All The Best UK Bookmakers (January 2020)

In here you can find an extensive list of all UK based Bookmakers by The Punters Page, as well as an extensive guide on everything you needed to know about bookmakers. This is constantly being updated with new bookmakers, promotion links and reviews!

You can also specifically view the latest bookmakers we have added.

 

Full List of All The Best UK Online Bookies

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What is a bookmaker?

In essence, there’s nothing complicated about the answer to the question of ‘what is a bookmaker?’ A bookmaker is a person or an organisation that is in the business of betting. Specifically, they accept bets based on agreed-upon odds and then pay off those bets if the outcome goes the way of the bettor.

Landing Page Ladbrokes Sportsbook - What is a Bookmaker

Bets are generally based upon sporting events but can be on practically everything. Other common things to bet on include political events or even the outcome of popular TV shows. Casinos are not necessarily considered bookmakers, although some do also accept money on sports, which would make them a bookmaker alongside a casino. It is believed that the first bookmaker stood in Newmarket in 1795.

Of course, this is just an overview. Today, bookmakers are billion-dollar businesses which provide a huge variety of betting markets, options and promotions, to give just a few examples. Most importantly of all though, their job is to provide odds for you to bet against.

If you’re going to have a better chance of beating the bookies in that prediction game, you’re going to need a deeper look into how they create a business which has created predictable profits despite the markets often being very hard to predict.

We always say that the key to smart betting is research and being as informed as possible. But this doesn’t just stop with the sports themselves. Only by knowing ‘what is a bookmaker’ and how they work can you know what makes a good bookmaker. This allows you to get better value for money and improve your chances of winning and winning more.

Our table above shows some examples of those which we consider amongst the very finest bookmakers in the UK market, and any of those are excellent choices. However, among equally great bookmakers, there will still be ones that are better for you and your individual needs. We’ve provided a selection of the best, and by diving deeper into what is a bookmaker, we hope you’ll be able to find what is the best of the best for you.

 

What do bookmakers do?

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When you sum up what is a bookmaker, it can sound like their job is very simple. In fact, a lot of people seem to think that their skills and efforts largely lie around collecting money.

However, that is far from the reality. Not only does a bookmaker have to contend with the hard to predict nature of sports (and other events) themselves, but they also have to do so in the most competitive market the betting world has ever seen.

That’s right, the move to online has been wonderful for the bettor but all that choice has meant that the bookmaker’s job has become ever more complex. To understand ‘what is a bookmaker’ in the modern day, we are going to be looking at all the things they do, so you can recognise when a bookmaker is or isn’t providing a quality service.

 

Brick and mortar experience

Horses on a Sprint - What is a Bookmaker

Before we move onto the more modern experience, we thought it was important to acknowledge that the brick and mortar bookmakers of old are still very much a part of the bookmaker’s job today. Sure, a lot has moved online but don’t forget that there are plenty of people, especially from an older generation, for whom a real-world shop is the only way they feel comfortable betting.

And of course, there’s also plenty of people who simply prefer that experience. Brick and mortar bookmakers are often more social, while online booking generally attracts more professional punters.  Most bookmakers with stores also have an online presence, and not only does this provide people with jobs and expand the scope of who can enjoy betting, but those stores also stand as a symbol of that bookmaker’s success and reputation. Not everyone can get to this level.

 

Online experience

Betfair Landing Page for Sports

We are, of course, going to talk more deeply about the different individual parts that make up an online bookmaker. However, it’s also worth looking at this as a whole because the amount of staff, money and effort that goes into making a quality online experience of any kind is absolutely staggering.

That’s why so many of the best online bookmakers have been around for so very long, in many instances that is how long it takes to get enough resources to compete in this ultra-competitive market.

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Promotions

Promos and Offers on William Hill - What is a Bookmaker

Speaking of that crazy level of competition, there’s perhaps no better example of the lengths a bookmaker will go to than promotions. Often people have the idea that the bonuses offered aren’t very good value. Sometimes that can be the case, but painting promotions in that way generally is far off the mark.

Bookmakers know that promotions, especially a welcome bonus, is often the first thing people look at when picking who to bet with. They have every incentive to make these promotions as good as they can possibly afford, and often do. In terms of figuring out what are good and bad promotions, the key is always in the terms and conditions. It’s there where you’ll be able to work out in practical terms which bonuses are worth your while.

 

Bookmakers Customer service

Support and Service on Betfair Sportsbook

For those of you who do wrongly imagine that a bookmaker’s job is an easy and simple one, consider just how complicated running a 24/7 live chat function must be. We know that not all bookmakers have this but think of it just as an example. You have to have a small army of trained, knowledgeable and friendly staff, as well as technology in place and procedures for all the different questions people may have.

On top of that, a lot of places have phone lines, e-mail responses and, of course, huge help guides to provide answers. The number of issues and questions that can arise in something as complicated as a bookmaker are endless and trying to keep on top of this is a mammoth task. That’s why we take good customer service so seriously in our assessment of what makes a good bookmaker.

 

A bookmaker's wide selection of sports

Different Sports Offered

This is probably among the most obvious things that a bookmaker provides but most people don’t really appreciate the extent of it.

Of course, a bookmaker provides a selection of sports to bet on and in the past, that probably was fairly straightforward. However, with the level of competition that is available today, not only do you need all the most popular sports but in order to appeal to a broader demographic, there’s also a huge amount of left field options to consider.

Big bookmakers will often cover, in huge detail, sports many people have never even heard of. On top of that, there’s the extent to which these sports are covered. It’s no longer enough to provide odds on the Premier League: the expectations are now across all divisions and all across the world.

When people ask, ‘what is a sports bookmaker’, a huge selection of sports is one of the first things they imagine. Of course, what is relevant to you depends on your tastes, but when you put all of that into perspective, it’s clear that to be among our best bookmakers out there, you need to excel even in what seems like the simplest of areas.

 

A huge array of betting markets

Betting Markets - What is a Bookmaker

And it’s not just the number of sports either. The number of betting markets available in good bookmakers is also staggering. Far from just having to predict what team is going to win a game, you now have options to bet on everything from the amount of goals scored to whether a player will be sent off the field.

That’s just a couple of the simpler examples too. Betting markets can be as complicated or as simple as you want them to be and that’s one of online betting’s greatest strengths. It can be tailor-made exactly to how you like to bet and to where your strengths are, and if a bookmaker doesn’t offer that, then you should look elsewhere.

 

Other markets

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Even when you consider all the sports and all the markets that are available, the betting options do not end there. There are also all the additional markets to consider. These include virtual sports, e-sports and even betting on non-sporting events like politics. The latter is something that hasn’t changed since the move to online. A bookmaker’s job still extends beyond the sporting world, on occasion. However, today, there are so many more hats for them to wear.

 

Live streaming and coverage

Live Matches & Streams

One of the most impressive things about the modern bookmaker is their ability to follow live sports. The ultimate example of this is live streaming, where you can watch the sports as you bet. Although this has been around for a while, this technology and the amount of effort that goes into it still astounds us.

Of course, not every bookmaker can do this. For many, it is simply beyond their capacity and often there are licensing issues. Thankfully though, there are tons of other ways bookmakers can cover live sports. Often, they provide graphics which follow and update alongside the action. Some even provide news pieces, statistics, tables and tips to help you bet smarter. We’ve even found some with their own commentary.

All of this shows us bookmakers are going the extra mile, whether or not they can manage live streaming.

 

Casino options

Casino Offers at Bet365 - What is a Bookmaker

While this doesn’t technically fall under their bookmaker duties, it is important to note that many bookmakers now also provide casino options.

In fact, some of them will be more than capable of competing with the very best casinos in the world. They can also provide extensive options for things like poker and bingo, alongside others. Each of these is a hugely complicated business in itself and really opens up the sheer amount of work that goes into making many of those household names what they are.

How much this is of interest to you is, once again, down to what you are looking for. Many bookmakers don’t have casino options, and for plenty of people, that’s just fine. We hope though this perspective helps you see just how enormous the job of the bookmaker is.

 

Mobile

Mobile Gaming at Betway

Consider just how massive these sites actually are with all the elements we’ve discussed and then imagine the complexity of getting all that onto a mobile device. Well, that is often what it takes to compete as a top bookmaker. A solid mobile site or betting app is a must for many, with the best providing next to no loss of experience from the site shrinkage.

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Odds

Odds on Football Matches - What is a Bookmaker

Perhaps the most important thing that a bookmaker offers is the one at its very core: odds. Bookmakers offer odds on the likelihood of an outcome. That is at the absolute fundamental level of what is a bookmaker.

We mentioned at the beginning of this article that part of the complexity of a bookmaker is being able to maintain a profit while essentially, just as the bettor is, taking a gamble on the outcome of a sports event. Ultimately, the relationship between the bookmaker and the bettor sees each make predictions. And of course, those predictions could be right or wrong.

However, what separates the bookmaker – and what means they consistently make money – is something called an overround. This is also known as the bookmaker’s edge or margin.

The way it works is simple. Say you have two outcomes on an event. Logically, when you convert the odds to percentages, it should come out to 100%, because there is a 100% chance of either of those things happening. However, when using a bookmaker, it will come out as slightly more than 100%, and that extra return is how they consistently make a profit and stay in business.

The simplest example of this would be a coin toss. There are two outcomes, each with a 50% chance of winning. The bookmaker, naturally, gives them even odds. Let’s say the amount bet on either outcome is £100. If one person bets £50 on heads, and another bets £50 on tails, then the bookmaker would give out all of the stakes at the end of the bet, leaving the bookmaker with nothing.

To make a profit, the odds must therefore be changed so that the outgoings are lowered. Let’s say the odds are lowered to 1.90. In this scenario, the bookmaker would give out £90, meaning they receive a £10 profit. That profit is the result of the overround. This is a really simple example and, of course, the way bookmakers work with all the markets and outcomes they have to consider is much more complicated. But this is essentially the principle on which the profit of bookmakers is built.

What is a reasonable overround is a matter of some debate, but generally speaking, less than 110% is considered decent. Main bookmakers also tend to offer 105% or less on top leagues because these markets are so competitive

Many people wrongly think the overround is proof that the betting system is unfair. However, that is far from the truth. Without that overround, as we can see, bookmakers would find it impossible to run a profit. That profit allows for all that technology, customer service and innovation. You should absolutely look for the best odds you can, and we will only recommend bookmakers where that is the case. However, a small overround is the price we pay for having the incredible betting scene we currently enjoy.

 

What makes a bookmaker trustworthy?

Licences and Securities

There is perhaps no more important positive attribute for a bookmaker than trustworthiness. Ultimately, without that, nothing else a bookmaker does is worth very much. This is a place where you will be placing your hard-earned cash, after all, so anything less than complete confidence will simply not cut it.

Luckily, in the United Kingdom, we have plenty of ways to assess trustworthiness. First up, there’s licencing. Any bookmaker you use needs to be properly licensed, whether that be from the UK Gambling Commission or through any other reputable governing body. This means that the bookmaker is operating within the law and is the absolute minimum anyone should expect.

Another hugely important factor is encryption. This is how your sensitive financial and personal data is kept safe over the internet and is an absolute must for any decent betting site. Speaking of data, there’s also the matter of privacy policy. The law means this is kept strict in the UK and any site with a license shouldn’t cause you much of a concern. Nonetheless, all sites should have their privacy policy available in full for you to check out and see if you approve of how they use your data before you sign up.

Next up, there’s their commitment to responsible gaming. Once again, this is taken very seriously in the United Kingdom. There should be plenty of information on this subject, alongside many options to help those who think they have an issue. But they should also ideally provide options to practically help people. This includes providing deposit limits, time outs and self-exclusions.

Finally, on a more general level, there’s trust in the quality of the product. This means that the site has a reputation for providing a quality service across the board, like fair terms and conditions for its promotions, a site which functions properly and a helpful customer service team that responds promptly.

Remember that in this day and age, the amount of options available for players in the UK and elsewhere is vast. That means that you don’t have to put up with anything less than the absolute best in every respect we have discussed, and especially not when it comes to trust.

 

A history of UK bookmakers

They say you can’t understand the present if you do not know your history. Well, we decided to give a little bit of context to our examination of what is a bookmaker with a brief look at the history of bookmakers in the UK. This is an especially relevant market for this subject because as we mentioned earlier, the first bookmaker was recorded in 1785.

The owner of that bookmaker was a man named Harry Ogden and he operated his business from Newmarket Heath Racetrack. For those who know anything about gambling in the UK, it should come as little surprise that it all began on a racetrack.

Of course, gambling has routes far before this point. Earlier versions of betting games, like Keno, were found in ancient China. However, this is what most people consider to be the first version of what, from a modern lens, would recognisably be considered a bookmaker. Importantly, Ogden had studied and provided odds for each horse: an innovation which would pave the way for the huge amount of betting markets we enjoy today.

 

Betting legislation in the UK

Legally, the next big move was the Gaming Act of 1845. The two most important elements of this were that gambling was restricted to the racetrack and wagers were now considered contracts. Refusing to pay out was now punishable by jail, meaning that bookies had to keep up their end of the bargain.

However, gambling couldn’t be contained by the racetrack and by the mid-20th century, what we now know as brick and mortar bookies began to become commonplace. Just as important as the change in location was the change of betting parameters. Bettors weren’t restricted to the racetrack physically or in terms of their betting options. You could now bet on all kinds of sports with the likes of football and cricket proving especially popular. This built and built until there was barely a town left without a bookmaker and the only place left to go was online.

The 2005 Gambling Act was brought in amongst the gambling revolution and ensured that licencing was compulsory, set out rules and regulations: something that was vital to the online market where it seemed like anyone could set up shop. Today, online betting is the dominant force in the UK and indeed the international betting scene. This means that you can bet from the comfort of your own home and with more options than could once ever have been imagined, and thanks to the strict standards in the UK, you can do so with confidence that the bookmakers you are using are both trustworthy and legitimate.

The main controversies in the United Kingdom at the moment generally centres around whether bookmakers are doing enough to help the small percentage of problem gamblers. This is why that with any good online bookmaker, you’ll find a huge amount of support, just as we discussed in our section regarding trustworthiness. Right now, the United Kingdom is a great place to bet, both in terms of safety and the number of options available.

 

FAQs

Here’s a quick rundown of what we consider some of the most important answers to the question of what is a bookmaker;

  1. What does a bookmaker do?

The main thing a bookmaker does is provide odds on an event and pays off bets. However, your modern bookmaker often runs shops, websites, provides around the clock customer services, organises and delivers on promotions and has a huge amount of sports and betting markets to choose from. They also have responsibilities regarding licensing, encryption and responsible gaming, to give but a few examples.

  1. Is a casino a bookmaker?

While a casino can be a bookmaker – and many are – a casino is not necessarily a bookmaker unless they offer odds on sports and other events.

  1. What is an overround?

This is the margin the bookmaker has in order to make a profit. To work out the overround, add together the percentages of the odds of every possible outcome. So, for instance, in a football game, this would be the odds percentage of each team’s chance of winning, and the possibility of a draw. The number above 100% is the overround.

  1. Why is there an overround?

Although some may be resentful of the overround, it is hard to imagine any traditional bookmaker being able to stay in business without it. So, to put it simply, the overround is how the bookmaker makes a profit and provides all the things we’ve discussed in this article.

  1. Are some bookmakers objectively better than others?

Yes, for example. If one bookmaker lacks a license, it is objectively worse than another. However, many bookmakers are excellent but simply have different target audiences. So, one bookmaker may be better for you than another, although objectively they are both very good. Our job is to guide you towards the selection of excellent bookmakers, so you can then decide which amongst them is right for you.

 

Conclusion

A bookmaker is both simple and complex. Ultimately, what is a bookmaker has remained the same for centuries. They provide odds on events, and you can bet on them. However, that has today morphed into a hugely complicated billion-dollar industry.

We’ve discussed at length all the things a bookmaker in today’s market does, and we’d only be repeating ourselves here. However, what we would say in summary is that the market is now so vast and varied that as long as the core of what you are looking for remains connected to the basic premise of a bookmaker, then it can be almost anything you want it to be. If you can imagine some sport, some market to bet on, you can likely find it. And that’s the magic of online bookmakers in the modern world.

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