British and Irish Bookmakers do not offer as generous margins as US sportsbooks with margins usually around 10% and at best around 6% for most sporting events such as football and rugby games. Horse racing margins are far wider as you might expect. However, they do offer promotions such as Ladbrokes’ customer loyalty points and Paddy Power refund specials as well as generous new customer offers. Most of the major UK firms offer a wide range of betting options including retail shops, online betting and mobile apps. In this overview of British and Irish bookmakers, we take a look at some of the biggest operators in the UK and Ireland.
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Paddy Power, an Irish company with headquarters in the Irish capital Dublin, was founded relatively recently in 1988 when three smaller bookmakers merged together. Since then it has rapidly risen to become Europe’s biggest bookmaker in terms of market capitalization, valued at 3.325 billion euros. Paddy Power has not been free of controversy; in fact it seems part of their strategy to court it on a regular basis, frequently falling foul of ASA (the British Advertising Standards Agency). Historically they’ve offered odds on President Obama’s assassination, wording it as he wouldn’t survive his first term! They also controversially sponsored former U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman’s trip to the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. However, they’ve also endeared themselves to sports bettors by paying out on some bets in advance of the outcome when they deemed the outcome a near certainty, sometimes to their detriment. In 2010, they also refunded bets on Massa to win the German Grand Prix when the driver was clearly going to win but under team orders allowed his team mate Fernando Alonso to win in his place. Paddy Power offers a free bet of up to £50/€50 for new betting customers.
William Hill, founded in the UK in 1934, is one of the biggest global gaming companies with offices in the UK and six other countries including the USA. It has about 17,000 employees worldwide and over 2300 betting shops in the UK alone. William Hill offer a £20 signup bonus for just a £10 deposit.
Ladbrokes is one of the oldest British bookmakers, established in 1888. Its market capitalisation is valued at over 1 billion British pounds. Ladbrokes has over 2400 physical betting shops in the UK and Ireland, more than any other bookmaker, slightly more than William Hill. It also has shops in Spain and Belgium. Ladbrokes offer a £25 free bet to new customers.
Skybet is a subsidiary of Sky plc, a huge media firm which owns Sky TV in the UK. Skybet offers a very generous £20 free bet for new customers’ first bet of just £5.
Coral is another big player in both online and the retail sector; it’s got over 1100 shops and also operates several casinos in a number of British cities. Coral also offer a free £20 bet for an initial bet of £5 for new customers.
BetFred has over 750 physical shops run the UK. It offers telephone betting and has a £30 free bet for an initial bet of £10 for new customers.