Punters in the United Kingdom enjoy a lot of options when it comes to sports betting. Both online gambling sites and corner betting shops are part of a well-regulated industry and, if you are 18 or older, you can bet on sports in multiple ways.
Here, we explain everything new bettors should know about betting on sports in the UK, including all the ins and outs of depositing and withdrawing money, and how the relevant laws impact other important considerations for choosing a bookmaker.
This article focuses on online betting sites, including the 5 best sports betting sites for UK bettors, which we prefer over corner shops. See our picks and reasons below:
Best UK Sports Betting Sites
An established name making its way into new markets, bet365 delivers a huge range of betting options for all sports, with a special emphasis on soccer and tennis.Bonus: Available
A big name that's been in business since 1934 is relevant as ever with a modern betting app and online sportsbook that features one of the biggest betting menus out there.Promo: $500 Risk-Free Bet!
888sport offers tons of betting options for new and experienced bettors alike. Find great odds on sporting events from around the globe wherever you’re located.Bonus: Bet €10 Get €30
BetVictor has several decades of sportsbook experience and provide a solid all around product while still offering enticing promos and value-priced odds.Bonus: Bet €5 Get €30
One of the most popular and esteemed gambling sites in the UK & Ireland, this household name offers some of the largest odds selections in the industry. With over 100 lines per game and a premium live-streaming service, Paddy Power is a top sportsbook.Bonus: Risk Free €20 bet
Local Bookmakers vs Online Betting Sites
If you’re the type of person who enjoys quaint, slow-paced activities, like buying newspapers you can hold in your hands and building ships in a bottle, corner shops may be for you.
However, if you prefer a faster-paced life with a wider variety of options, online sportsbooks are the way to go. Compared to in-person betting at your local bookmaker, online betting:
- is faster (no queueing up at a window)
- is more convenient (you don’t have to leave your house/office)
- offers a broader selection of sports (corner shops are generally limited to UK offerings)
- lets you compare odds across multiple sites (without traveling to a new location)
- allows you to capitalize on generous sign-up bonuses and ongoing special offers.
If you bet on sports for any length of time, you will inevitably find yourself in the following situation one day: you’ll flip on the telly or open the Sky Sports website and learn that Harry Kane, Mo Salah or Kevin De Bruyne is out for his team’s next match. You’ll want to get a bet down on the other side as soon as possible, before all the other punters jump on it and the odds change drastically.
If you do your betting at a corner shop, this means walking down and waiting in line.
If you bet online, on the other hand, you can have your money down in seconds. Even if you’re out and about when you learn the news, you can place your bet on your mobile device as all the top online sites in the UK now offer mobile betting apps.
Of course, the opportunity to bet on live, in-game action is another major benefit of wagering online.
These clear advantages explain why more and more UK bettors are moving online. According to government statistics, online gambling had grown to £5.3 billion gross gaming yield in 2019, making it the single largest sector in the industry. Meanwhile, non-online gambling at casinos decreased by over 10% in 2019.
Gambling, including sports betting, was broadly legalized in the UK in 1960 by the Betting and Gaming Act. These days, it is monitored and controlled by the UK Gaming Commission (UKGC), which was created by the Gambling Act 2005. For the most part, if you reside in the UK and are 18 years of age or older, you can legally bet on almost any sport
Up until 2014, it was not entirely clear how online gambling sites hosted outside of the UK fit into the legal framework. But those questions were put to rest by the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act, which brought offshore sportsbooks into the same regulatory framework as domestic ones.
In order to offer sports betting to UK customers, betting sites – whether domestic or offshore — must be registered with and licenced by the UKGC.
How can you tell if a UK sports betting site is legitimate?
If you are wondering whether a sports-betting site is legitimate and authorized to do business in the UK, you can do one of two things:
- You can trust our diligent team of reviewers and choose one of the top-rated UK betting sites from this list
- You can visit https://secure.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PublicRegister/Search and search the public register
From that page, just type in the name of the site (like “888Sport”) and, if that site is run by a licensed corporation, you should then see a page that looks like this:
By clicking on “View,” you will be able to see the licensee’s account details,. You can make sure the license is “active,” and view any past sanctions against the licensee (if there are any) and other findings by the UKGC which pertain to it.
You will also be able to see all the active and inactive domain names of that licensee. In the case of 888, the active domains include not just “888sport.com”, but also “888Poker.com”, “888Casino.com”, and dozens of others.
To comply with UKGC regulations, online sites are required to verify the identity and age of all their customers. For bettors, this means supplying an electronic copy of your government-issued ID, e.g. a driver’s license, which can be nerve-wracking in this age of identity theft.
But rest assured that legitimate betting sites are all required to take steps to protect your information, and the ID requirements are actually part and parcel of efforts to cut down on fraud, money laundering, and underage betting.
Depositing and Withdrawing Money
Another area where the UK sports-betting industry differs from the US is in deposit and withdrawal methods. While American regulations restrict betting operators from accepting certain payment methods, those in the UK can expect a relatively wider range of choices.
Below, we set out the most common deposit and withdrawal options. But no matter which option you choose, the fact that the UKGC has implemented a strong regulatory framework should give you a sense of security when it comes to:
- The legality of your transactions
- The safety of your bankroll
- Your ability to get your winnings in a timely manner
The most common deposit options at gambling sites in the UK are:
- Wire Transfer
Some sites will also offer deposits via:
All sites will show you the options before you sign up. Often this information is contained in a “Getting Started” or “FAQ” section.
If you are having any difficulty locating the information, don’t hesitate to contact customer support. Most sites have a “Chat” feature that allows you to instant message with a representative who will be able to answer your questions about deposits,
Be aware that some sportsbook bonuses are only available for customers who use certain deposit methods. Read the fine print attached to all bonuses to ensure you’re eligible before depositing your money.
If you’re hesitant to deposit any of your hard-earned money, you can still get in on the fun. Many UK betting sites offer something called a “no deposit free bet” (or a “free bet no deposit”). These offers are exactly what they sound like: new bettors are gifted a free bet without having to deposit any money.
Usually the amount of the bet is fairly low, in the £5-20 range. Occasionally you will find more lucrative offers, upwards of £50. Of course, there are terms and conditions attached. The larger the value of the bet, the more onerous the terms.
Typically, you will be required to “rollover” your bet a certain number of times before you can withdraw any money. The higher the value of the free bet, the bigger the rollover requirement will be.
Withdrawal options tend to mirror the deposit options. This information will also be available before you sign up. Make sure you sign up at a site that will allow you to deposit and withdraw by your preferred method.
At the risk of being repetitive, the most common withdrawal options in the UK are:
- Wire Transfer
Once you make a withdrawal, you may start wondering if you’re supposed to declare it as income and pay tax on it. Good news: No! Sports-betting winnings in the UK are not taxable, so enjoy the fruits of your labour, untouched by the man.
Key Factors in Choosing a Bookie
Deposit and withdrawal options are one of the key factors that new UK bettors consider when choosing a sportsbook. But they are far from the only one. Our research indicates that the following are the five most-important factors UK bettors take into account when picking which online site to bet at:
- Safe transactions
- Trustworthy reputation,
- Free, easy, and quick transactions,
- Lucrative/generous bonuses
- Wide selection of sports to bet on
Much the same as deposit and withdrawal options, the legal environment also affects which sports you will be able to wager on.
Online betting sites tend to offer a broader selection of sports than retail betting shops. Before you pick a sportsbook, take a look at which sports they offer, how deeply they cover each one, whether they have the types of bets you want to make, and how their odds compare to the competition.
When it comes to reputation, don’t stop your research at word-of-mouth. Read our comprehensive sportsbook reviews and search the various sites in the UKGC’s public register (see above). As mentioned, the UKGC tracks all the sanctions imposed against betting sites and keeps detailed notes on the complaints lodged against them.
Lastly, when you are comparing bonuses, the applicable laws require that sportsbooks set out all the terms and conditions that apply. It is incumbent on you to read the fine print. If you feel that a bonus was misleading or that a sportsbook falsely advertised any offer, you can register your complaint with the UKGC.