There are lots of specialist gambling sites around that focus on one particular area of betting and gaming. That might be playing online slots, playing live casino games, betting on horse racing, playing poker or even playing online bingo. However, many of the biggest and best betting sites are excellent all-rounders, working as brilliant one-stop shops that can cater to all your gambling requirements.
Here we will take a look at what you can expect to find at the best gambling websites, looking at the core areas they cover separately. Whilst some sites break these down differently, and into further sub-sections, for the most part, this means looking at sports betting, casino games, bingo games and online poker.
In addition, we will also look at just how safe, fair and reliable these sites are, as well as what checks they might undertake to comply with regulatory issues and also to make sure your gambling stays affordable. Related to that last point, finally we will explain what responsible gambling measures you can expect to find at gambling sites online.
Best UK Gambling Sites
Here we run down the sign up offers from our top gambling sites. All of the sites are licensed and legal in the UK, and all have excellent customer service, banking options and a wide spread of products – including both sports betting and casino games (some also offer other products such as bingo, poker and lottery betting).
What Do Gambling Sites Offer?
Modern gambling sites are rather more sophisticated, extensive and all-encompassing that the “good old” days of going to a smoky betting shop and being able to bet on a horse to win a race, or a team to beat another in the football. The best online gambling sites are all-singing, all-dancing, all-betting punter palaces where you can make just about every sort of wager you can think of.
Bookies & Sports Betting
For many sites, and indeed many punters, sports betting is number one. Whether you enjoy a bet on the football as a matter of routine, or perhaps just bet if you are watching the game, a little punt certainly spices things up. Equally, there are legions of committed horse racing fans who bet on the gee-gees almost every day, and others who have the occasional punt when the biggest races come around or if they are attending a meeting.
But the sports offerings of the best betting sites go much, much further than that, as we shall explain. You can pretty much bet on any sports or event in the world now, with some of the biggest matches having over 700 markets to choose from. In addition, “sports” betting isn’t just limited to sports and you can bet on a whole host of other activities too, covering music, TV, films, the weather and more.
Online casinos offer so much more even than the best casinos in Vegas. You might not get to see Britney Spears or Adele in action, nor have the chance to spot A-list celebs. But, you have as wide a range of games, loads of extra bonuses and freebies that a bricks-and-mortar casino won’t offer and you don’t even need to get out of your pyjamas!
Bingo, Poker & Other Betting Options
In terms of overall betting turnover in the UK, casino games and sports dominate. However, all of our favourite gambling operators offer a selection of other betting options too. Online bingo is popular with low-stakes players as you can have a lot of enjoyment, time-wise, for a very small financial investment. What’s more, you can win some decent prizes too.
Poker, in particular Texas Hold ‘em, exploded in popularity, at the end of the 1990s and the start of the new millennium. This coincided with the birth of online gambling and so playing poker online has given millions of players from all over the world a quick and easy way to get a game whenever they want.
As well as those two gambling options, betting sites offer lotto-style games, instant win options, scratch cards, virtual games and more. In addition, they may have separate areas of their site dedicated to one specific aspect of any of the above-listed categories. These might include a live casino, a slots-only casino, or perhaps in-play sports betting. In short, there are more options than you can roll a die at (which makes about as much sense as shaking a stick at them).
In terms of the number of people who regularly participate, sports betting is probably the largest area of gambling in the world (if we exclude things like the National Lottery). As noted, you can bet on just about every single event imaginable, especially in the biggest sports. When it comes to football, for example, you can bet on competitions, such as the Spanish Women’s Primera Division, regional leagues within the Italian third tier, the Slovakian second division, the South Korean FA Cup, the Venezuelan Primera Division, the Women’s South East Asia Games … you get the picture.
Equally, when it comes to different sports, you can expect to find racing, football, tennis, golf, rugby and all the other major UK sports. You can also bet on all the main sports from the USA, not to mention the likes of badminton, beach volleyball, futsal, Gaelic sports, lacrosse, motorsports, netball, water polo and more.
Then, if you haven’t, somehow, found an event you are interested in, how about eSports (at the risk of sounding like a granddad, and for anyone over 50, that’s basically betting on video games!). Or betting on who will win Strictly Come Dancing, or Britain’s Got Talent, or the Best Actor Oscar, or the Republican nomination to be the next President, or your local by-election, or whether it will snow at Christmas. Or whether, God help us, the Christmas number one will be about sausage rolls once again.
Extra Features of Sports Betting
Whilst the above touches upon all the options for placing a bet, there is so much more to a modern bookmaker than that. Here are just some of the tools and features offered by bookies that you certainly won’t have found in your high street betting shop.
- In-Play Betting – Now offered on a wide range of sports and markets, this means you can assess how a game or match is going before deciding where to place your cash. Alternatively, if your initial bet settles early (either as a winner or a loser), you can place another bet to keep your punting interest alive.
- Live Streaming – Live streaming allows you to watch events for free that either you would have to pay for or you just wouldn’t be able to watch. Don’t expect to get the latest Tyson Fury fight or the Champions League but hundreds of events are streamed live each week across a range of sports.
- Cash Out – Cash out is, in theory, a great tool that allows punters to close bets early, locking in a win or minimising their losses. If you’re like us, though, it falls under the category of the tyranny of choice. Should you take a cash out offer or should you let it ride? Whatever you do will be wrong, so we say just hold your nerve!
- Tips & Previews – Many sites have brand ambassadors who are former sports stars and these, or sometimes just their own in-house betting experts, may provide you with tips or previews of big games and tournaments.
- Tools, Calculators & Tutorials – We have pretty much everything any betting newbie – or even a serious punter – could want to know right here on our site. However, many gambling sites also offer a range of tutorial videos or articles, betting tools, calculators and the like to help you along your betting journey.
Casino games come in a whole host of different types and the best gambling sites out there will offer hundreds for you to choose from. All online casinos will feature the following games, which are the bread and butter of the industry, be that in Vegas, Scunthorpe or online.
- Slots – Most sites will offer hundreds of different slots, including some progressive-jackpot varieties with six-, seven- and even eight-figure jackpots.
- Roulette – Roulette will be offered both live and using a random number generator (RNG) and computerised graphics. There may be as many as 30+ varieties, including some progressive variations and others which offer large payouts via innovative bonuses.
- Blackjack – As with roulette, available in live and RNG forms, all gambling sites will offer a selection of subtly different blackjack variants.
- Baccarat – James Bond’s favourite game (before he was reimagined for modern audiences as a Texas hold ‘em man!) is also offered in standard RNG form and live.
- Poker– You will find a range of poker games available, including three-card, Caribbean stud, hold ‘em and video poker. Note, however, that these are poker variants where you play against the house – for “real” poker, see the aptly named poker section below.
The major advantage of playing online as opposed to at a bricks-and-mortar establishment is the range of games you have. Your local casino will almost certainly have the basic versions of the games detailed above. However, they will not offer all the many and varied bonus iterations of them. These games often have a higher house edge (meaning they favour the casino more) but players feel that is worth accepting for the extra fun they bring – plus the potential to land huge payouts.
In addition to these core, traditional games, the casino suites of modern gambling sites also offer a selection of novel ones. These may be based on gameshows, popular TV shows, or even iconic slots (but reimagined as an entirely different game). In addition, there are bingo-style games and other options, including slingo, a sort of slots-bingo hybrid.
Live Casinos Games
Online casinos were first created using RNGs and a graphic representation of the action. However, live casino games followed very shortly after. Due to the slower and less stable internet speeds of the 1990s and even well into the noughties, they didn’t really catch on though. However, since then, technology (both in terms of internet and data connectivity, streaming software and the user’s hardware) has advanced a great deal.
This has seen the popularity of live casinos increase, with fans loving the more immersive, realistic experience. In addition, the slower pace of play at a live casino means your money tends to last longer. Live casinos film real roulette wheels, cards, dealers and croupiers and allow you to interact with them online. The core games offered by most sites are roulette, blackjack and baccarat, but you will also find gameshow-style options at some casinos.
Whilst there are many specialist bingo sites, top all-rounders also offer a massive range of bingo games. Bingo operates 24/7, with new games starting every few minutes and a range of stake sizes available. Some bingo games offer huge prizes, whilst others offer more modest rewards but are very cheap to enter. In fact, all bingo sites typically have freerolls where you can get a slice of the action without spending a penny, though these may be limited to new customers or only available infrequently.
Playing bingo online is very different to playing in the real world. First, we should point out that if you have ever been put off by the thought of trying to keep up with the numbers, dabber at the ready, fear not. When you play online, the marking off of the numbers is done automatically for you. This means you cannot miss out on a prize because you didn’t mark off a number and is also very handy as many players will play multiple tickets at once.
Chat is a large part of online bingo too and you can feel the excitement rising as players comment they have got 2TG and 1TG. That, by the way, means two and one (number) to go, BTW – you’ll soon get up to speed with bingo lingo, so GL!
As with bingo, there are specialist poker sites but also great games available at major sports betting sites and online casinos. Texas hold ‘em is, as ever, the dominant form of the game and you will find the most tables and options for this at every poker site in the world. That said, you can also grab a game of Omaha, whilst variants, such as stud and draw, are also common.
As well as different forms of the game, you also have the choice of playing in tournaments, no-limit games, cash games and even freerolls. With sites offering exceptional poker apps, playing on the go is really easy too, whilst newbies to the game will find a host of info and tutorials to help them get going.
Are the Sites Safe, Legal & Fair?
No business is immune from financial difficulties but all of the sites that we work with our safe, legal and fair in a more general sense. Barring insolvency they can be trusted to pay your winnings and handle withdrawals promptly. They will also treat your personal data and financial info responsibly and safely and have games and software that is fair and legitimate.
The best sites use highly acclaimed gambling software and the companies that provide it can offer proof that their games have been independently verified as being safe, fair and random. You might lose and you might see streaks that seem to defy the laws of probability but this will not be down to the games being rigged.
In terms of legality, assuming you opt for a fully licensed site, the company will be legal. In order to accept UK customers, any gambling website must be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). The UKGC site lets you check that a site and/or operator is legitimate and those licensed and regulated by the UKGC are held to very high standards.
Should you have a complaint or issue with any sort of gambling website then you should contact them first. Hopefully they can resolve it but if not then independent arbitration service IBAS should be the next people you contact. The UKGC do not deal with this type of individual complaint but hopefully IBAS can help you see why the betting site has acted how they have or, conversely, and far preferable, make them realise the error of their ways and fix the issue. Beyond that, legal action, either via the small claims court or at a higher level, is your final option.
Verifying Your ID & Source of Funds
Sites should be able to verify your ID, necessary for proof of age as much as anything else, automatically, behind the scenes. It is also necessary to ensure you have not self-excluded via GAMSTOP (see below). These checks should take place when you sign up and that means that at the best betting sites you probably won’t need to provide any further proof of your name, age, address or anything else.
Some sites may, however, ask you to email or scan various pieces of identification, such as your driving license, passport or utility bill. If they do this, it should take place before you are able to gamble with funds. In recent years, the UKGC has stated that gambling sites cannot only ask for ID when you try to withdraw. Some less reputable sites used to use this as a stalling tactic to either delay withdrawals or make people decide to bet more.
The concept of source of funds (or source of wealth) checks is a newer one. The UKGC state that they “challenge all gambling companies to know their customers inside out so they can provide the best possible service and ensure gambling in Great Britain is fair, safe and free of crime.” One of the main reasons they are required to ask about this is to avoid money laundering. The UKGC has handed out some huge fines to gambling sites that have not complied with their regulations.
There is also a responsible gambling aspect to this because betting firms are under increasing pressure to protect problem gamblers. Many who advocate greater regulation feel that people should be protected from themselves and greater steps taken to ensure punters only lose what they can afford. Someone earning £250,000 per year can probably lose £1,000 a month without it impacting their lives too much. In contrast, for someone on the minimum wage, such losses would be devastating.
Typically, a request to see where your funds have come from is triggered by very large deposits. It may also happen if you try to deposit an amount that is far more than normal (for you), even if that is not especially sizeable per se. The site may want to see payslips, bank statements and other info and if you cannot, or do not want, to provide it, they may suspend, limit or close your account, even withholding funds you have deposited.
Gambling should be a fun hobby that brings enjoyment to your life. If it takes up too much of your money, time, energy or thoughts, you need to seek help, cut back, or both. Thankfully, responsible gambling is more than just a phrase and the big betting sites take it seriously. They have a host of tools to help you out and these can usually be found under the “My Account” area or a dedicated responsible gambling hub.
Deposit & Time Limits
One of the best, most effective tools is a deposit limit. You can usually apply limits to how much you can deposit each day, week, month or some combination of the three. Downward changes of your limits are usually instant with upwards ones typically requiring a cooling off (waiting) period of at least 24 hours. With a deposit limit in place, you can decide how much you are comfortable losing when you have a calm and rational head. Should you lose a bet, a game of poker, or all of your casino bank, the temptation to chase losses is big. A deposit limit means that at the very least you are forced to think about whether you want to keep betting.
Time limits and time reminders are probably less useful in our opinion. Even so, these pop-ups can come in handy for those gamblers who find it easy to lose track of time when punting. They can be set for as little as 30 minutes, meaning you will get a message after that length of time letting you know how long you’ve been on site and sometimes asking if you are sure you want to continue. It’s all too easy to simply close these and play on but no doubt they are useful to some people.
Taking a Break
Taking a break or having a time out is a more serious step. Precise functionality varies between different gambling sites but typically this is a tool that stops you from being able to access your account for a period of time between a day and a month. At the very least it will save you some cash and at best, it gives you space to reassess your relationship with gambling long term.
Self-exclusion is a good choice if you feel you are gambling too much and want to have a longer or even permanent break. It works slightly differently at the various sites with different timeframes on offer, usually beginning at six months and going up to five years. In the past some sites offered the option to only exclude from one particular area of the site, for example sports betting, casino or bingo.
This was a useful tool but is less common now, though some sites offer it manually if you contact customer support. If not, you typically have to exclude yourself from the whole site. It is worth noting that whilst this type of exclusion only applies to the site at which you enact it, it may also cover other sites operated by the same company under different branding.
An even more severe option is to close your account entirely. If you really want to remove temptation this is a good choice but you will not be able to reinstate your account. Also note that this will probably only affect the site you are on, rather than any sister sites/brands.
GAMSTOP – Total Self-Exclusion
Using GAMSTOP can be seen as the nuclear option but if you are struggling with betting, or know someone that is, we highly advise thinking about it at the very least. This effective scheme is run by the National Online Self-Exclusion Scheme Limited, a not-for-profit organisation. It is free to use and will automatically exclude you from every UK-licensed gambling website. That means that any site that can legally accept UK customers will be out of bounds and this is a quick, effective way for people with multiple accounts, or who would be tempted to open new ones, to stop themselves gambling.
It is not going to stop someone who really, really wants to gamble but it is a great help to anyone that deep down doesn’t want to. You can choose to exclude for six months, a year or five years. However, the exclusion remains in place until you specifically ask for it to be removed, although only once your initial period has expired. Once activated it cannot be reversed before that length of time.