Certain factors, like the markets available, will be more significant to people who have a specialism, whilst those who are new to sportsbetting may be keener to bag the best welcome bonuses. Whatever your reason for seeking out a reliable online bookmaker, here are our top tips for sifting through what’s on offer.
Does the site deliver a great user experience?
To a certain extent this is down to personal choice; each sportsbook you encounter will have a marginally different style of presentation, though some may choose to be more unique just to ensure they stand out from their competitors. If you’re new to the game, finding your way around and getting to know the various areas of a site can be daunting, especially if you’re unfamiliar with some of the terms used. However, the best betting sites will always strive to give their clients, new or seasoned, a highly usable platform. This means pages that can be navigated with minimal effort, so you can visit a particular section, perform the action you want to without any problems and then get back to where you started swiftly. No one wants to become involved with a site that makes it hard to search for markets and place bets, so look for intuitive design features that are easy to follow and help you get the job done.
Sign-up bonuses and welcome deals
Possibly the biggest draw used by bookmakers to attract punters, these new customer only promotions usually consist of free bets or deposit bonuses. Both can offer good value for money but it’s only by checking the terms and conditions that you’ll get a genuine feel for whether a particular bonus will suit your betting habits. Once you accept a bonus you’ll be obliged to meet all its distinct requirements before you can take out your cash, so give it plenty of thought before feeling impressed by a bookies generosity. A final point about bonuses is that they should only represent a small part of the picture when it comes to choosing an online bookmaker. Some companies will tempt you in with highly generous deals then neglect to offer any subsequent freebies when you’ve been on the site for a while. That’s why it’s just as vital to check out what they have lined up for current customers, especially if you plan to stay loyal to just one or two sites.
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Best offers for existing customers
Along with their welcome bonus, most online betting sites provide various types of bonus to existing customers. These are aimed at ensuring you remain positive about the site and keep going back for more, rather than testing out what’s available elsewhere. There are several common bonuses bookmakers treat their players to, some will be better suited than others to your personal gambling style. Reload bonuses put extra money in your pot when you make a deposit, gambling insurance helps you to minimise any losses and free bets speak for themselves.
Many of these offer quite favourable terms, which is because bookmakers are finding it increasingly difficult to get new clients signed up. That means they have shifted their strategy towards retaining good players, with weekly offers on certain events, money back deals if your bet isn’t successful and free to enter draws. Also, loyalty programs, just like those offered by high street stores, are popping up more frequently. These encourage players to stay active on the site by awarding points for bets, or certain actions, and then allowing these to be converted into free bets.
Are the markets right for you?
If you’re an experienced better, then you’ll already know which markets you perform well in and which to avoid, so it’s easier to narrow down a search. But for people who are just starting out, a betting site that has plenty of choice might be more appropriate. Some also have specialist markets, dealing with bets on sports like surfing and virtual sports. If you’re interested in placing the odd novelty bet, these are also covered by a proportion of online bookmakers, just check through the market selection to look for coverage of media or political events. As well as having a good range of markets, the bookmaker you choose should offer the most favourable odds for the sports you tend to bet on most often. Good value odds make a big difference to your account balance, so whether its horse racing, football or something more obscure, always compare odds between bookies as they can be surprisingly varied.
What’s the standard of their in-play betting?
In-play betting is a dynamic market that enables players to wager on the outcome of a match, race or event whilst it is still happening. A few years ago, only elite online bookmakers with big name backers were able to offer in-play, but now it has filtered down to almost all UK platforms. Each betting site has created a different live experience for their customers, with some concentrating on football, and others on horseracing or more niche events. Sports may attract you to a specific bookie, but it’s also worth checking out the other aspects of their in-play service. Some offer streaming along with in-play, as this enhances the experience hugely, but if not they should provide live scores and stats so you can keep up with the action, even if you are watching a graphic. Cash out is another excellent feature of some in-play platforms, letting you opt out of a bet in advance if the game isn’t going your way. Not all betting sites are the same when it comes to in-play, so shop around to be sure of getting all the best perks.
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Do they offer mobile betting?
Some of us remember when phones where just for calls and texts, but that’s a distant memory for today’s betters who expect to access their account, check the markets and place bets from any location with a phone signal. Most betting sites are optimised for mobile and have an app, but some have invested more than others in making the transition from desktop to smartphone. It’s a simple task to explore a bookmaker’s website from your mobile and check to see whether any of the utility is lost, but for a deeper understanding of their app, without committing to a download, just browse through comments on the App Store or at Google Play, for an overview of how it performs.
How easy is it to pay in or withdraw money?
If it’s easy to pay money in and to withdraw it when you want to, then your betting experience is going to be far more enjoyable. UK bookmakers accept many different methods of payment, from credit cards, to banks transfers, and e-wallet services like PayPal. If you’ll be using a certain method to top up your balance, check it’s accepted and bear in mind that in most cases they will expect to pay your winnings back to this method as well. In the terms and conditions, you can see whether charges are made for deposits or withdrawals; applying fees is rare, but not unheard of. You can also see how soon funds are available for use after you have made a deposit and how quickly a withdrawal will be actioned.
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Is the customer service satisfactory?
If you’ve ever had to sit on hold for fifteen minutes waiting for an answer, or even had an account randomly suspended, you’ll know how important great customer service can be. The best betting sites know that supporting their clients properly makes good business sense, so their teams are trained to deal with any issues that might arise, ranging from software glitches, to problems with a credit card being accepted and questions about gameplay. In the UK, many bookmakers keep the service running 24/7, so you can always get in touch with someone if you need to. Aside from reading a review of the bookmaker, it can be difficult to gage whether their customer service is up to scratch. To get a clearer picture before opening an account, you can contact a customer service team via phone, live chat or email, and see how they respond to a quick question.
Online betting FAQ
Betting sites can seem confusing if you’re new to the pastime, here are a few questions that many people want answers to before signing up to play online for the first time.
What will happen if the bookmaker refuses to pay out my winnings?
This can be a major concern and we’ve all heard stories about online fraud, but if you stick to regulated bookies with a great reputation, like those we review, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever have a problem getting hold of your funds. Sometimes misunderstandings do arise, often as a result of bonus requirements not being met, but a decent customer service advisor will be able to guide you through what needs to happen.
What if I want to escalate a dispute?
In the UK, the Independent Betting Adjudication Service has been settling disagreements between punters and bookies for over 15 years. If you feel that your concerns have not been properly addressed, visit the IBAS website and let them know. That said, the IBAS should always be your last resort, as most bookmakers are keen to resolve any issues quickly and in-house, before they turn into bad publicity.
Are bonuses really good value or is there a catch?
Assuming they are offered by a good bookie, there is nothing underhand about bonuses, but they do come with betting requirements. You may be obliged to place a set number of bets and spend a specified amount before being able to withdraw any winnings, but these conditions are clearly stated on each operator’s terms and conditions.
Do bookmakers ever suspend peoples accounts?
Yes they do, but this is mainly linked to international and domestic laws around money laundering. If a bookie requests information on your identity in the form of documents or a copy of a passport, they are just complying with government regulations. To maintain your membership, provide all the necessary details when you open an account and request a withdrawal. Having multiple accounts with the same bookie, is also something which they monitor closely and is guaranteed to get your membership suspended.
Do I have to declare my winnings?
No, as far as UK law is concerned the profits of gambling are not taxable and you do not have to declare your winnings to HMRC. There did use to be a betting duty, but this was abolished back in 2001. So, whether you make extra cash in a casino, from the lottery, or at a betting site, you’ll be able to enjoy the money tax-free.
How can I improve my betting skills?
There’s nothing like first-hand experience for building a strong set of skills and sharpening your intuition, but when money is involved you might also need a plan B. There are hundreds of pundits, blogs and guides online that can help you develop into a more professional player, some of a higher standard than others. Be sceptical, and use a range of resources to inform yourself, over time you’ll learn which provide the best tips and analysis for your chosen sport and which are less reliable.
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