use arbitrage betting to maximize your profits and which are the leading software services for arbing.
Selecting an Arbitrage Bookmaker
When you are selecting a sportsbook to use for arbitrage betting there are a number of factors to consider.
- Reliability is the single most important factor.
- Look at the number of arbs.
- Check if the bookmaker puts limits on arbers.
- Select a bookmaker with the easiest verification process.
- Check deposit and withdrawal methods as well as available currencies.
After you have selected a bookmaker that matches the above criteria, you need to research if it is a soft or a sharp bookmaker. Arbitrage betting friendly bookmakers include all sharp bookmakers and virtually all betting exchanges. You can also take advantage of Asian bookies arbitrage as almost any Asian sportsbook is allowing arbitrage betting.
Sharp bookmakers will not put limits on your account or close it altogether. Bookies that allow arbitrage include services such as Pinnacle, Betfair Exchange, Ladbrokes Exchange, Matchbook, 188bet, SBObet, 12bet, Smarkets, Cmd368, Dafabet, and Ibcbe. They are all sharp bookies.
In contrast, a good number of popular betting services are soft bookmakers that will rarely or never allow you to make use of arbitrage betting. These include sportsbooks such as Betsson, Bwin, Coral, Ladbrokes, Marathonbet, Paddypower, Unibet and William Hill. Hence, you should avoid these bookmakers when arbitrage betting is concerned.
Best Bookies For Live Arbitrage
If you are using betting strategy that involves live arbitrage you consider registering with sportsbooks such as ComeOn!, The Greek or 10bet. All of them offer live betting options and good odds. You should bear in mind that live arbs are for advanced punters only, as odds are changing very fast. You should also consider using a software that scans live events and odds. On the other hand, live arbs limit the chance for a bookmaker to limit your account due to using arbitrage.
Reasons for Bookies to Allow Arbitrage
Why bookies that accept arbitrage are allowing arbitrage betting? As we said, sharp bookmakers operate in stark contrast as compared with a soft bookmaker. Any of the abovementioned bookies that allow arbitrage is profiting from low margins but a huge number of bets. This results in higher odds and lower risk for losses.
Surebet bookmakers apply an operating approach where the odds are adjusted automatically depending on total volume of bets placed by punters and in accordance with the amount of bets placed on a specific outcome for a sporting event. This way arbers also get the best possible value.
Betting exchanges have different motivation to act as bookies that allow arbitrage. When punters place a bet on a betting exchange they actually bet against other bettors and not against the sportsbook. The betting exchange is actually making profit by charging a commission on all winning bets and thus they do not care whether you are arbing or not.
Sportsbooks For Risky Arbing
Sportsbooks such as 1xBet, Melbet and Marathonbet offer you an opportunity for risky arbing. Risky arbing is not recommended for novice punters, as it requires very good understanding and exceptional knowledge of the respective bookmaker. It is advisable to try risky arbing strategies only after you are well aware of the respective sportbook and the arbing as a method.
Getting Advantage of Betting Exchanges
Betting exchanges are among the best sure bet bookmakers. As we said, they are profiting from charging commissions on winning bets and commissions might be in the range of up to 6 percent on your winning wagers. You are not being charged for each of your bets as with the other sportsbooks but you need to bear in mind what are their commission fees when calculating your profits.
Another reason for betting exchanges to be considered as best bookies for arbing is that in most of the time you get the best odds at them. The differences between the odds at a “normal” sportsbook and the odds at a betting exchange can be very significant.
Some of the best arbing bookies include betting exchanges such as Betfair Exchange, Betdaq, Ladbrokes Exchange, Matchbook as well as Smarkets. There are all reputable and reliable bookmakers where you can benefit from arbing.
Arbitrage Bookmakers for Novice Punters
Actually, you can start arbing at any sharp bookmaker of your choice or even at a soft bookmaker. Many experts believe that one of the arbitrage bookmakers beginners should start with is Pinnacle. It is a well-established sportsbook that is on the market since 1998 and operates in more than 100 countries all over the world. It is one the best book for arbing because you will not witness high stakes limits with them and they do not put limits on your betting account.
Another option to start arbitrage betting, once you know the basics of arbing, is to open an account with a betting exchange. A suggested betting exchange for novice punters is Betfair Exchange, which is quite a popular service among the punters across the globe and offers a reliable service.
If you are new to arbing and still learn how to combine bets at both soft sharp and soft sportsbooks, you can select among a number of bookies that are tolerant to arbers and do not put limits or rarely put limits on their betting accounts and maximums. These include Pinnacle and Sbobet as well as soft bookmakers such as William Hill.
Arbing at Soft Bookmakers
You can turn a soft bookmaker that does not like arbitrage into an arbitrage betting friendly bookmaker by using a few methods that usually work. If you are betting at a soft bookmaker and do not want to see limits on your account, you need to make sure that the sportsbook cannot detect you are arbing.
When arbing, you usually place odd wager amounts such as $104.32 or $650.45. Soft bookmakers are quite suspicious toward such bets and you need to avoid placing those bet amounts on a regular basis. Instead, make a bet worth $105 or $650, depending on the margin.
Another method to avoid being detected is to place a losing bet from time to time. When you are arbing and you start making significant profit at a soft bookmaker, just place a bet that is impossible to win. Making winning wagers all the time makes soft bookmakers nervous and you may witness limits on your account. When you lose even small amounts, you have greater chance to get unnoticed.
Arbing may require you to deposit and withdraw money quite often in order to move money between bookies. Avoid doing this as sportsbooks are being charged for completed transactions and might start scrutinizing your account if you move funds in and out too often.
Recommended Arbitrage Betting Friendly Bookmakers
You can bet that there is no single best arbitrage bookmaker as it depends also on factors such as available payment methods, supported currencies as well as the overall number of arbs. Professional punters have their preferred choice for best bookies for arbing.
As we said, arbitrage betting friendly bookmakers include services such as Pinnacle, Sbobet, Bwin and William Hil. You should add to list all the reputable betting exchanges like Betfair Exchange, Betdaq, Ladbrokes Exchange, Matchbook and Smarkets.
Punters can use any of these sportsbooks to combine bets on all outcomes of a single sporting event at different bookmaker and thus make a guaranteed profit. Finally, keep in mind that arbitrage betting is an advanced strategy and you might need to practice it through free betting account first if you are to become a professional arber.
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