Betting Sites in times BC (before computers)
Long before new betting sites found their natural home in cyberspace, to gamble on an event you had to find someone willing to take your bet. Wagering on sporting contests was frowned upon (and still is in many areas of the world, including most of the USA) for two reasons. Firstly, in a world still ruled by religion gambling was considered sinful, and secondly in a world still ruled by amateurism and gentlemanly fair play it was thought too easy to bribe sporting competitors to 'take a dive'.
The 'Sport of Kings' – horse racing – was the first sporting activity where it became legal to place bets. It is of course much harder to bribe a horse than it is a human (although doping is another matter) and seasoned trainers and owners can usually tell if a jockey is somehow sabotaging his own mount. Gambling at race courses began in the seventeenth century, and the UK government - concerned that horse racing had “contributed very much to the Encouragement of Idleness, to the Impoverishment of the meaner Sort of Subjects of the Kingdom” - put into power the first gambling act in 1739.
A further act in 1845 outlawed commercial gambling except at race meetings. This was mainly done to prevent the 'working classes' from gambling as they could not afford to travel to or attend race meetings. The upper classes were determined to keep horse racing as their own preserve - however wily travel companies started to arrange cheap transportation via trains to race courses up and down the country so that all classes could partake in 'betting on the nags'.
The rise of new bookmakers
The next major change for UK punters came in on May 1, 1961 when the UK government legalised betting shops, as well as gambling on games of skill and slot machines in pubs. At the time, bookmakers were legal, but punters had to set up a credit account with a bookmaker and conduct all their business via telephone. 'Runners' would then collect from punters who needed to top up their credit accounts.
Betting shops in the UK following the act sprang up at the rate of one hundred per week, and by the end of the year well over ten thousand had been set up. The golden age of bricks and mortar gambling had begun, although within forty years the end became nigh for offline bookies.
Here comes online betting … and there goes high street bookies
The first online betting sites opened in 1996. Initially, the dominant leaders in the UK betting industry – names such as Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral - were skeptical about the 'challenge' of the internet, guessing (wrongly) that UK sports bettors would be too concerned about privacy and the security of financial transactions on the web to use online sports books. It took two years before William Hill launched an online betting service, and a few years more before any of William Hill's rivals followed suit.
As new betting sites exploded all over the internet, it soon became clear that this trend was having an adverse effect on bricks and mortar betting shops, and especially independent companies. At the peak of offline gambling in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s, there were 16,000 or so betting shops in the UK. By 2010 this figure had reduced to 9,000, and experts estimated that around two or three betting shops in the UK closed each and every week.
These days, march down the high street of any reasonably-sized UK town and you might see a Ladbrokes, William Hill and a Coral, but usually they're pretty vacant. As for independent bookmakers, they seem to have gone the way of VCRs and white doggie droppings!
New betting sites, the advantages …
New betting sites open up the world of sports betting like never before. Typically, the general consensus of the public is that bricks-and-mortar betting shops were always full of dodgy folk who really should have found better ways to fill their time. This unfair categorisation of sports bettors is no longer an issue as new betting sites allow you to indulge in sports betting from the comfort of your own sofa!
All you need to bet on any sporting event is a laptop or desktop PC. Thanks to special, mobile-optimised sites you can even now bet 'on the go' using your smartphone or tablet. All you need is a decent wifi or 4G connection.
New betting sites also offer you deals that real-world bookies do not. To encourage you to sign up to use their services, they usually have some kind of special deal for you to take advantage of, such as a free bet, matched bet or enhanced odds offer. The larger online bookmakers – such as Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill – will even offer you deals on a continual basis as long as you remain a member of their betting site. This allows you to make your wagering wonga last longer!
The latest online betting sites also incorporate the slickest features such as in-play betting and live cashouts. The latter, available at sites such as Sky Bet and Betsafe, allow you to cash out a portion of winnings even if some of your bets are incomplete. Say you've laid down a tenner on a five match accumulator at 100-1. Four of the five results have gone your way, so you have the chance to cash in a nice sum before the final fixture. You won't get the full £1000 payout, but you might be able to claim £750 guaranteed.
Every month, there are new bookmakers opening their virtual doors. Over the past few months, the likes of Mr Green, Grosvenor and FSB-technology kings 21 Bet have taken the gambling world by storm. Then there's the likes of BetStars (backed by poker giants PokerStars), who are making a push to attract new customers by sponsoring Leicester City. The most recent innovation came from Netbet, who become the first UK betting sites to accept bitcoin deposits.
UK Betting sites add new markets!
Real world bookies were mainly concerned about horse racing, with greyhounds thrown in during the evenings and football at weekends. Finding the odds for other sporting events at a betting shop was a nigh-on impossibility.
That's certainly not the case with new UK betting sites. Thanks to the advent of internet betting, football is now the champion sports betting market – billions of pounds are now wagered on football annually – but you can bet on all the major events from the World Cup and all the major European leagues, right down to the second division of the Swedish U17 northern section if you so want.
There are literally tens of thousands of available markets, plus many new betting sites allow you to live stream specific sporting events from all over the globe – the only provision is you must have an account with the provider, and a bet on the event that you are watching. Some of the tastiest new betting markets include UFC, wrestling and political betting, such as the odds on the next American President.
UK Regulated versus Unlicensed Gambling Sites
The most trustworthy UK betting sites are licensed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). This is an authority set up to ensure that operators are compliant with tax and advertising laws, and most importantly, player safety. The UKGC ensures licensed betting websites provide players with quick withdrawals, and the options to set maximum deposit limits and self-exclude. They require players to supply KYC (know your customer) identificaton - typically in the form of a driving license and credit card statement - to guard against money laundering and fraudulent activity.
The vasty majority of sites we promote on LBS have a UK betting license. This means your funds are always safe and secure, and protected in the event of insolvency. We do a list a few unlicensed operators, but these either have rave reviews from betting communities, or are in the process of acquiring a license.
The UKGC stops sites from predatory or unfair bonus conditions, such as tying in wagering terms to your first deposit. The offers promoted on this site are very fair and transparent: take Grosvenor for example. If you deposit £20, you get a £20 bonus. You only have to wager the £20 bonus ONCE in order to turn it into real, withdrawable cash.
Best Betting Sites - December2016
Drumroll, please, for December's best online betting sites. Below we break down who's hot, and picking up all the punters.
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Trusted land-based giants Grosvenor released their sportsbook over the summer, and it's a cracker - deposit £20, and you'll get a free £20 bonus which has wagering requirements of just 1x! Grosvenor also offer a casino (Netent and Novomatic games), and poker to satisfy all your gambling needs. They're our top rated site as they offer manual flushing - the ability to withdraw ALL your funds in one go. There are lots of funding options, including Paypal, and you'll soon have the ability to cash out at land-based G casinos. If Grosvenor had a few more in-play markets and weekly enhanced odds, it would get our vote as the best betting site out there.
Slick Scandinavian giants Mr Green rolled out a sportsbook in September. They need to work on their specials and enhanced offers, but a tasty £100 bonus and a gorgeous, mobile friendly site makes them a solid pick.
21 Bet are the new kids on the block, sponsoring Wolves and boasting an FSB powered sportsbook. As well as having a fresh, easy to navigate site, they offer £10 free bets every weekend to loyal customers
Looking to deposit via Paypal or using your phone bill? Then we suggest heading over to BetStars, who have a cracking casino and legendary poker room to suit all your wagering needs.
Man City sponsors Betsafe have a fantastic reputation (they clue is in the name) for same day cashouts and stellar customer service. Highly recommended.
Energy Bet are making a huge splash: they hundreds of markets, including funky ones such eSports, handball and ice-hockey, and are very trustworthy given their association with Aston Villa. They also have a casino with popular Netent and Novomatic games.
Another brand originating from Sweden - Viks have added a sportsbook to their awesome casino site, which comes with a juicy £200 welcome bonus.
Netbet - though not new, they've ramped up their offers and product to compete with the big boys. On Black Friday, they gave punters a £60 bonus for depositing £10. They offer weekly enhanced odds, making them one of the best sites on the market.