Gone are the days when to bet on sports you had to walk or catch a bus to your town high street to visit your local William Hill, Ladbrokes or independent turf accountants. If you're watching Chelsea play Manchester City, or Rafael Nadal take on Roger Federer and fancy a flutter on the outcome, then all you need to do is flip open your laptop or close Facebook / Twitter on your phone for a moment and head to one of the many dozens of online sports books that are available.
Having such a substantial choice is of course desirable, but it comes with the addition of a few headaches too. The main skull-scratcher is how anyone is supposed to choose which specific bookmaker to use for online wagering? They can't all be the same, surely? Some must be better than others, after all.
A welcome offer is a special deal for new users (only) of a site – a bonus as a reward for signing up. This can come as a free bet (don't get too excited – when you receive a free bet your free stake money is never returned, only any winnings), a no-risk bet, enhanced odds or a matched deposit offer. Newbies at most online sports books can expect at least a little extra to get their wagering wheels in motion.
Paddy Power have constantly had a reputation for having the best welcome offers in the business. While most sports book go no further than £10 when it comes to a welcome deal, Paddy Power frequently offer deals up to £30. Also of note, Bet365. This comprehensive sports book usually goes for the matched deposit approach, with a one hundred percent bonus up to £200 their most habitual deal.
For more information on PaddyPower, read our review of their sportsbook.
It's all well and good receiving something nice and shiny when you stumble through the virtual doors of an online sports book for the first time, but many online sports books don't forget their regular customers (but – unfortunately – some do!)
One sports book definitely in the 'former' category is Ladbrokes. This bookmaker has been around for over a century, and have made the smooth transition online in tandem with the advent of the Internet age. You can't moan at the way that Ladbrokes treats its regular clientele, with odds-boosts for specific events, extra places for horse racing each-way bets and insurance deals for your football accumulators. Check out some other familiar high streets that rank best in this category, namely Coral and William Hill.
Want to know more about the UK's oldest bookmaker? See our review of Ladbrokes for more details.
When it comes to sports betting, most of us will be betting on football and horse racing. The most eager punters also like to bet on the top events in tennis, cricket, golf, both codes of rugby and the most popular US sports such as American football and baseball. The true sports betting enthusiast will demand access to all global sporting events, including relatively oblique ones such as handball, volleyball and curling!
If you enjoy betting on sports that receive less coverage, then you should head to Bet365. With extensive coverage of plenty of popular and not-so-popular markets – which favours the no-nonsense approach (so no flashy bells and whistles) and covers sports as divergent as floorball, trotting and pesapallo which, as if you didn't know, is the Finnish version of baseball!
Take a look at our Bet365 review for more information on their sportsbook, and details of their various promotions.
We can thank the internet for online sports betting, and we can thank the internet for online user feedback! Grotty hotels get kicked into receivership thanks to Trip Advisor, bad books remain on the virtual shelves thanks to Amazon's customer reviews, and the worst, most unscrupulous online sports books are left without customers thanks to user feedback.
The site that seems to delight its customers the most is – and we're already tired of mentioning them – Bet365. This sports betting site is a real winner, and scores the highest it seems when online punters are asked which online sports books they value the most.
Another site that gets good grades is one of the smaller names – 10Bet. Perhaps that's because in the world of online sports betting, small is beautiful.
What is all the fuss about 10Bet? See our review of their sportsbook to find out more!
While all online sports books are eager to get their hands on your money, only a few seem as keen to give it you back – especially if after a decent winning spree you've managed to triple what you've deposited. Some online bookies make you jump through multiple hoops – such as sending in photo ID and utility bills – in order for you to get your cash, while others take a more magnanimous approach.
For the speediest withdrawals we're going to have to tip our wagering hats to Grosvenor Sports. These guys are relatively new to sports betting, but they ain't so raw when it comes to gambling as they own a fleet of real-world casinos all over the UK. Perhaps these dudes understand how important customer service is, and that's why they don't delay bigly when it comes to allowing punters to withdraw their winnings. We'll also give a 'super swift withdrawals' shout out here to – you've guessed it – Bet365.
Betting on sporting events is now super convenient thanks to the advent of mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. You are now free to bet wherever you may be as long as you have a decent connection to the internet. You can even bet on an event at which you're currently a spectator!
Using a mobile app used to mean downloading software to your device, but now you simply log on to a mobile-optimised sports book via any appropriate web browser. Naturally, some mobile sports books are better than other, but which are the best?
We're going to have to revisit William Hill and give them the best thumbs up for the 'numero uno' sports betting mobile app. Their mobile-optimised sports book is quick to load, and very easy to use. Just a few swipes of your finger and a world of betting opportunities is suddenly open to you. We're going to give 'near miss' awards to 888Sport and Betfair too.
What else can William Hill offer you? We review their entire sportsbook product here.
If there is one criticism of online sports books it's probably the fact that that can become a little 'samey' – you pick your markets, you deposit your money and you make your wagers (and hopefully win more than you lose).
Some sports books do have a few extras designed to keep you a little more entertained. For example some sports books – think William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral, for example – have online casinos attached to them, so you can slot in a few virtual coins or chuck in your chips while playing blackjack as you wait for your winners to come in.
Also of note – Betfair. This is a sports book that offers something extra in a betting exchange. This is where you bet against your fellow punters as opposed to the bookmakers themselves. You usually get better odds if you bet in this manner, but it's not something that's for everyone so make sure you do your due diligence first.
What is Betfair's legendary exchange market? Find out this, and more, in our review.
Many online sports books now stream live sporting events, meaning you can watch the very events that you've wagered upon! However, don't think you can sign up for an online sports book and watch the very latest EPL ties – firstly, football coverage is mainly restricted to European and Asian leagues. Secondly, you can typically only watch a live streamed event if you've placed a wager upon it.
The award for the site with the most streams must go to Bet365. This site live streams football, tennis, darts, golf, baseball – in fact, hundreds of events every month. To view any live streamed event you just need to have money in your Bet365 account, and to have placed a bet in the last twenty-four hours.
Other sites where live streaming is available include our old friends Befair, William Hill, BetVictor, Betfred, 888sport and Ladbrokes.
Not heard of BetVictor before? Find out more information about them here.
In-play betting is a relatively new betting phenomenon that's really only become possible since the advent of online sports books, although a few real world bookies would consider it if you asked. In-play betting is simply where you bet on events that have already begun. You can bet on the outcome of events as normal, or you can bet on specific in-play events, such as in a football game upon which team will score the next goal, or even earn the next corner, or in tennis upon which player will force the next break of serve.
Cash out is linked to in-play betting, but is something different. Cash-out is where you take the money secured on a winning bet before the event has concluded, albeit for less money if you were to wait for the event to finish.
Most online sports books now allow you to cash out your bets, but as with all other aspects of online sports books some are better than others in the number of events they allow you to cash out on, and the cash out odds you can expect. If we had to give our vote for the cash out kings, we'd plump for Paddy Power. These guys offer cash out in a big way, with the cash out odds readily available for you when you click the cash-out button, so you know one hundred percent what you are likely to get.
When it comes to cash out facilities (and in-play betting for that matter) we approve of the sports betting options supplied by our friends at Betfair, Coral (reviewed here) and William Hill.
The best online sports books are those that can provide a full range of excellent services in all the categories we have outlined above. While some score highly in some categories, the best online bookmakers overall are those that offer consistency. For example a humungous welcome bonus is all well and good, but what about existing customers? Are they sacrificed in order for the welcome deal to be so large?
As you may have gathered from the information related above, we think that Bet365 stands a little head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to being top dog in the sports betting world. They have an excellent welcome offer, live streaming, fantastic customer service plus top-notch in-play and cash-out facilities.
If we're handing out kudos, then worthy of our hand outs too are Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, William Hill, Coral, Betfair and 888sport.
To keep abreast of the latest developments in the online betting world, make sure you stay tuned to our betting offers section right here on LatestBettingSites. We search out all the best sports betting deals, allowing you the time to do what you enjoy the most – indulging your passion for online sports betting.