You know what? There isn’t seemingly a great deal that separates the top Bookmakers from one another. They all offer very similar, synchronised prices, and tend to keep pace with each other in terms of what products they offer. No single Bookmaker can be called “the best” (sorry to disappoint you).
Sports Bookmaking is a very competitive industry and in my opinion there are only a finite number of factors a player can consider when choosing one from another — and it’s mainly down to preference.
So what should you assess when deciding on a Bookmaker? What Bookie is the best for you?
The reason I list this as an factor is that there are still a number of Bookmakers allowing illegal bets to be placed from countries outside of their jurisdiction. Disregard these ones from the outset and narrow your choice down to the legal ones. It’s much safer that way.
Licensed UK Bookmakers don’t usually guarantee that your funds are 100% protected, but they are required to prove financial stability before obtaining a licence. In the event of a liquidation the Bookmaker has an obligation to protect player funds as much as possible. So with the abundance of stable, licenced bookies available online it makes little sense to risk losing your funds by betting with unlicensed vendors.
A legal operator needs to be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission regardless of where they are located in the world, if they provide facilities for gambling to consumers in Great Britain. Any operator licensed by the Gambling Commission is listed on a public register of licensees and will have a link to the register on its website where you’ll be able to find information such as the operator’s address, website domain names, trading names and current licence. This register can be viewed here.
2. Payout Times
Players can lose money at an instant, so it only seems fair that Bookmakers should return the favour and payout as quickly as possible, too. I believe that fast-paying Bookmakers show transparency and instill trust in their customers; therefore this the factor that sways me the most.
Payout times vary for each Bookmaker. Some are extremely fast, paying out in less than an hour. But in my experience the renowned UK Bookmakers tend to take around three working days on average.
Be aware that there are procedures that Bookmakers must adhere to before paying customers — such as verification checks to protect against fraudulent activity and money laundering. This can sometimes delay payouts a little, particularly if the Bookmaker requests several forms of ID or Documentation from the customer. Thankfully this is usually just a one-off formality. You can check estimated payout times from the Bookmaker’s website and decide if this is competitive by industry standards.
3. Deposit Methods
How would you prefer to deposit and withdraw your funds to/from an online Bookmaker?
Bank transfers are accepted by pretty much all Bookmakers, so debit and credit cards will be supported. However, a lot of online gamblers opt for e-wallets due to its speed and ease of use.
E-wallets also reduce gambling-related activity on your bank statements, and thereby the likelihood of receiving (time consuming) phone calls from your bank to clarify or unblock transactions. With all these benefits in mind it’s important that your chosen Bookmaker enables payments to and from your favourite gambling e-wallet, or other preferred payment method.
You can learn more about specialist gambling payment methods from my post: The Best Gambling e-Wallets.
If you bet regularly then you ought to be rewarded from time to time. It’s a good idea to assess which Bookmakers boast the highest rewards, or frequently offer the types of promotions you might take advantage of.
Enhanced prices, refunds and free money are promotions regularly offered by Bookmakers to their existing customers. But they can be unpredictable in terms of frequency and value. They’re often dependent on what sporting events are currently on-going.
Loyalty schemes offer consistent, more predictable, long-term rewards that may interest you. You’ll need to browse the Bookmakers’ websites to determine what’s most valuable (as a lot of the information you’ll find online is biased, and unreliable). Or alternatively, just keep accounts open with several Bookies, so that you’re open to exploring and receiving bonuses from multiple sources.
If you’re unclear on how sports betting promotions/bonuses work, then read my post: The Different Types Of Free Bets Explained.
5. Shop & Track Betting
Some UK Bookmakers offer shop and race track betting. Others don’t, and probably never will.
So if you’re someone that regularly bets at physical locations (shops, tracks), then that alone could influence your go-to choice of online Bookmaker. Bettors who have accumulated points at a physical brand (e.g. Ladbrokes), can often carry those over to an online account.
You might use a loyalty card or fob every time you bet or play on machines in your local shop to unlock benefits such as deals & discounts for cinemas, leisure activities, your favourite restaurants & pubs, sporting events etc. The benefits are becoming increasingly integrated between online accounts, making Bookmakers one “whole” service as opposed to separate online and offline products.
6. User Interface
Some websites feel more user-friendly than others. It really is whatever ticks the most boxes for you personally.
For example you may find that one is just a little easier to navigate to your favourite markets, or has a customisable feature you like. It might just be that the colours of the site are easier on your eyes.
7. Transaction Fees
Unfortunately some bookmakers charge for a withdrawals. The fee may differ depending on your chosen payment method.
Small flat fees are excusable — but look out for Bookmakers charging a fixed % of the total withdrawal amount. Imagine withdrawing £500 at 3% charge: that’s £15 just to make a payment. It’s extortionate for a large betting company to charge this, and it’s no way to treat a customer.
Before you even deposit, ensure that your Bookmaker is charging reasonable fees for your transactions, or otherwise look for a competitor that does it for free (there’s plenty of them!).
8. Markets & Products
Popular sports like Football are covered by almost all online Bookmakers. Horse Racing is covered by most popular UK brands — but not all. Importantly, the range of markets doesn’t necessarily reflect quality of service.
Bookmakers vary more in terms of what other niche sports/markets, and additional products, they provide. For example, some Bookmakers are well-recognised for their casino and poker sections. So if you’re someone that likes to switch between products then it’s a good idea to leave your options open.
Other products offered by Bookmakers include Financial Betting, Bingo, Virtual Sports & Live Casino, as well as an array of different Slot Machine games. These are often featured in their own dedicated “Games” tab. If any of these interest you, then choose a Bookmaker offering it.
NOTE: When it comes to value, the betting exchange leads the industry. There are however some advantages to using Bookmakers, which I've written about in my post: Why Use Bookmakers Instead Of The Betting Exchange?