Best Online Bookies: The UK’s Top Bookmakers
At the time of writing, there are 962 “betting” businesses licensed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). These are distinct from other gambling sites and businesses that may be listed as arcades, bingo, lotteries or casino firms, and certain other categories of gambling. So, whilst some of these might not strictly be bookies, we can still be sure that punters in the UK have a huge range of options when it comes to picking an online betting site or bookmaker.
Best Online Bookmakers June, 2023
- Excellent racing features
- Strong average odds
- Fast & easy to use site
BetVictor are one of our favourite bookmakers in the UK. They used to have a physical presence on the high street and at racecourses, but in recent years they've shifted all of their focus online. And by doing so they've managed to create a product that's smooth, fast and easy to use. So much so that we'd go so far as to say that it's one of the best sites currently available.
When it comes to betting, BetVictor offer good odds, a wide range of markets and plenty of features. As you would expect, the bigger sports such as football and racing tend to take center stage, but they cover everything from snooker through to netball.
Our only real criticism is that they can be slightly lacking in the volume of promotions on offer compared to some of their rivals, but what they do have is generally well done.
What Makes One Bookie Different from Another?
With hundreds of bookies to choose from, how can you choose between them? What makes one bookie different from another and what are the key things you should look for? In this article, we will take a look at some of the main factors that separate the best bookies in the business from the rest. We’ll look at obvious things, such as the odds, the range of available markets, the welcome offers and the usability of the site, as well as some less apparent factors, such as ongoing promotions for existing customers and extra features such as live streaming.
Sports, Markets & Events
One of the most important things to look at is the sports and markets a bookie offers. In reality, the vast majority of punters tend to place bets on a few main sports and markets. Football and horse racing are by some distance the biggest sports in terms of betting, with the next-biggest all being mainstream sports, such as tennis, rugby, golf, cricket, greyhound racing and, increasingly, the major US sports. Within these, most punters tend to make most of their bets on core markets, such as the outright winner for tournaments, games, matches and races, as well as a handful of others.
Given this, the sports and markets a site offers are perhaps not a huge factor for a great many punters because all of these betting options will be offered by any bookie worth its salt. You’ll struggle to find a UK bookmaker who doesn’t offer odds on who will win the Champions League, the next big horse race or Wimbledon, or even who will prevail in a League Two clash between Crewe and Tranmere, a small race at Wetherby on a Tuesday afternoon or low-key ATP 250 event in tennis.
However, if your betting tastes are more niche, either in terms of sports, events and the level of the sport (perhaps you want to bet on reserve or youth football), or markets, which site you choose will be crucial. Bookies are always trying to outdo each other and come up with new markets and it may be that the bet you like is only offered at certain sites. Making sure that the bookmaker you use offers the bets you want to make is an obvious (yet crucial) starting point when it comes to picking a bookie.
Bet Builders & Request-A-Bet
Related to this point is whether or not a site offers a BetBuilder tool or some form of facility that allows customers to request odds for something out of the ordinary (often called Request-a-Bet or similar). Both of these facilities allow you to make unusual bets and they have become very popular in recent years, though not all bookies offer them.
The former is better because if you have to request a bet it is a process that is dealt with manually, so is slower and, moreover, there is every chance the bookmaker may not be able to offer you odds anyway. Betbuilders are a tool most commonly offered with football but becoming more common for other sports too. They allow punters to combine a wide number of selections from the same game into one big bet and can deliver huge wins from small stakes due to the massive odds.
You might, for example, pick a game and predict how many goals there will be, how many corners, the number of bookings, a named player to be booked, another player to score, and a third player to have at least two shots on target. Wagers like this have really grown in popularity and so if you like the sound of this it is important your bookie of choice permits such bets.
Jackpot Bets & Games
Whilst BetBuilders can offer big paydays, some sites have jackpot-type markets and prediction games that can offer even bigger wins. These are not part of a bookie’s standard offering and are certainly not available at all bookies. Normally, they relate to football and involve picking the correct score in a number of games or something similar. There are also horse racing versions, including bets such as the tote Jackpot, though this last option is fairly widely available.
The big tote bets aside, these are not really “normal” markets. Really, such jackpot and prediction games are more of an additional feature than a standard market. But even so, if this is the sort of thing you enjoy, it pays to check whether or not a site offers them.
Odds, Margins & Terms
For most people, in a normal shopping situation, price is one of the most important factors, if not the most crucial one. You might pay a little more to buy something if you really value the shop, the staff are friendly and they can give a lot of advice and support but more often than not, if you can get the same item cheaper elsewhere, that is where you will go.
For a lot of punters, it is the same when it comes to bets. If one bookmaker is offering both teams to score (BTTS) at evens and another is offering it at 19/20 on the same game, there could be reasons you would take the shorter odds but all things being equal you almost certainly wouldn’t. Odds are not everything but they are certainly very important if you are serious about your betting.
Do Odds Vary by Much & Why Are They Different?
As a general rule across all selections and markets, especially if we confine ourselves only to the best UK bookies, there will not be a huge difference between the odds. By this we mean that, looking only at betting sites we rate highly, there will not be one that is, across the board, significantly better than another.
However, when we look at a single, specific bet, for example, Tiger Woods to lead the Masters after 18 holes, Leicester to score the first try against Bath, or perhaps Mad Mike to win the 2.07 greyhound race at Romford, things might be different. In this instance, the difference between the very best odds and the very worst might be sizeable, especially if we expand our comparison to cover a wide range of bookies, including ones outside the crème de la crème.
In this scenario, we might see a difference of 30%, perhaps, which can make a big difference to overall outcomes. If you bet with small stakes and/or infrequently, even that won’t be a huge amount in financial terms. However, if you bet regularly, or bet a decent amount, 30% could equate to a really big difference.
Bookies may offer differing prices for a range of reasons. They may simply disagree, with one bookie, for example, thinking one fighter will win a boxing bout and another favouring the other pugilist. In this instance, the boxers may be priced at 11/10 and 10/11 with one firm and 10/11 and 11/10 with the other (in both cases with the draw around 12/1). In decimal terms this means the difference between the worst odds, 1.91, and the best, 2.10, is substantial.
Alternatively such differences may arise because one bookmaker has been deluged with bets on a certain selection. Sticking with the boxing match, they may have initially priced both fighters at 10/11 and expected to receive broadly similar stakes on both. However, if, for whatever reason, rather than around 50% of stakes coming in for each fighter, the split is more like 70% to 30%, they will be forced to lower the odds on whoever attracted the greater stakes. By doing this they avoid accumulating too great a liability on one fighter.
Some of the difference between odds could also be down to the simple fact that different bookmakers may have different margins, either in general or on a specific sport or event. In general better, more efficient bookies, who are confident in their prices, can operate on tighter margins and thus have bigger odds. Alternatively it may be that the bookie has decided they want to attract customers and gain publicity for a big event, such as horse racing’s massive annual event, the Cheltenham Festival. As such they may be very aggressive and risk only very small margins, feeling that even if they lose it will be a valuable marketing tool and will attract plenty of new customers.
Basic Terms of the Bet
As well as the odds, it is important to make sure the bet is exactly the same. When we mentioned “terms” above we did not mean in the sense of complex terms and conditions, but rather the basic terms of the bet. The most obvious example comes with each way betting, where different sites may offer differing numbers of places.
On big horse races and many prestigious golf tournaments, bookies go beyond the regular number of each way places. If you can get paid for a player finishing seventh, eighth or even as far down as 10th in a golf tournament, this is clearly better than a bookie who may offer the same odds but only pays for six places.
Another thing to consider is what offers and promotions a bookie has for a market. Once again, it is important to check the odds but also what else the bet might offer. Some sites, for example, might have a special offer that gives you money back or a free bet if your horse finishes second, your golfer loses to a named favourite, or your football bet loses but there is a red card in the game.
There are all sorts of promotions like this to consider and some bookies are certainly better than others in his regard. Racing fans, for example, who like ante post bets, would be well advised to only make their wagers with a site that offers Non-Runner No Bet – meaning money back (either as cash or a free bet) if your horse doesn’t race.
Best Odds Guaranteed – BOG
One offer that you should certainly look out for if you are a racing fan is Best Odds Guaranteed, unappetisingly known as BOG. This began as a special offer that only the best racing bookies offered, then over time it became very much the norm, almost to the point that it was barely viewed as a promotion at all.
If a bookie offers BOG then you do not need to worry about taking the early price or hoping for a better starting price (SP). Just take the early price and bookies who boast Best Odds Guaranteed will still pay out at the starting price if it proves higher, meaning you can’t fail but get the best possible odds. However, whilst BOG was for a while very, very widespread, in recent times we have seen something of a reversal of that.
Some betting sites are no longer offering it on all UK and Irish races, as well as certain big contests from further afield. Instead it is on select races or meetings only at some online bookmakers. This means that this is potentially one huge difference between bookmakers and anyone who bets on the horses even occasionally should try and make sure their site has BOG as standard, or certainly on whichever race they are betting on. Bet £10 on a horse at 8/1, for example, and if it drifts to 12/1 but your bookies doesn’t offer BOG, you’ll have missed out on a tidy £40.
Offers – New & Existing Customers
In wider terms, offers, promotions and free bets are certainly a big part of what makes one bookmaker different from another. The first thing many prospective customers look at when deciding to join a new bookie is what welcome offer they have. The worst might be as little as £5 or £10, or perhaps might need a qualifying bet that is quite restrictive, such as placing a £20 fourfold acca. Some bookmakers only grant you a free bet if your initial bet loses too.
In contrast to these welcome offers that sit at the lower end of the spectrum, there are many big, reputable bookies that offer very generous welcome packages. You might get £20 of free bets for just £5 qualifying stake, the total bonus might be worth £100 or more, or there are some great deals where you get £60 or even £70 of freebies (often a mix of free bets and casino credit) for just a £10 bet.
However, important as the first offer is, if you will be making a lot of bets over many months or years then it may pay to select a bookie that is generous not just in the first instance, but more regularly. As in other businesses, some betting sites will try and attract new customers with a very good deal but then do not reward loyal customers who stick with them. At the same time, there are other firms in the wider world, and more specifically bookies, who may not offer the very best deal or freebie initially, but then have lots available to existing customers.
There is a very wide range of promotions that existing customers may be able to claim, including some we have already mentioned. In addition, you may receive ad hoc free bets for big events, money back deals, loyalty and reward schemes, generous competitions, insurance (especially on accas), odds boosts and more. If used wisely and indeed widely, such promos can add some serious extra value to your bets and, over time, make a real difference to your betting balance.
Cash out has been around for a fair while now and is often marketed as a punter-favourable tool. We won’t go into too much detail about the pros and cons of cash out here as that is worthy of an article in its own right. However, before you rush to take a cash out offer we would always suggest you consider if it offers much value. Essentially, cashing out is just like placing another bet and, as with any bet, the bookie factors in a margin for themselves, meaning that when punters take cash out the bookmaker effectively gets paid twice.
Our other issue with cash out is that it gives us punters another thing to think about and worry about. Choice is often a good thing but life can be simpler when it isn’t there and in the past you simply made a bet and sat back and waited for it to unfold. Now you are faced with that secondary quandary of whether or not to cash out and if so, when. If you are anything like us, whatever decision you make often turns out to be wrong!
All that said, many punters love cash out and there is certainly a great joy in cashing out for a big win only to see the bet lose at the last minute thanks to a late goal or a final-furlong surge by a horse that looked beaten. If you do like cash out, or at least want to have the option of using it, you should choose your bookie wisely.
Whilst almost all of the great online bookmakers that we work with offer cash back, some sites do it far better than others. Ideally cash out should be available on a wide range of sports and markets. In addition, it should be offered at any time, with no loss on bets that are cashed out before the game has begun (unless there has been a price change). The site’s tool should also be quick and easy to use and partial cash out should also be an option. What some bookies have is very different to what the best in the business boast and so if you are a fan of this facility it is certainly something worth paying attention to.
Live betting, also known as in-play betting, has been around for a long time now and is hugely popular. Traditionally, bets were always placed in advance of a match, race or tournament but with live betting, as the name suggests, you can watch the event live and place your bets whilst it is taking place. Over the past decade or so it has really grown, partly alongside the explosion of mobile betting.
This is great for a number of reasons and now a very large proportion of wagers that a bookie accepts are in-play. This means you can watch a game, be it football, rugby, cricket or anything else and get a feel for the match before committing to a wager. In addition, should your bet lose, you have the option of placing another, whilst the same applies if your punt is a winner.
You might, for example, make a bet on over 2.5 goals in the big game, only to see an amazing start where it is 2-1 after just 15 minutes. Normally that would be your bet over and whilst it won, it would be an end to your fun from a betting perspective. With in-play you could simply make another bet on the game – perhaps it to finish 3-3, over 4.5 goals or something else entirely.
As with cash out, to which in-play betting is linked in one sense, different bookies offer live betting to varying extents. Some specialise in it and have made it a key part of their offering (and advertising, via everyone’s favourite pseudo-East End gangster). Sites like these will offer hundreds of markets in-play on almost all of the games they offer. In contrast other bookies, often smaller, newer ones, may only offer live betting on the biggest games and the most popular markets.
Live streaming is, as with much we have mentioned, available at more and more online betting sites. Modern life is lived more and more online, with our phones, tablets and laptops never far from reach. With the preponderance of ever-more powerful devices and internet speeds that are increasing at a similar rate, live streaming has become more and more popular.
Bookies now offer live streams of a whole host of sports through their website and this is a brilliant facility for punters who love to watch the events they have had a bet on. Whether it is a horse or dog race on a Tuesday afternoon, a handball match from central Europe, a minor tennis, darts or snooker tournament, or even sometimes a fairly major game of football, live streaming gives punters access to matches and events they might not otherwise be able to watch on TV.
Bookmakers that specialise in live streaming will have dedicated areas of their site for this, detailing all the upcoming events. This means you can even plan your bets around what will be available to watch and these streams work well on tablets and phones as well as larger devices. The best bookies for streaming offer loads of sports and events, with the likes of tennis, horse racing, football, basketball, snooker and more all regularly on offer.
What’s more, many such streaming services are free! These days everyone has about 12 (okay, maybe three) online subscriptions with streaming services and the charges can add up. However, with many bookies access to these streams will not be charged, though you may have had to either have a bet placed on the event in question or at the very least have funds in your account with the bookmaker.
Website & App
Whilst all of the above are hugely important, underpinning all of these things is the website (or app) itself. Great features, odds, freebies and tools are useless if the site is so bad that you can’t physically use them or so slow and buggy that you can’t even bring yourself to try. Whilst many sites promote themselves on the strength of their odds or the offers they have, punters tend to use a site they just like the feel of because it works.
Having a quick, responsive, intuitive site that is easy to navigate and rarely goes down counts for so much. Whilst there is a degree of subjectivity to this, especially in terms of appearance but also with regards to functionality, on the whole, there are lots of things that we can all agree make for a slick, appealing site.
Having sports and markets that are easy to locate, with different search and filter options helps, as does a site that is not too cluttered or too colourful. Buttons and links should take you where they say they will, not round in circles or to the dreaded 404 error page. The website should load quickly and not use tons of data, whilst it should be simple to make a bet but not so simple that you can make one without meaning to. When it comes to free bets it should be easy to claim them and easy to use them, with access to terms and conditions readily available and nothing to catch you out. Not a lot to ask for, right?
App or Mobile Site?
When it comes to the usability of the bookmaker’s website, all this must be just as good whether you are using a mobile device or anything else for access. Betting newbies often question whether they should download a site’s app and we would say it doesn’t make all that much difference. If you intend to regularly use a site on your mobile or tablet then the app may offer a little more speed and ease.
However, if you are short on storage on your phone, or just prefer to use a wide range of different bookies and don’t want to have 15 betting apps on your phone, the mobile-optimised version (which loads automatically) of a bookmaker will do just fine. As a general rule, the mobile version of the site may offer a little more in terms of functionality and features, but the app will be quicker and easier to use whilst still enabling you to do 99% of what the full website does.
Depositing & Withdrawing
In some regards, the deposit and withdrawal options and performance of a site are the number one most important thing. After all, a bookie is not much use if you can’t fund your account and even less use if you can’t get your winnings out.
All the online bookies we feature are licensed and regulated by the UKGC. That provides a good deal of assurance as to their reliability and trustworthiness, as does the fact we list them on our site at all – we don’t work with sites we don’t trust. Nothing is 100% guaranteed, but we are highly confident that all of our featured bookies are safe, secure and will pay up. We strongly recommend never betting with an unlicensed betting site, or one without UKGC regulation.
Beyond that, if you have particular concerns about a site going bust or not paying, you may be best sticking to one of the really big players. Even these could fail financially but it is far less probable. In general though, getting your winnings should not be an issue but there is more variation when it comes to both the available deposit and withdrawal options, and the speed at which transactions are processed.
Selection of Payment Methods
Most punters fund their accounts using a debit card and these are almost universally accepted, as are major e-wallets, such as PayPal. If you want to use a more obscure method then check with the site before joining. Withdrawals are usually to the method you used to deposit and both funding and withdrawing should be free, though some sites may charge a small fee for depositing. If this annoys you, simply pick one of the many bookies that do not charge.
It is also worth being aware that the best bookies in the business process withdrawals instantly and have fast-payment technology which means funds should be back in your account within hours, though often instantly. In contrast, some lesser sites may need to manually process withdrawals and this can drag things out for days – which is very frustrating, though thankfully less common than it used to be.
One last thing that can make one bookmaker stan out from their rivals is the quality and availability of the support they offer. Even very frequent punters will only need to contact the bookmaker rarely, with the vast majority of transactions and bets being handled automatically without any issue or problem.
Occasionally things go wrong, however, either because of an error you’ve made, a misunderstanding or a manual or technical error by the bookmaker. In such a scenario, the best bookies will make resolving the issue a quick, easy and pain-free process. In contrast, the worst bookies will have you hanging on hold for hours before giving you dud information that means you need to call back later. Or, alternatively, they will have a contact form which nobody deals with and so your issue drags on.
The gold standard when it comes to customer support is live chat which is available 24/7 and which has staff available who do not keep you waiting whilst they try and handle 10 customers at the same time. Representatives who are well-trained, friendly and helpful make such a difference and whilst you may only need to contact the bookie once a year, or less, this is still a factor worth considering when you decide which betting site to call home.
Using Multiple Betting Sites
Here we examine the virtues of having accounts with several online betting sites. You may well already have a favourite bookie and think you don’t need to bother with any others but when it comes to bookmakers, more really is more.
No matter how good you think your normal bookie is, there will always be at least one area where another site is better, or a time when using an alternative is necessary or at least beneficial. There may be a certain market your normal choice doesn’t offer or a promo they don’t have; it is highly likely that they will not always have the best odds for every selection in every market because no bookie does; their website might be down at a time when you want to make a bet; or you might eventually get limited or banned.
In addition, almost all UK bookies offer new customers some form of welcome bonus. If you use these deals wisely, they can give you the upper hand over the bookie, so even if you don’t intend to use a bookmaker regularly, it still pays to try them out and claim that welcome offer. By trying several different online betting sites you will begin to see what differentiates them and also get a better idea of what matters to you when it comes to deciding which bookie to use as your first port of call.