The world of online betting can be a confusing place and no mistake. If you are very new to it there is seemingly a whole new language to learn, a new way of thinking to adapt to, and brand new concepts to understand.
We were all new to it once, so don’t give up, just take it one step at a time go at your own pace. This FAQ should answer all of the most pressing questions you might have, but if there is something you want to know that you can’t find on this page then me know and i’ll write it up.
- Is Online Betting Legal in the UK?
- How Are Gambling Sites Regulated?
- What is the UKGC?
- Is Online Betting Safe?
- What is a Gambling Licence?
- Can I Let Someone Else Use My Betting Account??
- Do I Need to Pay Tax On Gambling Winnings?
- Why Has My Betting Account Been Limited?
- How Do I Complain About A Bookmaker?
- Responsible Gambling
- Getting Started
- How Do I Join An Online Betting Site?
- How Do I Choose Which Bookmaker To Use?
- Why Do I Need to Verify Myself With a Betting Site?
- How Do I Claim a Welcome Offer?
- Can I Claim Multiple Sign Up Offers From a Bookie?
- How Do I Place A Bet Online?
- What Can I Bet On?
- How Do I Deposit & Withdraw From an Online Bookie?
- Is Betting Online Better Than Betting In A Shop?
- Do I Need to Be A Sports Expert To Bet?
- Can I Bet Using My Phone?
- Betting Features
Regulation and Safety
First things first, you need to get to grips with how the industry is regulated, or you might want some reassurance that online gambling is safe or legal.
The following questions should cover everything regarding the legality, safety, security, and good practice when it comes to online betting.
Is Online Betting Legal in the UK?
It absolutely is, as long as the company you are betting with has a licence to operate in the UK from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
You can search on the UKGC’s website for any bookie to find out whether they have a licence or not, and all bookmakers should all have a link to their licence at the bottom of their homepage too.
Offsite gambling has been legal in this country since 1960, although you have to be at least 18 in order to do it.
Online gambling first began in the late 90s and early 2000s, but it wasn’t until the 2014 Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act was passed that the law focussed properly on it, and there is still work to do.
The main point here though, is that if you want to gamble online in this country and are of legal age then you are perfectly within your rights to do so.
How Are Gambling Sites Regulated?
Say hello to the UK Gambling Commission.
The UKGC are the organisation responsible for regulation, and they issue various different gambling licenses to companies that want to operate betting services in the UK.
The enforce things such as age restrictions to prevent under age gambling, responsible advertising to make sure that betting companies don’t advertise in a way that could be misleading or that appeals to minors, and to handle any complaints from customers who feel they have been treated unfairly or illegally.
They also check that all of the content on betting websites is fair and that it is working exactly as it is being advertised to the consumer, and that any personal details that the company holds on its customers is properly protected.
eCOGRA is another organisation that helps to regulate the industry but this is an independent not for profit business. It is highly respected and although no company is legally required to go through their safety and security regulation testing, many do to acquire their seal of approval as they are very trustworthy.
What is the UKGC?
The UK Gambling Commission was set up in 2005 to help regulate the changing face of the gambling industry. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but officially they are “an executive non-departmental public body of the Government of the United Kingdom”.
Some of the UKGC’s main aims are to keep crime out of gambling, to make sure gambling is fair, and to protect the vulnerable. It does this by setting strict rules and regulations that any gambling company wanting to trade in Britain must adhere to, and then polices them.
It is the UKGC that ultimately decides whether or not an online bookie is granted a licence to legally operate in this country, and they can issue fines or even shut down those that abuse their position and break these rules.
The UKGC also reports back to the government on gambling related issues and advises them should the need arise.
Is Online Betting Safe?
Online betting is as safe as it is possible to be so long as you are betting with a bookmaker licensed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
Your personal data including bank details are stored safely and securely using the best encryption technology the world has to offer, so registering your card with an online sportsbook is as safe as buying from a well known online marketplace such as Amazon.
When it comes to the money in your account, this should be ring fenced and kept separate from the rest of the company’s funds. There are three levels of security and each bookie must abide by at least the lowest level:
- Basic – No extra protection. Money in these accounts would still be seen as part of the business if it went bust.
- Medium – There are arrangements (eg insurance) to make sure that the money in separate accounts is given to customers if the company goes bust.
- High – Customers’ money is held in an account which is legally and in practice separate from the rest of the company. This account is controlled by an independent person or external auditor.
You can easily see what level of protection a bookie has in their terms and conditions, usually in the Deposits and Withdrawals section.
Plenty of very well known bookmakers only have a basic level in place, including giants like Betfred, William Hill, and BetVictor, and not many at all have the high level. Read more in our deposit protection scheme article.
What is a Gambling Licence?
At the most basic level, a gambling licence is the betting company’s legal permission to trade. Anyone operating without one is breaking the law.
The only organisation that can issue a licence is the UK Gambling Commission, and they can also issue fines if a company breaks some of the rules or regulations that got them their licence in the first place. They can also take it away completely in extreme circumstances.
In effect, the license tells the punter that the licence holder has been thoroughly checked over by the proper authorities and has shown themselves to be a fair, safe, and trustworthy business for you to do your betting with if you choose to.
There are different types of licences for different situations, so it is also important that the company has the right sort of licence in place. There are many slightly different ones but the UKGC issues 3 types:
- An operating licence – For any business running gambling related activites.
- A personal management licence – For staff that work in casinos, croupiers and the like.
- A personal functional licence – For those in management positions in the industry, marketing, finance, etc.
A premises licence from the local authority will most likely be needed as well.
Can I Let Someone Else Use My Betting Account?
The reason customers need to go through the verification process is to prove to the bookmaker that they are the person they say they are and that they are legally allowed to bet.
Therefore, if you let someone else use your betting account you are breaching your terms and conditions as the bookmaker has no idea who is placing the bets. If you are allowing a minor to use your account you are actually breaking the law.
Your online betting account is for your use and your use alone, so under no circumstances should you allow anyone else to use it; not your best friend just the once, not your Mum, no one.
If you think someone else may have access to your account or know your login details, get them changed as quickly as possible and contact customer support. If someone does use your account and it is likely any winnings will be void if the operator finds out, loses will also not be refunded.
Do I Need to Pay Tax On Gambling Winnings?
Nope. The tax man has no claim whatsoever on a single penny that you win from gambling.
We have Gordon Brown to thank for this, who abolished betting duty in 2001. Even then it was the bookies themselves who were taxed rather than the punters, but they of course passed this cost on to their customers in various ways.
Even professional gamblers don’t have to pay tax on their income, it all goes straight into their pockets.
This is not the case everywhere in the world so if you are UK based then count yourself lucky!
Saying that bookmakers are subject to a 21% point of consumption tax which ultimately gets passed on to the customer through higher odds margins. It depends how you look at it I suppose. Read more in our Do You Pay Tax On Winning Bets article.
Why Has My Betting Account Been Limited?
The following could also apply if your account has been unexpectedly closed.
If you find that all of a sudden you can only make £2 maximum bets, for example, this means your account has been limited.
Believe it or not, betting sites are allowed to do this if you are making too many successful bets. That’s right, betting companies can effectively punish successful bettors. I know it sounds like madness but it will say that they reserve the right to limit your account somewhere in their terms and conditions.
They may also do this if they suspect you of abusing promotions, i.e only betting when big promos are running; or if they think you are misusing your account in some way. Another example might be if they suspect you of arbing. This is when a punter spots that they can bet on both outcomes of an event and guarantee a profit due to the way the event has been priced.
The bookie may even go so far as to close your account, which again is perfectly legal. This is more likely if there is some serious mischief going on though, such as illegal activity or fraud at your end. Read more on our dedicated page about why accounts get limited.
How Do I Complain About A Bookmaker?
If you want to make a complaint you should first go direct to the bookmaker with as much evidence to support your case as possible. Screenshots are great if you can get them.
You should also keep a copy of any correspondence with them including live support chat logs. This way, if you need to take things further you have covered your bases.
If the issue isn’t solved directly between the two of you then you can escalate things by going to the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS) who can act to mediate a dispute. Bookies signed up to IBAS will respect any rulings made in your favour. You can read more about this on our how to make a complaint through IBAS page.
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) doesn’t deal with customer complaints, but if you want to report any serious wrong-doing that you think contravenes their license conditions then you can go direct to them. They will follow up and if the company is found to be in the wrong the UKGC will handle the case.
You can also see any sanctions/fines a bookie may have been issued by the UKGC by searching for them on the UKGC website.
If you think a brand has mis-sold or advertised incorrectly you can report this to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).
Gambling is supposed to be fun, but for some people it gets way beyond that point. Problem gambling can ruin lives so educate yourself as to how to spot the signs.
If you or someone you know is struggling then the information you need to get yourself some help will be below. Equally, if you want to know about precautionary measure, that is covered too.
Can I Limit Myself From Betting?
If you are on a strict budget then you can set daily/weekly/monthly deposit limits with each bookie you are signed up to. You can alternatively set loss limits.
Once these limits have been set, they will be locked in place for the amount of time you decided when you set them, stopping you from gambling more than you can afford to lose.
Another option is to take a time out. You can set this up yourself and the online bookmaker will not allow you to log in or place any bets for the time limit you decide. This can be any amount of time up to 6 weeks.
Alternatively, you can set yourself a time limit per session so that you are either reminded or logged out after a certain amount of time.
The most severe option is self exclusion. This will last for a minimum of six months and will effectively lock you out of all betting products run by that company, even spanning several brands if you self exclude from a company that runs many sportsbooks and/or casinos.
All of this can be set up from the “My Account” area of the site you use (it might be called something slightly different).
Where Can I Get Help With A Gambling Problem?
If gambling is becoming an issue for you or someone that you know then do not hesitate, seek help from one of the following:
- GAMSTOP – From March 2020, it has been a legal requirement for all UK licensed bookies to sign up with GAMSTOP. If you sign up to this organisation they will inform all bookies in the UK that you wish to be excluded from gambling, and they will make sure you are not allowed to use their services. This will quickly lock you out of the online gambling industry.
- GAMCARE – Fee confidential support and counselling is available from GAMCARE the UKs leading provider of support and advice for gambling.
- Gamble Aware – The main National Gambling Help service in the UK, these are the grant awarding body for responsible gambling and can direct you where you need to go. They also offer online support.
- Gamblers Anonymous – This is another support service but it takes a slightly different approach in that you will be talking to and gaining support from other people who are in or have been in a similar position to you.
- NHS – There are now specialised clinics and services for people with gambling problems. You can also go to your GP who can help you seek the services in your area.
- Friends and Family – Talk to your friends and family about any issues, often it is those closest to you who can help you the most.
There are other services available as well, but if you start with these three they will be able to advise you on where else might be a good option for you and your personal circumstances. If you have already racked up debts, for example, they can guide you to seek specialist advice on that.
What Causes Gambling Addiction?
The reasons are varied and many, as individual as each person.
However, common factors that pop up time and again are mental health disorders, people with an alcohol problem, and people with depression.
Even if you don’t fit into any of those three categories, if you notice any of the following symptoms you should consider seeking help – it’s really nothing to be ashamed of:
- Chasing losses
- Relationship strain due to gambling
- Spending more money than usual on gambling
- Gambling debt
- Lying about your gambling, even white lies
- Gambling to relieve boredom/stress/anxiety
- Increasing stakes to get a buzz
These are not the only signs of a possible problem, so if you feel yourself losing control in some other way please do seek help.
Making sure you get the first few steps right is the name of the game for this next section’s worth of questions.
From the very first step of signing up, through verification, and even covering welcome offers, it’s all explained below.
You can also get some help with placing your first bet and making your first deposit and withdrawal.
How Do I Join An Online Betting Site?
Signing up to a betting site is no more difficult than signing up for anything else online really, apart from the verification stage.
All bookies will have a prominent ‘Join’ or ‘Register’ button on the homepage, it’s often at the top right of the page or slap bang in the middle of some promotional text or banner.
Hit the button, and you will be taken to a short registration form where you enter your details such as name, address, email, number, etc, as well as creating a username and password.
After this you may have to confirm your email address but otherwise you are signed up. You might be asked to deposit or set betting limits at this point (you don’t have to do either) and to verify your account (which you will have to do).
It’s worth having a scan or photograph of some ID saved on your computer for ease, as you will need to upload this information so the bookie can verify that you are who you say you are before they allow you to gamble. A passport or driving licence and a utility bill should do it.
After that the floor is yours. Go forth and multiply… your account balance.
How Do I Choose Which Bookmaker To Use?
Most importantly, they need to be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission. You might also want to check whether they have been fined in the past to get an idea of their character and reputation. After that it’s kind of up to you.
The welcome offer is a good place to start though. Virtually every online bookmaker has one, usually offering to match your first deposit or give you free bets or something like that. Have a look at a few and see what suits you, many are listed on this website.
Other than that, you might want to check that they have good market availability in the area you want to bet; for example, some bookies focus on horse racing whereas others don’t offer it at all. The available payment methods and time frames are another key factor to consider, as are any payout caps if you tend to bet high stakes or bet a lot on outsiders.
Lesser considerations may be customer support methods and availability, whether or not you like the interface, and what kind of ongoing regular customer promotions they have.
If you have a high street bookie close to you that may be a deciding factor, and you could always ask your mates who they prefer and why.
Why Do I Need to Verify Myself With a Betting Site?
It can feel a bit dodgy handing over a photo of your passport or driving licence can’t it? I get it.
No need to panic though, this is not only completely normal but a legal requirement that the bookmaker needs to fulfill. It’s sometimes referred to as Know Your Customer (KYC) and is their way of verifying that you are who you say you are, and preventing their services being used for illegal activities like fraud or money laundering.
It also serves as a way to protect vulnerable people like minors and those who have previously self-excluded using a service such as GAMSTOP, preventing underage and irresponsible gambling.
You might have heard about bookmakers performing credit checks, but rest assured they will only ever perform a ‘soft check’ to confirm your identity which has no impact on your credit score.
You might not be asked to verify immediately, but you will need to verify before you make a deposit or place a bet. This has been the law since 2019. Read more in depth about why you need to verify your identity to gamble.
How Do I Claim a Welcome Offer?
Usually you can take advantage of a welcome offer by simply clicking on the advertisement itself. It might have a ‘Join Now’ button or something similar, if so, click that specific part of the advert.
This will take you to a sign up or registration page and you just need to follow the instructions from there.
There are one or two things to double check though.
Firstly, if there is a code needed to activate the offer make sure you take note of it, and don’t forget to enter it in the correct box as you make your way through the sign up form. If you forget, the offer might not be triggered.
Secondly, some offers don’t have a code but do require you to ‘opt in’. This is usually just a case of checking a box a bit like when you confirm you have read the terms and conditions. Again, if you miss this step and it is required you could miss out.
If you do make a mistake, get in touch with customer support straight away and see if they will activate the offer for you. They may well do it – they want your business after all!
Can I Claim Multiple Sign Up Offers From a Bookie?
You can only claim one sign up offer per bookie.
The only way to claim it more than once would be to create multiple accounts with the same website and that is against all of the rules.
Some people do it, but when they get caught their accounts are limited or closed, and this might even have a knock on effect with other bookies. Another bookie operating under the same umbrella company, for example, might ban you at the same time. Bookmakers talk as well, so you might even end up banned at sites that are not connected.
You can of course claim the regular customer offers on top of your welcome offer, but if you only ever bet using offers and/or free bets you are likely to have your account limited. A player that never bets using their own money or using regular odds is of little value to the bookmaker.
You can claim welcome offers from several different websites, however, and this is perfectly acceptable. It is also possible at some bookies to claim different welcome offers for different sections of the same site. So you might be able to claim one for the sportsbook and another for the casino, for example.
How Do I Place A Bet Online?
Assuming you have already created an account and verified your identity, the betting part is easy as pie.
Using the navigation system on your chosen website, find the sport you want to bet on, then the league or competition, and then the specific match.
If you want to bet on something basic like the win/draw/win market then you may well be able to do that without even opening event view for that specific fixture, but if you want to bet on something a little more in depth then you will need to click on the event in question.
It will then open in event view and display all of the different betting lines available. A lot of sites break them down into categories such as goals, popular markets, set betting, etc. and this makes it easier to find what you are looking for.
Once you have found the bet you fancy, just click on the odds displayed and the bet will pop up on your betslip which is usually towards the top right of the screen, or sometimes down the bottom if you are using an app.
Next you enter your stake, check you are happy with the potential returns, and hit confirm – or place bet in the image below. Some bookies ask for extra confirmation to ensure you haven’t hit the button by mistake. That’s it, your bet is placed.
Just be aware that if you are betting in-play the odds change frequently, so if you see a price you like don’t dawdle or by the time you hit confirm it might have got shorter. You will be notified if this happens but you’ll still be gutted you missed the better price.
What Can I Bet On?
What can’t you bet on?
Each book is different, but you will always find a healthy supply of football, tennis, golf, cricket, American football, darts, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, and snooker markets. Not all bookies offer horse and greyhound racing but most do.
You can also bet on some pretty niche sports such as bandy, sumo, futsal, chess, hurling, water polo, and e-sports. Some bookies are well known for their selection of niche markets.
Outside of sports you can often bet on politics right down to constituency by-elections, the results of popular TV shows and awards like the BAFTA’s, and even who the next Pope or James Bond will be. The names of Royal babies tend to make for interesting reading too.
It’s often possible to request odds of your own if you don’t see what you are looking for; for example, people have previously bet that they would lose a certain amount of weight by Christmas. Not all bookies will accommodate this but most of the bigger ones will.
How Do I Deposit & Withdraw From an Online Bookie?
Assuming you have already been through the verification process, depositing is very easy.
Choose your deposit method, enter your card or account details depending on the method you have chosen, select your deposit amount and hit the confirm or deposit button. Most bookies will suggest an amount but as long as it is over the minimum threshold you can deposit however much you like.
The company will store your details (very safely) for next time so unless you want to change the payment method or use a different card you will only have to choose your deposit amount from then on in.
When it comes to withdrawals things are a little different. You always have to withdraw using the same method you used to deposit, but if you used a method like Applepay then withdrawal may not be possible. In this case, you have to withdraw via bank transfer which is usually the slowest way – ewallets are the fastest.
Navigate to ‘banking’ and select ‘withdraw’, then enter the method and the amount you want to withdraw and confirm. If the bookie has a pending period then your withdrawal will sit in limbo until that time has passed, during which you can cancel the withdrawal if you want (don’t!), but once it is processed the withdrawal is in the hands of the payment provider.
Is Betting Online Better Than Betting In A Shop?
It depends on how you look at it, but there is no definitive answer here.
Betting on the high street is on the decline and betting online is booming, which tells you all you really need to know about how most people prefer to bet.
However, that doesn’t mean that one is necessarily ‘better’ than the other. Betting in store might feel more old fashioned these days, but it does still have a few things going for it:
- Bet using cash
- Social aspect
- Lot of live sport on screens
- Instant pay outs
- Use store cards to link online funds to real cash
That last one has been a key tactic of the bookmakers when trying to reinvigorate the high street betting scene, and it’s a genuinely beneficial feature for the punter because they have complete control and flexibility of their online funds, being able to withdraw online winnings in cash and even get access to exclusive offers.
Betting online has the following key benefits:
- Better odds for the most part
- Can use ewallets
- Convenience – bet from anywhere
- Responsible gambling easier to police
- More betting features
- Instant odds comparisons
- Use several different bookmakers from the same browser
If you are wondering why the odds might be better online, even if we are talking about the same brand, it’s because a high street bookie has overheads that the online bookie doesn’t. Staff, rent, utility bills, etc. So even if you are betting at Ladbrokes, you will often find slightly better prices on their website than you will in store.
If you are someone that loves a natter then the shop will be much better for you as you can find plenty of people willing to talk sport and swap tips, and there is something about writing down your selections on the bet slip while leafing through the paper or glancing up at the screen that you just don’t get from betting online.
Do I Need to Be A Sports Expert To Bet?
Not at all, you can just guess if you like – although I wouldn’t advise that approach!
It certainly helps if you are betting on something you have some personal knowledge of or at least a passing interest in, but you don’t need to know how many goals Burnley’s front man scored in the 2012/13 season or anything like that.
The point is, if you can apply your own knowledge to the bet you are making then it is going to be an educated bet rather than an impulse bet or what some people call a mug bet.
There are plenty of statistics websites available if you want to try your hand at something new, and many betting sites offer a stats service themselves so that you can do your research. It doesn’t take long to work out that Arsenal vs Forest Green is probably going to result in an Arsenal victory, for example.
If you are a little unsure then start small, betting low stakes until you gain more knowledge and feel more comfortable upping the stakes a little. It’s a process.
Can I Bet Using My Phone?
Any bookie worth their salt will have a mobile app these days, or at the very least a mobile optimised website.
In fact, some bookies have been launched aimed specifically at the mobile market, while some desktop sites look more like giant apps these days because their design came second to that of the mobile product. The opposite was happening just a few years ago.
What’s more, the mobile betting experience is every bit as convenient as the desktop experience if not more so, you can even watch games live via mobile with bookies that support live streaming.
In 2016 it was estimated that 39% of sports bettors preferred a punt via mobile, whereas by 2019 that number had rocketed to 72%. Little wonder then that bookies are scrambling to make their mobile products the crème de la crème.
The short answer then is yes. Yes you can.
Promotions and Odds
If you are confused by the multitude of betting offers you keep seeing or you are struggling with the wording in some of the terms and conditions then the following should help to clear it up.
If you are someone that likes to know exactly how things work then there is plenty of information on how a bookmaker runs their business as well.
What Are Wagering Requirements?
Let’s say you have taken an offer on a betting website that gives you a £50 bonus to bet with and it says something like “20x wagering” or “20x rollover” in the terms and conditions. What on earth are they talking about?
They mean that you need to place bets worth 20x the bonus amount in question before you can withdraw that amount as cash. So if your bonus was worth £50, you would need to place £1000 worth of bets before that bonus money and any profit made from it become available to withdraw.
You might think this sounds impossible but the bookie isn’t just going to hand you a crisp fifty pound note without making you work for it, are they? And so long as you choose an offer that fits in with your usual betting habits then it can be done.
Taking a £200 bonus with 30x wagering when you tend to only bet small amounts wouldn’t make much sense, for example, but a £20 bonus would. If you manage to build that £20 bonus up to £100 by reinvesting any winnings into new bets you can clear the wagering requirements faster than you might think, and it’s not as though you have anything to lose.
What Betting Promotions Are There?
There are so many betting promotions out there these days that this could take a while.
The first and most obvious promotion that practically every bookie on the internet will run, is a welcome bonus. This could come in the form of a matched deposit, a free bet, a bet and get, and more. It’s a sweetener to encourage you to join the site and deposit with them.
Here they are explained:
- Matched deposit – If you deposit £20 the bookie will match it in bonus money, so you have £20 cash to bet with and a £20 bonus, that’s a 100% matched bonus. Sometimes they offer a percentage of your deposit which can be lower or higher than 100%.
- Free Bet – This will usually be a set amount and may also come with rules such as what markets you can use it on or maximum odds. If you win, the stake will not be included in your returns.
- Bet and Get – Bet £5 get £20. Essentially this is like a 400% matched deposit, except you have to make a bet rather than just a deposit to get the bonus.
Once you are registered at a bookie there are still further promotions to be had. Some run regular weekly promotions, others run promotions specific to a particular event, it just depends.
Some common ones are:
- Best Odds Guaranteed – This is for horse and greyhound racing. It means that if you take an early or fixed odds price before a race and the starting price for your horse/dog is higher, you will be paid out at the starting price if the bet wins.
- Extra Places – For most races a place bet will be paid out on the first 2 to 6 places depending on the number of runners. Bookies sometimes add an extra place to certain races to encourage liquidity.
- Acca Insurance – A favourite for weekend football bettors, this deal will usually get you your stake returned if your acca fails by just a single selection.
- Acca Boost – Sometimes they have a slightly different name, but they all offer extra winnings on successful accas. Often around 10%. So if you won £100 from your acca you would get an extra £10 on top.
- Free Bet Club – A lot of bookies run something like this. Punters usually have to qualify by staking a certain amount on qualifying markets during the week, then at the weekend they will be issued with a free bet to use on whatever they like.
- Enhanced Odds – This is simply when the odds for a specific market are given a boost. Some bookies make a habit of doing this several times a day, and others even let the punter choose when to do it themselves.
- Money Back as Free Bet – The circumstances when this might be offered vary, but one example is getting 10% of your losses back as a free bet. So if you lost £20 that week you would get a free bet worth £2.
- VIP/Reward Points – The reward points scheme is just like collecting club card points at the supermarket really. Your bets get you loyalty points which you can trade in for free bets and the like. This is sometimes linked to the VIP scheme and sometimes not. The VIP schemes are all slightly different, but they all offer increased benefits the more you bet. Some companies offer days out at the races or big concert tickets to their best customers, an account manager, huge cash bonuses, etc.
On top of all of these there are promotions specific to the individual bookie and they may even link in with their VIP or reward scheme (get extra reward points, for example), but they are always coming up with new ways to entice people.
What is a Free Bet?
Well first of all it’s not money in your hand. Think of it more as a free opportunity to win some money.
Most commonly associated with welcome offers, the bookie will either give you one single free bet of a specified amount, or break that amount down into several smaller free bets. The second option here gives you more flexibility than the first, even if the amount in question might be the same.
When betting with your own money, if you make a winning bet you get your stake back along with your returns, but with a free bet this will not happen. Like I explained, you aren’t being given free money. Although if you do see a stake returned free bet then bite their hand off!
The terms for each offer will be slightly different, so check for things like expiry dates, any excluded markets, or any maximum odds.
Apart from that you can use your free bet however you like. There is nothing to lose here. A common trick is to use your free bet to back an outcome and then to use another bet at a different bookie to back the opposite outcome, thus guaranteeing a profit.
Is Betting Free or Are There Fees?
Obviously a bet is not free as you are risking your stake which you will lose if you bet loses. Unless you are using a free bet of course, but that will only complicate things for the purposes of this question.
The act of betting in itself should always be free. There should be no sign up costs or fees to place a bet in the first place, and no fee to use the service.
The only time you might incur a fee is with certain withdrawal methods at certain bookmakers. Even this is very rare these days though and it’s very easy to find a bookie that charges no fees at all if it something you want to avoid. It’s a point of principle for a lot of bettors and understandably so.
If you abuse the withdrawal process by making multiple withdrawals of small amounts or mess the company around in a similar way most bookies reserve the right to charge you a small fee for wasting their time, but this is fair enough as it takes man power to process withdrawal requests.
An account left dormant for a very long time (usually longer than 12 months but do check this) may start to incur a weekly or monthly fee which is taken from the remaining balance until that balance is gone, at which point the account will be closed.
Of course bookies earn profit and they do this by building in margins to their odds, they also pass on tax to the customer, so while there are no direct fees odds are designed to make brands money of course.
How Do Bookmakers Set Their Odds?
Setting odds is all about balance. The bookie needs to build a margin into their odds regardless of the outcome, but not go so far as to become an unattractive prospect to the punter.
If we use a simple tennis bet as an example; we might have Jazzy Jim to beat Grandad Joe in the finals at Wimpleton – and if you haven’t already realised then these names are made up.
The bookie decides what their margin will be, we’ll say 5%, and then decides the real probability of Jim beating Joe. They use all sorts of stats to decide this such as current form, previous meetings, past performance on different types of ground, reputation under pressure, etc.
The bookie decides the true odds are 5/1 for Jim to win, or 6.00 in decimal odds and 500 in American odds. They will then take away their margin of 5% which makes the odds the punter will see 19/4, or 5.75 in decimal and 475 in American.
Of course the bookie needs to take enough bets on both outcomes because otherwise it would cost them dear if the wrong man won, so they also factor this into their pricing to encourage people to bet on both outcomes. That way, they take money on both sides of the bet and always make a profit.
Why Do Some Bookies Have Higher or Lower Odds?
This is all to do with your particular bookie and what their strategy and/or situation is.
If one bookie has too many bets on a particular market and not enough on another, they might start giving a worse price to discourage new bets on the first until the opposite outcome has taken a little more money. A second bookie might have the reverse problem, so you will find higher odds at the one that wants your bets on that outcome than the other.
Another bookie might be touting for new business so they drop their margin on Premier League football, for example. This means they are now offering better odds on those events than anywhere else.
The same could be said for a bookie who notices that their takings on rugby are much lower than on all other sports, so in order to stimulate that area of the business they drop the margin on rugby only.
Sometimes it just comes down to how risk averse one bookie is in comparison to the next, or even just because the people who decide the probability of a particular outcome at two different bookies have a difference of opinion as to how likely something is to happen based on the stats.
To add to this, all bookmakers are constantly rebalancing their books, which means they are reacting to the market in real time, and since every bookmaker will be getting different levels of traffic in different areas of their book the way they balance their books will differ accordingly.
This means that Bookie A will make different decision to Bookie B, because they are reacting to different situations. Maybe Bookie A has a lot more tennis fans signed up than Bookie B, so the amount of money they are taking in that area is higher.
You might have seen a few phrases or betting features that you don’t quite understand and are a bit wary of using. Well don’t worry because that lot will be covered next.
The concepts are often quite easy to understand once you have has them explained in layman’s terms instead of using bookmaker language.
What Are Virtual Sports?
It’s an odd concept if you haven’t come across it before, but the virtuals are a popular and ever present addition to most sportsbooks.
Quite simply, they are digital races or matches played out every two or three minutes on which you can bet in the normal way, albeit with a far smaller number of betting lines. Some even run as full leagues throughout the day along with stats and head to heads, etc. You will often find:
- Horse racing flats
- Horse racing jumps
- Motor racing
They are a good way to kill time in between real events, although you have no way of using any real world knowledge so serious bettors tend to avoid them. They can still be fun though.
If you are wondering if they are rigged, they’re not. They have to go through the same rigorous testing for fairness as any other online gambling product like a video slot or video poker would. They use a random number generator (RNG) to determine the outcome so they are again similar to online slots and the like in this respect.
The RNG will determine the outcome of the race or match before any of it is played on your computer screen, that bit is just for entertainment.
What is Cash Out and Partial Cash Out?
Cash out was once a trendy new betting feature that not all bookies offered, but now it is seen more of a necessity. It would be extremely disappointing to find a bookmaker that didn’t offer cash out.
The idea is that you can monitor the game and decide to end your bet early if you think you have pushed your luck as far as it will go, or you think you are on to a loser and want to soften the blow. It allows you to lock in a profit or minimise a loss.
You bet £20 pre-season on *Aston Villa to win the league at odds of 30/1, standing to win £600 if they manage it. Twenty weeks later and Villa are defying all the odds, currently sitting in second place and closing in on Liverpool in first. Their odds have now been slashed to 3/1 for new bets, and your bookie is offering you £300 to cash out. If you do, you guarantee that £300 the second you hit the cash out button, and while it’s not the full £600, Villa still have a long way to go.
On the other hand, if Villa were hovering around 7th or 8th twenty weeks in you know your bet is almost certainly lost, and the bookie is offering you £1.50 cash out. You may as well take it and use it on something else, cutting your loss on that bet to £18.50.
Partial cash, on the other hand, out allows you to have your cake and eat it. You could cash out £10 worth of the bet and get £150 guaranteed, while leaving the other £10 in at the original odds, standing to win another £300 if Villa are crowned champions. Even if they don’t quite get there, you are £150 up.
*These numbers are for the purposes of the example only and I am fully aware that Aston Villa will never win the Premier League.
Can I Request Odds on My Own Market?
Not only is this a possibility, but some of the bigger book makers actively encourage it. Many of them have hashtags like #yourodds which you can use on Twitter to request specific odds.
The bookie will then come up with a price and create the market for you, they might even leave it up on their site for other bettors to have a punt on as well.
If you can’t find any information about a special hashtag just get in touch with customer support directly and see if they offer this service.
They can only say no, but seeing as though they are bookies and taking bets is their business most of them are happy to oblige.
What is a Betting Exchange?
A betting exchange is a platform that essentially allows the punter to become the bookie, because you can bet both for and against something. Or, to use the technical terms, you can back or lay.
At a betting exchange you are betting against other bettors instead of against the bookmaker. This means the odds are often much stronger because there is no bookmaker’s margin to worry about. The exchange will simply take a small percentage (usually no more than 5% and often less) from the winnings, while the loser simply loses their stake as normal.
You can decide the odds you want, and the exchange will find someone to match them, acting as a middle man. So if you want to bet £10 on United to win at 5/1 the exchange will find someone who wants to take the opposite end of that bet. If that person exists.
That’s the thing with exchange betting, you need liquidity. If there is no one willing to match your bet then it doesn’t go ahead, so you have to think about that.
What Is Live Betting & Live Streaming?
Most sports bets have two stages: pre-event (or ante post), and in-play.
Once a fixture begins it officially becomes an in-play event, and any bets made after that point count as live betting.
There are a whole host of new betting markets available once this happens, and the odds will fluctuate as the event goes on to reflect the way it is playing out. For example, if a Chelsea vs West Ham game starts with Chelsea at 3/1 to win but West Ham get an early lead, those odds will drop to reflect this.
Live betting is much more exciting than old school betting because things are changing minute by minute – there are even some fast markets to reflect this, where you can bet on a goal in the next 3 minutes, for example – and you can analyse the performance of each team or player as you bet.
It’s also great for utilising cash out. If you can place a bet while the odds are long and then the tide turns in your favour, you can seize the opportunity before things change again.
Live streaming isn’t available from all betting sites, but where it is you will be able to watch the game live via the bookies’ interface, just as though it were on TV. Different bookmakers have different rules here, but many allow you to stream if you have money in your account, while you will need to have placed a bet on the game in question to stream it at others.