From the early days of the racecourse bookmakers in the UK and the gambling underworld in New York to the billions made by the industry this day, it would be fair to say that sports betting has changed beyond all recognition in the past century.
The key driver of that, of course, has been the internet, and by the year 2024 it is estimated that nearly ten billion US dollars will be bet annually via websites and apps.
An industry of that size needs to be regulated appropriately, of course, but it’s fair to say that each country has its own idea as to how that should be carried out – hence the different rules on online betting as you move from nation to nation.
As far as English-speaking countries are concerned, the major online betting market remains the UK, where hundreds of millions of pounds are wagered on sports like football, horse racing, tennis, cricket and many more.
The reason that online betting continues to thrive in the UK is because the legal framework is one that allows it to. The government, assisted by the UK Gambling Commission, has introduced a range of methods to protect against irresponsible gambling, and this includes banning the use of credit cards to make deposits at online betting sites etc.
In order to meet their regulatory demands, the best betting sites in the UK – whether they operate on the high street and/or online – have to be approved for a licence by the UK Gambling Commission.
Just across the water, the Republic of Ireland is another country where gambling continues to thrive. With a rich tradition of horse racing in the country, the Irish love to have a bet. The gambling rules and regulations can be found in Betting Acts 1931 to 2015 (latest amendment). The last amendment has made it illegal for a remote sportsbook to offer their services to Irish punters without a proper license.
In the USA, the rules are quite unusual because thanks to a decision by the Supreme Court in 2018, each state has the power to legalise online gambling should they please.
As you may know, you could bet in Las Vegas for a good few decades now, but the law change has seen a number of other states – New Jersey, West Virginia and Pennsylvania being just three – allowing online betting companies to offer their services to their natives.
In Canada, the rules are even stranger. It is considered illegal to operate an online betting platform from Canadian soil, and yet it is not illegal for Canadians to actually bet online.
Confused? Well, it’s not complicated because a number of ‘offshore’ sports betting sites and online casinos offer their products to Canadian players without infringing any rules, so for that reason it is – technically – legal to bet in Canada.
2. Which are the Best Online Bookmakers?
It is commonly agreed as to the identity of the best online bookmakers available in the UK, Ireland, Canada and beyond.
One of the oldest bookies in the world is William Hill, a brand that started on the racecourses of the UK way back in the early 1900s. They deserve their billing as one of the top online bookmakers thanks to the breadth of their sports betting offering, the quality of their casino games and the generosity of their welcome bonuses and promotions – more on those later.
Amazingly, bet365 are one of the biggest betting brands in the world, and yet they have never owned a single bookmakers’ shop on the high street. So the secret of their success is clearly in the quality of their website and app – making them a standout contender as one of the best online bookmakers.
And another brand that deserves their billing as one of the best online sports betting sites is Unibet.
This is a firm that started out from the Scandinavian market, and so to make their brand stand out in English speaking countries Unibet had to do things a little bit differently. So, they offered new customers a range of innovative bonuses, introduced a selection of interesting betting markets that have since been ‘borrowed’ by other brands, and they were one of the first to also offer live streaming of sporting events around the world.
These three firms continue to thrive in England, Ireland and Canada, and while progress is slightly slower in the USA you can rest assured that eventually they will all break through based upon the quality of their platforms.
3. The Best Online Betting Offers
It will perhaps come as no surprise to learn that the best bookies are those which offer the most generous of online bookmakers sign up offers.
Take bet365, for example. Their welcome package features a stack of bet credits when you sign up and place your first bet – in the UK, this equates to £100 in bet credits (T&C Apply), in Ireland it’s €100 and in Canada it’s up to $200.
To qualify, all you have to do is sign up for an account, make a deposit and place your first bet – it’s that easy!
As far as William Hill are concerned, the welcome offer is equally rewarding. Sign up using your William Hill bonus code, make a deposit and when you bet £10, you will be rewarded with £30 in free bets (T&C Apply, the bonus is available to Irish players in Euros).
With Unibet, you will get your first bet back as bonus funds, with a maximum of £40 for UK players (T&C Apply) and €25 for Irish players. There’s also a deposit bonus offer for players in Canada, the USA and beyond.