If you’re looking to place a few bets online, then you’re going to need an online betting site. In the old days, to put a bet on the football you had to traipse down to the local bookies (usually in the rain) and accept whatever odds they were offering.
The online bookmakers changed this – and you can now not only bet from the comfort of your own home (or from the pub), but you have a healthy number of options to choose from. This availability and accessibility of the online betting sites created a new level of competition between the bookies – the end result being better odds, more promotions and lots of lovely free bets.
The table below lists recommended betting sites that are aimed at the UK market – meaning they accept UK customers, offer promotions to UK punters, wager in GBP and most importantly, have markets in British sports. Some names you will probably recognise from the high street or from sports sponsorship deals, whilst others may be completely new to you. Included in the mix are the traditional bookmakers, the new breed of online-only betting sites as well as the occasional betting exchange.
List of UK Betting Sites
|Betting Site||Best Feature||Min Deposit*||Review||Visit|
|Deposit & withdraw in cash using 'Coral Connect'||£5||Review||
T&Cs apply. 18+.
|Tons of regular promotions||£20||Review||
T&Cs apply. 18+.
|Weekly free bet plus loyalty points on your bets||£5||Review||
T&Cs apply. 18+.
* Minimum deposit listed is for debit cards, other payment methods may have higher deposit amounts.
Bookmakers in the UK
The emergence of online betting has not only revolutionised the way we, as punters, place bets, but also the way that bookmakers need to operate.
What’s been interesting to see over the years is just how much online betting has changed since its conception. Like all things, bookmakers have been forced to evolve online, with one of the biggest elements being that of mobile betting.
This has brought several new challenges that have needed to be overcome. One of the more high-profile issues at the minute is targeting problem gambling, since people can now place a bet from anywhere and at any time from their mobiles. Bookmakers are now able and expected to assist people who may be in need of outside help.
Licensing & Gambling Law
Before the Gaming Act in 2005, the laws that were in place for online and high street bookmakers simply weren’t relevant any more. The previous act was passed in 1968, and whilst there had been a few tweaks along the way, an act that was written before the days of the internet clearly wasn’t going to be relevant.
One of the key points that was made in the 2005 act was that all bookmakers needed to be fully licensed to operate within certain jurisdictions. In the UK, this policing of this license fell to the UK Gambling Commission. It’s their role to make sure that bookmakers who are either based in the UK or who are targeting the UK market need to adhere to proper terms. These terms have been derived to make sure that both players their money are dealt with safely and fairly.
It’s a pretty simple process in that if a bookie isn’t able to secure a license then they aren’t allowed to legally operate. As a punter you can jump onto the UK Gambling Commission’s website and search for a bookmaker if you are unsure of them. This will highlight if they have a license and also give a little more info about where they might be based or who they are working with (groups etc.).
No one likes that word, especially not big businesses. Some pay a lot more than others when it comes to tax, but each will be paying at least the minimum required based on where they are situated. A little bit of research into where each bookmaker is officially based (check out our reviews) will highlight one glaringly obvious point; most of their registered offices are located in tax havens.
This isn’t a coincidence. A lot are based in Malta, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and other places all around the world that allow them to pay very little tax on their profits. It was BetVictor (previously Victor Chandler) who took the leap in 1998 and uprooted to Gibraltar, as they had a lot of custom from high powered businessmen from around the world.
This prompted a change in policy from the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who abolished tax on winnings and instead charged companies a minimum of 15% if they were targeting players within the UK, regardless of where they were based. If they failed to pay this tax, then they would simply have their license removed.
Whilst bookies who had already moved abroad weren’t best pleased, their market base in the UK suggested that paying this comparatively low rate of tax was still going to be financially beneficial.
Something that went relatively unnoticed in the mainstream media was a ‘free bet tax’ that was added to the bookies tax bill as well. Previously, bookmakers were able to offer up free bets and money to entice punters to use their bookmaker, and this money wasn’t actually taxable as it was seen as a gift. However, a 15% general betting duty has now been added to this to go along with the 15% point of consumption tax mentioned above.
This law came into effect on the 1st of August 2017, and whilst you may not have noticed many big changes, a lot of bookmakers tweaked their welcome offers to reflect this new tax.
Transition From the High Street to Online
One of the biggest impacts of online betting has been the demise of high street betting. The number of high street bookies operating as of September 2017 is 8,502, a 3.9% decrease from just 6 months previous in March 2017. To put that into perspective, that’s almost 350 stores gone in just 6 months.
However, the high street is far from dead. There are still over 8,500 betting shops in the UK alone, and whilst this number is slowly reducing, there is still plenty of demand. Bookmakers have been forced to get smart about how they work and how they integrate their high street stores and their online operations. There aren’t all that many bookies still operating high street stores, but the likes of Betfred, Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill are the main players.
Linking online betting accounts to high street stores has been vital. Coral have been at the forefront of this, introducing their Coral Connect card, which is essentially like having a single account to bet from both online and in-store. You simply load your account up, either log in via the app or online, or visit the store and hand your card over. In this way, you are able to track bets placed in-store from your online account and vice versa. It hammers home a bit of brand loyalty and punters who are able to link the two, and there are still plenty of them about, have been lapping up this innovative idea.
Unfortunately, this need for businesses to evolve in order to survive isn’t specific to the betting industry, the high street is a ruthless place for all companies these days, especially with the trend of of out-of-town shopping districts and retail parks popping up.
One of the saddest examples of big business not keeping up with the times is Blockbuster. Back in the nineties the company were one of the most prominent and popular on our high streets. The renting of movies and games was revolutionary and the fun of hunting the shelves for the perfect Saturday night movie is something that most people of that generation will remember. Then the birth of online equivalents such as Netflix and Redbox offered better value with less hassle, and Blockbuster failed to keep up.
They have gone from 9,054 stores worldwide in 2004 to just 9 in 2018. In an ironic twist, Blockbuster turned down a pitch from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings when he first pitched his idea, and the Netflix CEO is now worth $2.3billion.
Jumping back to the betting industry, it highlights how quickly things can change. Change is definitely happening but with ideas like Coral Connect, at least the betting companies are trying to adjust and bring betting into to the 21st century.
Mergers & Acquisitions
Mergers and acquisitions have always played a huge role in business. The betting industry is no different, but over the last 5 years or so these instances have definitely seen a sharp increase.
One of the main reasons behind this is that companies are trying to become more competitive. The industry is so saturated that a lot of companies have a relatively small piece of the pie, aside from a couple of the giants. A lot of the middle of the road bookies have decided that in order to compete and grow they need to merge and move forward as one.
After all, one company with 20% of the market share is going to be much stronger than two companies who have 10% each.
There have been two key mergers in recent times that really made headlines:
The merger of Coral and Ladbrokes was the biggest deal ever at the time, worth a reported £2.3billion. The company were actually forced to sell off around 400 betting shops by the Competition and Markets Authority in order for the sale to go ahead, because if they kept them they would have too big a market share.
Since then, a company called GVC Holdings has purchased the company for £4billion, completing the deal in December 2017. Many of you won’t know an awful lot about them, but they’ve been in the industry in some form since around 2004 and are based out of Luxembourg.
The deal won’t change an awful lot in terms of the size of the bookmaker, in that they will still be the biggest in the world, but it will likely prompt the likes of William Hill to act. They were rumoured to have been trying to broker a deal with 888 Holdings in recent years, but we understand talks have broken down.
What Does This Mean for us Punters?
Well, likely very little. The brands are still operating individually for the time being, so if you went onto the Coral website it’s the Coral branding you would see, and the same goes for Ladbrokes.
Considering of the size and the long standing reputations of the larger brands in question, the naming for each of them is likely going to remain the same. Your withdrawal references to your bank might state Ladbrokes Coral, but that’s probably the only impact it will have on you.
How big are the Bookies in the Grand Scheme of Things?
When you are consumed by the gambling industry, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that these are just regular companies in a slightly irregular industry. All companies work in the same way, in that they need to keep up to date with what consumers want and they need to make money doing it.
So, just how do these now ‘mega’ bookies stack up to other non gambling brands?
Well, the biggest company in the world is reportedly that of Walmart, who are worth a staggering £358.8bn. Given that Ladbrokes Coral were worth around £3.5bn at last count, it’s clear they are some way off the top spot. For context, the biggest company in the UK is BP, with a market cap of just over £100bn.
So a relative minnow in some respects then? Well yes maybe, but a holdings company named GVC has just completed the acquisition of Ladbrokes Coral, so in the future, who knows?