William Hill is one of the oldest UK regulated bookmakers with a lineage dating back to 1934—before it became legal in the country. This isn’t uncommon for legitimate gambling businesses worldwide. In fact, before the Nevada gambling industry was taken over by corporate interests the same phenomenon was ubiquitous there. It’s actually a ‘badge of honor’. A bookmaker in 1934 couldn’t get a reputation through PR, marketing or gimmicks. They had to earn the respect of their customers.
Licensed by the Gambling Commission (UK) and the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner, the company today is one of the largest gambling companies in the world with over 16,000 employees internationally. In 2012, they expanded to the United States by purchasing three smaller Nevada based sportsbook operators. At the time, they controlled 55% of all sports betting outlets in the ‘Silver State’. For that reason, they’re hyper vigilant about the clientèle they serve. All UK regulated sports books exclude US clients but to avoid any trouble with the somewhat unreasonable rules of the Nevada Gaming Commission and Gaming Control Board they go so far as to block US based players from accessing their website at all. With this exception, their residency requirements are typical for a UK based sportsbook.
The ‘bonus and promotions’ strategy is another area where UK regulated books differ from North American facing sportsbooks. For bookmakers seeking a North American clientèle, bonuses for signup, referral, reload, etc. have been commonplace since the early days of the industry. That’s not the case for UK books. They may offer a signup bonus (usually matching the initial deposit up to a certain amount) but they place a greater emphasis on promotions that run the gamut from free bets to an automatic refund of losing soccer bets when a game ends in a scoreless tie. The reason for the difference in philosophy is simple—its a never ending hassle to make deposits and withdrawals for most North American based players. Once a sports book gets, for example, a US player on board it’s not easy to leave—and particularly if he’s trying to satisfy a ‘rollover requirement’. UK books are just the opposite—with an abundance of competition and no real obstacles to withdrawing a bankroll they don’t have that kind of ‘captive audience’.
When I review a North American facing sportsbook I spend a good deal of time explaining and critiquing the betting process and other utilitarian functions like banking and customer service. Due to the nature of the UK betting marketplace these components aren’t as significant of a concern. In fact, there’s a high degree of uniformity from one bookmaker to another not only in the ‘workflow’ of placing bets but in the design of the sites themselves. There’s several reasons for this—one is regulatory since all of the providers of infrastructure technology are also regulated. Another is practical—if your potential market is used to doing things a certain way at a dozen other sportsbooks there’s no wisdom in making them face a ‘learning curve’ to use your site. A British bookmaking executive once gave me this explanation: “It’s like a pinball machine. You don’t want people who come into your arcade to have to search for the flipper buttons.”
You can make a very compelling case that the UK bookmaking industry is the best in the world from the standpoint of the bettor. It’s a well regulated industry but not over-regulated. It’s highly competitive with hundreds of companies offering different types of bets and sports to bet on. It’s easy accessible from betting shops on busy London streets, to automatic betting kiosks to websites that serve an international clientèle.
In fact, the overall quality of the industry is so high that most of the concerns of online sports bettors in less developed markets are a non-issue here. A US sports bettor has limited options of where to play and even fewer options of how to bet and move money once he gets there. Finding a book that ‘plays fair’ is always a concern. It’s work just finding a book that will pay promptly and not make it difficult to get a withdrawal.
The UK regulated books not only do a better job at addressing these concerns, they’re simply not a consideration. Players know that they will get paid and get paid promptly. A highly competitive marketplace means that bookmakers have no option but to offer a wide variety of bet types and sports and bend over backwards to accommodate their players. If they don’t, there’s another betting shop (or two or three) across the street. When a dispute does arise, there’s a regulatory framework where players can address or appeal.
All of this means that at any UK regulated sportsbook a player can expect a ‘baseline’ of quality. Since players don’t have to worry about getting cheated or stiffed, they can ‘shop around’ for the book that is the best fit for their betting interests. There’s a reason that William Hill is such an international powerhouse—they do an excellent job keeping their clients engaged. They’ve got an extensive menu of betting options across dozens upon dozens of sports and they’re always adding new ways to wager. In fact, William Hill might take action on a wider variety of sporting events—not to mention non-sporting events like politics, finance and entertainment—than any other bookmaking business in the world.