History of Gambling, Betting and Bookmakers in the UK

betting slip imageHaving a bet is a pastime for many in Britain and abroad and most of us couldn't imagine a time when we were unable to gamble freely. We take it for granted that we will be able to wager on pretty much any event or market from around the world and the huge competition in high street and online bookmaking means we also expect good prices and prompt payouts from our bookies when we do bet.

For most of recorded history however having a bet was fraught with difficulty and uncertainty. Before the Victorian era wagers were simply placed between men under a gentleman's agreement and this was usually a straight up bet with no odds, there was also not much you could do if someone ran off with your stake and/or winnings.

Things didn't get much easier in the 1800's. Early bookmakers were often illegal and those that were legal were tightly regulated and only allowed to practice at licensed tracks and courses. It was the 1960's that saw the biggest change in bookmaking as off course gambling was legalised resulting in the rise of the betting shop, and subsequently when the internet was invented, online gambling.

In this article I talk about the early days of bookmaking, the first bookies, changes in the law and the way we bet, the rise of online bookmakers and the future of online betting.

The First Bookmaker

old track side betting image at a horse race

Betting is older than written history itself, people have been taking bets on anything they can think of since before money was even invented.

Most early wagers were crude, often with just two possible outcomes. One would bet on one side to win, such as the Roundheads to win the English civil war, and the other would bet on the alternative outcome, the Cavaliers to win.

Odds were rarely used and most wagers were effectively taken at 'evens'. This is fine if you are predicting an evenly matched event but in life we know things are rarely even. This could be even worse if you were betting on a horse as quite often the bet choice was 'Horse X to win' vs 'Horse X not to win', hardly an even bet (in most cases).

Bookmakers on the other hand are people who lay actual odds creating a 'book' encompassing multiple scenarios or results, which, if balanced, will always ensure a profit. With this new type of business, rather than two people pitting their wits against each other over one possible outcome, a bookmaker will take multiple bets for several outcomes from different sources. If they have their prices right then this should always ensure a profit.

Harry Ogden

Back in the 1700's the new sport of horse racing was really beginning to take off among the upper and middle classes in Britain.

The Lancastrian, Harry Ogden, set up a pitch on Newmarket heath close to Britain's oldest and most famous racecourse in the 1790's. He was close enough to the course that he and his punters could see the racing but far enough away that he didn't get hassled from the owners of the course.

Rather than pricing all horse the same Harry realised that as some horses were better than others they will have different chances of winning, therefore he set different prices across the field. This gave punters a choice, for the first time they could bet tactically deciding whether to go for more security by backing the favourite, but with low returns, or taking more of punt on an outsider, less likely to win but will pay out more if it does.

The clever thing that Harry Ogden did however was to build in a profit margin into his book. On balance the odds he set never quite reflected the real chances of the result, for example, a 10/1 horse priced by Ogden may have an actual chance of winning more like a 12/1. The art of bookmaking was born and gambling has never been the same since.

Of course it is likely there were others doing similar things around the same time, however it is Harry Ogden who was recorded in the annals of history.

History of British Gambling Laws

Early Gambling Law

law 1In the very earliest days it was the Bible that was used to discourage people from betting, cited as a sin, having a punt could easily land you a spot in hell.

Of course this didn't really work and having a bet among friends became common place in European culture. In 1190 The King of England (Richard I) and France (Phillip) created the first known gambling law. This outlined who would or would not be allowed to gamble and for how much, of course they excluded themselves. The punishment involved a good whipping and a fine paid to the church.

The rise of the sport of horse racing in the 1600's onward increased betting and gaming as leisure activity, gambling was also spreading to sports such as cricket and pub games. Gaming Acts resulted in 1739 and 1745 banning wagers on a wide range of pub games, including roulette and darts. This had little effect on those who played behind closed doors however – such as the majority of the aristocracy.

Like many aspects of British culture early gaming and gambling laws were brought in to control the working classes. By the 1800's however gambling had become rife in all classes of society requiring a more stringent set of laws.

Early Bookmakers

There were three big problems with the rise of independent bookies like Harry Ogden in the early 1800's.

The first issue was a lack of regulation. There were no specific laws to ensure that bookmakers paid out correctly (or even at all) and conversely, unprotected away from the course, bookies were often lynched by sore losers and other unscrupulous agents. Most bets therefore were placed with a written contract and this meant courts were becoming clogged up with debt settling cases. The government now took the view that if you were stupid enough to bet, or lay odds, you shouldn't receive legal protections.

Secondly the government of the day did not much like the fact that all this gambling was going on tax free, like most pleasures in in life they are only acceptable if you can tax it (e.g. smoking).

Finally this was the Victoria era and gambling was a heathen pursuit, an ungodly practice that poisoned the soul. Like most other 'fun' things the Victorians wanted to have full control of all public vices.

Gaming Act 1845

restrictedIn response to the opinion that gambling was having damaging social effects in the 19th century a House of Lords select committee was formed. The committee set out a series of recommendations that resulted in the first piece of legislation brought in by parliament in England to help control gambling was the 1845 Gaming Act.

The act did not make betting illegal but rather sought to discourage the practice by making all wagers unenforceable as a legal contract. This meant bookmakers, or bettors, could run off with the money and the law would offer you no legal protections.

The Act was set up this way to give police more powers over the working classes while still allowing gambling to take place amongst the upper classes and elite. How very British to have a law that applies differently based on your class!

Parts of the 1845 Act remained in place right up until 2007. Namely sections 17 and 18 which made cheating illegal, punishable by two years in jail and a £200 fine (a huge amount back then), and any gambling contracts void in the eyes of the law.

If caught accepting bets you now could be imprisoned and so few bookies now risked the exposure of the racetrack. Whether the Gaming Act did much to stop illicit gambling away from racetracks is unlikely, many carried on regardless as if the Act didn't exist in various betting houses and dens.

1853 Betting Act

The 1845 Act didn't make betting illegal and so what ensued was a huge expansion of betting houses. According to Charles Dickens a house had "sprung up on every street".

The 1853 Betting Act was therefore brought in making it illegal to use or keep any property for the purposes of betting or gaming.

In combination with the 1845 Act this effectively outlawed off track betting. In reality the result was a huge increase in on-street gambling instead.

Legalisation Of On Track Betting

licencing colourWhat the Gaming and Betting Acts of 1845 and 1853 did do for sure is help create the Britain's love of a day out at the horse racing. The Acts allowed restricted forms of gambling at designated race tracks and I doubt the government could have predicted how popular this would be with the public.

New Victorian social reforms, such as paid holiday for workers for the first time, a growing middle class and new forms of advertisement coupled with the new technological advance of the railway saw attendances grow sharply. New race courses opened all over the country in response to this demand and special excursion trains were put on to allow all classes of people to attend the new meetings.

This is one reason why today Britain plays host to some of the oldest and most famous courses (Newmarket, Epsom, Cheltenham, etc.,) and races (St Leger, Guineas, Gold Cup, Derby, Oaks, etc., ), all of which attained a large part of their prestige at this time.

Greyhound Racing – Working Class Gambling

greyhound coursingHaving licenced gambling at race courses was all well and good and maybe for one week each year working families could travel to one for a day out. For the most part however having a bet was largely restricted to those who could afford to attend races or send agents on their behalf to place bets.

Brought over from America, Greyhound racing took off in the UK in the 1920's with the first characteristic oval track opening at Belle Vue in Manchester in 1926. Most greyhound tracks were within inner cities and driven by increasing living standards and worker affluence they flourished at this time.

Dog racing offered a way for working class people to have a bet on their own doorsteps. Most meetings were scheduled in the evening to allow workers to attend after work.

The great depression in the 1930's had little effect on the rise of the sport and the Tote (see later) began operating at track. Following the end of WWII attendances spiked with reportedly over 30 million people attending course in 1946, that's more than the whole population of Britain at the time.

The gaming act in 1960 in combination with the rise of other sports and games and television saw greyhound racing decline from over 100 tracks to now around 20. Read more about the demise of greyhound racing in our article.

The Football Pools

old football pools coupon

It was difficult to bet legally on anything other than horse or greyhound racing in the middle decades of the 20th Century. Many in the aristocracy had 'places' they could go and play various games or bet for money without interference but for those in the working class there was not much facility.

When the football pools came along in 1923, founded by John Moores Littlewoods in Liverpool, it offered working class men a means to have a punt on the football that was full of fun but cost very little. A national obsession was born. The game escaped the gambling laws of the time as it was cited as a game of skill rather than chance, the low stakes nature of the game and popularity amongst workers helped it to survive. The government did tax it well though, 40% for most of its existence.

Various companies started a football pool but the two most famous were Littlewoods and Vernons and they distributed coupons outside major football games and factories. The lure of the game was the ability to win potentially tens of thousands of pounds for fraction of a penny for each line.

The football pools remained the most popular weekly 'betting' coupon up until 1994 when it was eventually superseded by the National Lottery in the hearts of the nation. You can however still play the pools online if you like.

The 1960 Betting and Gaming Act

The biggest change in the history of Gambling in the United Kingdom came in 1961 when Harold McMillian's government legalised betting shops under the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act. This was an unusual move for a conservative politician but it ultimately reflected the times.

The early 1960's was a time for change, people demanded more freedom to do what they wanted, and placing a bet changed overnight from something you did at licenced tracks and in seedy back alleys to a national institution.

I won't cover the act itself in much detail, if you would like to read more about this see our article on Gambling Licences and Law.

Lifting Restrictions

Over the next 40 years gambling law became more and more relaxed as restrictions were progressively listed. For example, it was only in the early 1990's that the trebles rule was lifted on football betting. This stipulated all football bets must be multiple bets with 3 or more selections up to this point.

Changing Tax Law

Gambling Tax LawUntil 2001 all bets placed in the UK carried a betting levy, this was a 9p in the pound tax that could be paid either on your stake or on your winnings. By the mid 1990's many traditional British bookmakers were begging to move abroad to avoid the betting levy. Victor Chandler (now BetVictor) famously moved to Antigua in the late 1990's allowing them to run a tax free book for eastern clients.

Fearing an exodus abroad Gordon Brown (then chancellor) issued a review of gambling, chaired by an old teacher of mine, Sir Alan Budd. The review resulted in a new law that instead taxed bookies 15% on their gross profits. For the first time punters could gamble tax free – although in reality punters were still paying this tax as bookies increased their odds margins to compensate.

In the internet age many bookies could get around this tax by basing their online operations abroad, this is why you see so many betting sites based in Gibraltar or Malta. In 2014 the law therefore changed again to a point of consumption tax. This now meant if you took bets from the UK you had to pay the tax, win, win for the government. This was enforceable under the new Gambling License (see next).

See our article for more about gambling and betting tax for more.

2005 Gambling Act and the Gambling Commission

gambling act 2005The same 2001 review that resulted in changes to the tax laws around gambling also recommended that all gambling legislation should be streamlined into a single Act with a regulator to be set up to enforce it. This resulted in the 2005 Gambling Act and the new regulator, the Gambling Commission.

Before the 2005 act anyone could set up a website anywhere in the world and take bets from UK customers. Not only did this not result in any tax for the government it also meant punters had little protection from crime and fraud.

The 2005 Act was principally focused around creating an open and honest industry where vulnerable people were protected and fraud minimised. The new act also oversaw the new National Lottery (as well as other lotteries) to ensure maximum proceeds were given to good causes.

All bookmakers and betting sites were now required to possess a Gambling Commission licence in order act as a bookmaker in the UK, no matter where they are based. This act still applies today, to gamble safely in Britain you should only bet with licensed operators. To find out more about the 2005 Act and the Gambling commission read our licencing article.

2014 Gambling Bill

gambling act 2014An amendment to the 2005 Gambling Act was brought in in 2014. This effectively closed loopholes that allowed companies based abroad to advertise in the UK without a gambling licence. It also changed the tax arrangements to ensure all operators must pay tax on UK profits irrespective of their location.

Much of the legislation today focuses around protecting vulnerable people, such as under 18's, from gambling.  Massive fines are now levied to companies who fail to promote responsible gambling in particular.

As the world of betting progressively moves online it is becoming harder for law makers to ensure they can police the whole landscape.  Saying that the UK in general is ahead of the curve on its gambling laws and better positioned than most countries moving forward.

Ladbrokes - Oldest Bookmaker Still Around Today

ladbrokes logo

The oldest bookmaker that still exists today is Ladbrokes, I think they can claim the crown of the oldest bookmaker in the world as well as in the UK.

Back in 1886 two gentlemen known as Schwind and Pennington went into partnership together acting as commission agents for horses trained at Ladbroke Hall in Worcestershire. Pennington was the trainer Schwind the agent, Schwind's job as commission agent was to back the horses trained by Pennington.

In 1902 the pair were joined by Arthur Bendir who founded the Ladbrokes name, based on the Ladbroke Hall sign. Some say the same was a pun on the words "broke lads" although this seems to have been thought up afterwards.

Bendir changed the business model of the company from just backing horses trained at Ladbroke Hall by also betting against other horses. This model made the company both punter and bookmaker.

The new bookmaker achieved almost instant success and quickly moved to the Strand in London, upgrading to Hanover Square in 1906 and as a sign of their success ended up in Mayfair in 1913.

From their Mayfair location Ladbrokes established themselves as an exclusive bookmaker for high class clients and aristocrats. This model worked well until the outbreak of WWII, following the war facing a dwindling list of clients and an outdated business model the company was eventually sold in 1956 to Mark Stein and his nephew Cyril for just £100,000.

Five years later off-course betting was legalised in the UK and Ladbrokes opened some of the first betting shops. The company were embraced the new times and were innovators, they were the first to introduce the fixed odds football coupon for example. By 1966 the company floated for £1,000,000, ten times what the Stein family bought the company for.

Ladbrokes have never looked back and having merged with Coral in 2016 are now the biggest betting and gaming brand in Britain and one of the biggest in the world. In 2015 the company revenue approached nearly £2 billion and they now employ over 15,000 people and still maintain 400+ shops (including Coral shops). It goes to show there is a lot of money in modern bookmaking.

The Totalisator Board – The Tote

TotepoolUntil the legalisation of off course gambling nearly all official wagers were placed at the racecourse on horse or greyhound racing. Following the 1845 and 1853 gaming and betting acts the government were now able to monitor and even tax this form legal betting from on-course bookmakers.

In 1928 the government went one better, realising there was still a lot of illegal off course gambling and seeing the amount of revenue coming from gambling they set up their own Racehorse Betting Control Board under the Racecourse Betting Act 1928.

The board, set up by Sir Winston Churchill no less, established a state controlled bookmaker with a presence at racetracks across the UK. The first race meeting at which the body had a presence was the flat meeting at Newmarket in July 1929.

Pari-mutual betting was the model of the new state controlled body. Rather than having fixed odds that you could bet any amount on instead you all stakes would go into a central pool. Taxes and margins would be taken out and then the winners would receive a share of the pool.

As part of the 1961 Betting Act the body was renamed the Horserace Totalisator Board, or Tote for short. The original body was responsible for both state-controlled betting and redistributing racing funds. The later function was transferred to the Horserace Betting Levy Board.

The Tote opened a high street shop in 1972 and for a long time was the only place where you could place pool pari-mutual bets. In 1992 the body expanded to allow other bookies to be able to contribute to the pool and this resulted in the Tote becoming one of the biggest bookmakers in the country with bets accepted in over 7000 shops.

The Tote teamed up with Channel 4 in 1999 launching the massive jackpot Scoop6, where punters could win hundreds of thousands to millions by predicting the winners of 6 races. This bet and other totepool bets proved, and still prove today, to be popular with punters. To read more about these bets and how to place them see our Totepool article.

The Tote even managed to stay up with the times launching a hugely successful betting site, www.Totesport.com. Inevitably, like most things owned by the state in Great Britain, the Tote was sold off to Betfred in 2011 for £265M.

Betfred have maintained the totepool as a separate brand but have internalised all totepool bets into the main site making the modern totesport site basically a clone of Betfred. If you want to know who was responsible for this it was no other than Jeremy Hunt – what a massive Hunt he is too.

The First Betting Shops - 1961

betting shopFollowing the new gaming act in 1960 betting shops opened rapidly. The new laws came into place on the 1st May 1961 after which shops began opening at a rate of 100 each week and by the end of the year there were an estimated 10,000 shops open across the country.

It is not recorded who opened the very first shop but by the late 1970's there were over 15,000 betting shop premises. The landscape was dominated by Ladbrokes, William Hill, Coral and Betfred in Britain and Paddy Power in Ireland the same names that still dominate the industry today.

Additional Acts passed in 1963 and 1968 brought in licences for other forms of betting, such as casinos and bingo. The 1970 Gaming Act brought together all forms of gambling, including slot machines, under one law controlled by the new Gaming Board. The Gaming Board directly answered to the Home Office.

The First Online Betting Site – Intertops 1996

intertopsOnline gambling began first with online casinos. Casino sites were set up from 1994 onwards following the Free Trade & Processing Act passed in Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua granted online gaming licenced to remote casinos based in the territory. This was coupled with the launch of the first casino software, Microgaming, and secure payment system, Cryptologic.

Seeing the impressive early adoption into online casinos bookmakers began to sit up and take note. Intertops became the first recognised online sports betting site on the web in 1996, regulated by the then new and first of it's kind, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. The site is still running today, although it has certainly fallen behind the times and looks like a 20+ year old site. Intertops does not have a UK gambling licence and so cannot legally accept UK customers.

What followed was a cascade of new sites opening, by 1998 there were at least 100 known sports betting sites globally. At this time some of Britain's biggest bookies began their move online, from the likes of William Hill, Ladbrokes, Betfred and Coral. Before 2000 online betting represented less than 1% of the overall gambling market, just 15 years later the online bookmakers overhauled the old land based operations to become the most common way to place a wager.

Exchange Betting - Betfair

betfair logo

Set up in 2000 the Betfair exchange offered an innovative new model for placing wagers. Rather than accepting the odds you were given by your bookmaker you could instead bet directly with other real people acting as their own micro bookmaker. This meant you could often get better odds by cutting out the middle man. The exchange instead makes a profit, in the same way financial exchanges do, by charging a commission on winnings. The commission rates are generally far less than a bookmakers margin and so on the whole you can get better value with an exchange.

The model, the brainchild of Andrew Black and Edward Wray, also offered punters a means to become their own bookmaker. For the first time bettors could lay odds to other people, winning now when the punter lost.

This system allowed people to arbitrate, placing bets at favourable odds with a bookie and then laying those bets on an exchange, so that no matter the outcome you guarantee a profit.

Exchange betting has taken the industry by storm and has certainly taken a slice out of the fixed odds bookmaking market.  Then again it has also become a tool for bookmakers themselves who can lay bets on exchanges to balance a book on an event.

Most people still however just want a quick and easy way to place bets and don't want to think too much about the maths behind their wagers. Therefore the exchange market won't completely replace fixed odds bookmaking and there is certainly room for both products in the vast online landscape.

If you would like to read more about exchange betting and arbitrate visit our exchanges page.

The Future of Gambling Online

It is always hard to predict what will be the next big thing, if we could do that we would all be millionaires as we would know where to invest our pennies for the future.

There are some gambling trends that are certain to continue, for the near future at least. The biggest changes we will see will be dependent on faster connection speeds and better technology:

Mobile Betting

Gambling is moving away from clunky desktop machines to smaller devices and this is driving changes in the way people bet. Punters are now betting less in advance choosing to wait until closer to the event with the convenience of being able to bet any time, any where.

Faster devices and faster internet will only serve to accelerate this tendency. Many new betting sites are now designed for small screen devices and are simply scaled up for desktop.

Live In Play Betting

The rise of mobile and faster internet connection speeds means more and more bets are placed live in play during events. This trend will only continue to grow with many betting markets tailored to this form gambling.

Faster algorithms means odds can now be calculated almost instantly with less reliance on odds traders. This means more and more markets will become available and betting on actions that occur within seconds not minutes will become more common. Recently it even became possible to bet on horse racing live during the race.

Cash Out

The ability to cash out your wager before the end of an event has added a whole new tactical dimension to betting. It allows punters to use their own objective (and subjective) insights to choose the optimal moment to cash out a bet.

This is effectively a means of mitigating risk, and used correctly can be hugely profitable, or at least can reduce loses. Beware however when cashing out you are in effect giving the bookmaker a double margin.

Betting Exchanges

The popularity of exchange betting is sure to rise as more and more people become familiar and more trusting of the system.

The rise of mobile betting will also help the exchange as exploiting changes in the market is critical to making a profit and to do that effectively you need to be online as much as possible.

Specialist Betting Sites

The trend so far has seen most online bookmakers spread into multiple products, betting sites now offer poker, casino, Vegas, games, financial, exchange sections., etc. This is great for those that like to have lots of options in one place however for many the size and complexity of modern online bookmakers is a put off.

Over the next few years I expect to see more and more specialist sites popping up, designed to offer just one type of betting. This is already common with horse racing, an example being RaceBets, and betting this way can be more valuable if you only wager on certain sports.

Safer and More Responsible Gambling

Gambling law in the UK is some of the best in the world for protecting the vulnerable, short of banning gambling entirely, but no matter how good the laws are there will always be vulnerable people that get caught up with addiction. Thankfully licenced UK bookies must take this seriously and are expected to monitor suspicious or unusual behaviour.

Overall bookmakers do a good job of spotting unusual betting activity and offer plenty of tools to help those who want to restrict access to sections or the site entirely. I expect in the future this will only get better, although this must be a balance between protecting people's privacy to make a wager vs. protecting those with addiction.

More Sports & Markets

With access to so much information these days we as a nation now bet on more sports and markets types than ever before. The future is going to see a dramatic rise in popularity in less traditional sports such as eSports and virtual reality sports.

Don't get me wrong these new games will never get near the likes of football for betting interest but they will become more everyday markets. Many of those now excited by the likes of eSports are fairly young, as this demographic ages we will see more interest in this type of gambling. As these sports are primarily streamed over the internet faster connection speeds and better gaming tech in the future will no doubt also bolster the rise.

More Streaming

Many of us now spend more time watching content online rather than through television. Watching online gives us access to millions of streams from thousands of sports and games and this increased exposure will drive an increase in interest in 'lesser' sports and leagues from both punters and bookies.

The recent increase in the number of online bookmakers that stream sports is also likely to grow. Many sports are cheap for bookies to stream and they are also investing more in streaming services with the knowledge that a lot of punters now prefer to watch when betting. Smaller sports themselves are also realising that access to more viewers is more important than revenue form broadcast rights.

This is a model tennis has followed with most matches now widely available to watch from betting sites such as Coral. This has served to increase interest in non-Grand Slam tour matches which has in turn increased attendance and sponsorship revenues for the sport.

Algorithms

Pricing markets is still largely down to human factors but in the future we are going to see more intelligent artificial odds predictions that will increase market size and speed.

Even today algorithms are responsible for setting most odds lines, particularly for live betting markets, however the odds trader will still manually check the vast majority of these lines as well as constantly adjusting their book to optimise exposure to the market. As artificial intelligence gets more sophisticated we can expect less manual interaction and in return punters will see larger depth of market and quicker price updates.

Less 5000/1 Outsiders

One thing that bookies have learned more so than ever is that predictions are exactly that, predictions, and this was seen in particular back in 2016 when bookmakers got it badly wrong no less than three times.

Leicester City won the Premier League and were initially priced initially 5000/1, this cost bookmakers millions. In reflection, the odds are outlandish, here you are saying a team like Leicester wouldn't win the league, on average, in less than 5000 attempts. Remembering there are only 20 teams in the Premier League and that football is a low scoring game favouring underdogs, It is absurd to suggest an upset like this is that unlikely.

A similar story was seen again with the British decision to leave the European Union which at one point was priced near 15/1 and Donald Trump to win the presidency at over 25/1 when he announced his decision to run.

The reason you see what we think in retrospect are high odds is because bookies seek to balance books. To do this they need people to bet on other options other than the favourite and so will price these higher than their real chances of occurring. I doubt in future however you will see odds as ridiculous as 5000/1 for a team to win the league before the start of the season.

Voice Betting

I'm waiting for the day that a bookie is going to launch voice betting. With the tech now available you shouldn't be far away form betting just by talking to your phone or computer.

Global Betting?

I still find it very strange that you can have an online account but if you walk across a border from say Spain to France you may suddenly be restricted from placing a bet. This is down to the fact that every country has their own perspective on gambling and their own laws to go with it.

It is also bizarre that a traditionally conservative country, the United Kingdom, has some of the most open gambling regulation in the world whereas in the United States, a country the proclaims liberty and freedom as its base, gambling online is largely illegal.

The future will either see greater restriction on online betting or we may see international agreements that allow gambling control on a global level. I hope it is the latter option, not just for peoples freedom to have a bet but also because it will help to reduce illicit, illegal and fraudulent betting sites that tarnish the legitimate industry.

Multiple Account Betting

With so much choice in life we have less and less loyalty and this couldn't be more true with online bookmakers. In the old days you would usually have a favourite high street bookie, usually the closet to your house, but now you can choose between hundreds of sites from any location you like.

Bettors are exercising their right to choice more than ever before and why not. Online bookmakers have far lower overheads than their land based cousins and so they pour more resources into providing high value bonuses and free bet offers when you sign up as well as a suite of regular reward offers. This makes it difficult as a punter not to shop around.

I've found I now bet with more bookies than ever before although I still have a go to betting site for most of my betting. For me that is Ladbrokes as they are the best all round online gambling site. I do however place certain bets wit other bookies, sometimes based on offers and sometimes on odds. Doing this I am trying to maximise my chances of winnings, just as you would shop around to save yourself money when buying anything else.

There are on the other hand better reward schemes for existing customers than ever before. Whether these are enough to stop you being tempted by the various price boosts, freebies and other features available elsewhere I'm not sure.

If you can't be bothered having multiple accounts and want an online bookie for that rewards loyal custom then check out our best offers for existing customers. If on the other hand you want to see shop around for the best deal have a browse of our offers page.