Our recommended Cheltenham bookmakers provide new customers with attractive welcome offers throughout the year. During the Cheltenham Festival things go up a notch however and during the first couple of weeks in March you can claim some of the most outrageous welcome free bets and bonuses you will see all year round.
In this section we focus on the best introductory betting site promotions and show you the major terms and conditions to consider when claiming them. There are many different types of free bet and bonus deals available in amounts to suit all types of punter, from those looking for a low stakes £5 bet to those wishing to get matched bonuses of £100’s. The important thing is to take the right offer for you.
Free bets generally pay you cash winnings, require lower qualifying deposits/bets to claim and give you a higher percentage free. You won’t get the stake back, you can’t split them up and they usually expire within 7 days.
Bonuses tend to be of higher overall value and amount, you can keep the bonus itself, split it up into many bets and it usually comes with a longer validity of 30+ days. Bonuses however need to be bet through several times at minimum odds, known as the wagering requirement or rollover.
How To Use Free Bets & Bonuses
Betting sites often offer introductory welcome incentives such as ‘Free Bets’ or ‘Bonuses’ for new customers as an effort to entice punters to start using their services. The trouble is, what happens if you don’t know how to use them?
There’s an obvious temptation to read the words ‘free’ and ‘bet’ and feel as though it’s going to be a bit like printing money. Sadly the reality is rarely that simple. Don’t be disheartened, however, as this is still a brilliant opportunity to take advantage of numerous excellent offers that you’ll find around the place, and overall these deals do increase your chances of winning.
Bookmakers offer these sign up deals not to try to con you, they are instead so generous because online betting is so competitive that they have to give you free funds to bet with in order to get your custom in the first place.
There are several different offers that you’ll want to keep your eye out for, with the wording being key for letting you know what you’re going to get. The main thing to know is that you rarely, if ever, get free cash added to your account. Instead these offers are normally made up of what we’ll refer to as ‘bonus funds’ or ‘free tokens’. These bonus funds or tokens can be used in place of cash and have some rules attached to them. The table below is designed to help you compare free bets and bonuses to determine which offers suit you better.
|Bonuses||Free Bets||Risk Free Bets|
|Awarded||On Deposit||On Bet Placement||If First Bet Loses|
|% Free||50% – 200%||50% – 600%||50% – 100%|
|Expiry Time||14 Days+||3 Days+||3 Days+|
|Roll-Over||Yes, 3x (+)*||No||No|
|Split Up?||Yes||No – 1 token = 1 bet||No – 1 token = 1 bet|
|Minimum Odds||Yes for bonus roll-over||Yes, for qualifying bet, sometimes for free token||Yes, for qualifying bet, sometimes for free token|
|Maximum Odds||No||Occasionally for free token||Occasionally for free token|
|Bet Types||Single and Multi-Line^||Single Line Only^||Single Line Only^|
# Free bet winnings should always be paid in cash, if not we suggest you avoid the offers.
* Be careful to check if the rollover is just for the bonus amount or includes the deposit + bonus. If for example you have a £100 matched bonus a 3x deposit and bonus wagering requirement would be the same as saying 6x the bonus.
^ Single bets are those that require a single unit stake, this could be a straight win, single line accumulator or place bet, but couldn’t, for example, be an each-way bet. Multi-line bets include full cover bet types such as Lucky 15, 31 or 63 wagers, that require multiple parallel stakes.
In general our advice is simple: keep an eye out for the wording of any offer and make sure you check out the small print. That will let you know if there are any minimum odds requirements, whether you need to roll over your winnings before withdrawal and other key factors. For more about how to bet on horse racing see our dedicated page.
Cheltenham Bookies: Best Horse Racing Betting Sites
The Cheltenham Festival is one of the most thrilling, fascinating and enthralling weeks in the entire National Hunt calendar. Of course the main races on each day, such as the Champion Hurdle on Day One and the Stayers’ Hurdle on Day Three capture the imagination, but it is the Gold Cup on the final day of the week that garners the most interest. Alongside the Grand National it is one of the most watched races in the world. No surprise, then, that bookmakers like Coral and Betway sponsor races and have such a close relationship with the Festival itself.
With twenty-eight races over the course of four days, it’s fair to say that there is a real opportunity for punters to make some money at the expensive of those bookmakers and others besides. Certainly some of the less watched races often throw up winners with odds that will make the bookies cringe. Somewhere in the region of £150,000,000 is bet on the Cheltenham Festival every year, so here we’ll look at which bookmakers are the best to turn to for this most exciting of race meeting of the calendar.
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For any younger bettors amongst you there may be an inclination to assume that Coral is quite a new bookmaker. After all, the explosion of online betting and mobile apps mean that Coral have been able to reinvent themselves as a company for modern times. In reality, however, Joe Coral founded a bookmakers in London back in 1926. He was also one of the first people to open a licensed betting shop when legislation on the matter changed in the 1960s.
There’s a slight degree of truth in the notion that Coral is a young bookies, of course. The company was acquired by Bass Leisure in 1981 and in 1999 it became Coral Eurobet after the purchase of an online betting company called Eurobet. In 2005 Gala, which itself was only formed in 1991, purchased Coral and it became Gala Coral. The potted history of the bookmaker was completed in 2015 when Ladbrokes bought out Gala Coral and formed a new company, Ladbrokes Coral. This itself was then bought by GVC holdings the following year.
HORSE RACING AT CORAL
Coral is operated as a separate arm from Ladbrokes when it comes to their online betting operation, which is why we’re talking about them separately here. The company’s history is also steeped in horse racing, with Joe Coral originally operating his bookmaking operation from pitches at horse race meetings. That’s why we think they’re worth looking at for all of your horse racing needs, with the fact that they sponsor a race on Ladies Day also indicative of how seriously they take the Cheltenham Festival.
If you’re hoping to get an edge for your bets at the Cheltenham Festival then you might be interested to know that Coral run a specialised blog in the time leading up to and during the meeting. The likes of former jockey-turned-trained Joe Tizzard and current jockey Tom Scudamore often chat through their predictions for the week ahead of the Festival. You can’t get much better inside knowledge than that!
Coral has decent offers for punters like Best Price Guaranteed and daily enhanced odds, extra places or free bets for winners so that should perk your interest, with other factors like a decent website and mobile app also worth considering.
One of the other major advantages of placing a bet on horse racing with Coral is that you’ll be able to live stream the race via the main app or their website, for free. This is great for those of you that can’t make it to the racecourse itself but still want to be kept abreast of the action. Do your research, place a bet then sit back and watch your horse romp home.
888 Sport is one of the new breed of bookmakers that has sprung up in recent times, thanks in no small part to the explosion of betting online. Formed in 2008, it’s an offshoot from 888 Holdings. 888 Holdings was itself established in 1997, so there is at least a little bit more of a pedigree to 888 Sport than you might initially realise. Having made its name hosting online poker, bingo and other such activities, 888 Holdings decided to branch out into having a sportsbook and this is the result.
As with most of the young guns in the online betting industry, 888 Sport began to make a name for itself when it started sponsoring things. The first sponsorship carried out by the company was a stand at Fontwell Park Racecourse in 2010, so it’s fair to say that horse racing has always been something they’ve had links to. Those horse racing links were solidified over the following years with sponsorship of races at Sandown Park, Kempton Park and Haydock Park, which is why they’re on our list of a reputable bookmaker for Cheltenham Festival betting.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
If a bookie is going to invest heavily in sponsoring numerous horse races and stands at racecourses then you can bet that they’ll do their best to ensure their coverage of the sport is tip-top. They match the market with promotions like Best Odds Guaranteed, so you know you’re not going to be frustrated at taking a lower price when you back a winner, but they also do variable regular offers that can be used for racing along (e.g. free bets, money back, acca insurance) along with lots of enhanced odds. Not exactly industry leading, but good enough to mean it’s worth taking advantage of.
They have live streaming through both their desktop site and their mobile app, which is ideal for anyone who can’t be at the racecourse live or who are there and get caught short. In order to stream races live you just need to have placed a bet of £1 or more on the one you’d like to watch. Given you’re likely to be sticking a bet on anyway that isn’t exactly a great hardship. When it comes to Cheltenham specifically there are good all-round offers from 888 Sport, as well as tips, advice and blogs from experts.
Those tips, blogs and advice sections exist all year round, too, so if you think horse racing is for life and not just for Cheltenham then they’ve got you covered. Their markets have great depth, their odds are competitive if not the best in the business and their live betting options are plentiful. Given the fact that the mobile app is so well put together and the desktop site is entirely functional, there’s a lot to recommend 888 Sport.
If you’ve read our section on Coral then you’ll know that Ladbrokes have merged with Coral in recent years. They’re run as separate companies, though, so it’s worth considering them as such. That is especially true given Ladbrokes’ long and illustrious history in the betting industry. Founded in 1886 by Messers Schwind and Pennington, the company was initially a commission agency for horses from Warwickshire’s Ladbrokes Hall. They moved the operation to London in 1902 and from then until 1956 their clients were members of royalty and the aristocracy.
Acquired by Mark and Cyril Stein in 1956, Ladbrokes’ new owners decided to abandon the exclusive mandate that had seen the company’s profits dwindle in the wake of the Second World War and instead opened a chain of betting shops when the law on such matters changed in 1961. The modern iteration of the bookmaker was formed in 2016 when Ladbrokes bought Coral and formed the Ladbrokes Coral Group (this in itself was then bought by GVC holdings the following year). We think it’s a company worth turning to for your Cheltenham Festival betting because of their history with the sport and knowledge of what it takes to survive in a competitive industry for so long.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
Compared to some other companies Ladbrokes may seem a little bit old hat, mainly thanks to its website and mobile app. These both seem a little dated and underwhelming when compared to some of the more modern bookies that are out there, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that the company doesn’t have anything to offer. In fact, the opposite may well be true. What to you might seem a little uninteresting is actually tried and tested, with Ladbrokes having entered the world of online betting as far back as 1998.
Given that Ladbrokes is one of the oldest and most established bookmakers in the UK it isn’t a particularly huge shock to report that their market depth is exceptional. They have some of the the most incentivised offers and payouts in the whole world and there’s barely a market you’ll be able to think of that they don’t cover. This is great for a meeting such as the Cheltenham Festival, where every Tom, Dick and Harry covers the main races but not all are so quick to offer market depth on the lesser known races.
Ladbrokes match other leading bookmakers on our list by offering live streaming and Best Odds Guaranteed for horse racing. This means they match the SP if your early fixed price was lower when you placed the bet. They also have money back second offers, extra places, and more that vary across the year. At the end of the day, though, the major draw for most punters is going to be the name recognition and longevity covering the sport. That is proven by the fact that they have sponsored races at the Cheltenham Festival in years gone by.
With more customers spread across more countries than pretty much any other online bookie it’s entirely fair to say that Bet365 are a betting behemoth. Fully UK licensed they are one of the biggest online bookmakers in the world; pretty impressive when you consider that it started life from inside a portakabin.
What the company lacks in terms of an historical reputation with punters it more than makes up for in terms of innovation. It is no exaggeration to suggest that Bet365 has changed the face of online gambling throughout its short existence. It is that willingness to offer something different combined with the fact that the company dominates the market that makes it one of the our top recommendations when it comes to betting on the Cheltenham Festival. But what exactly do they offer?
HORSE RACING FEATURES
The better question might actually be 'What don’t they offer'. As one of the top betting companies in the world there are few features you’re likely to be interested in that aren’t covered by Bet365. Even ignoring their excellent offers and promotions it’s the little things that capture the attention when wondering who to place a bet with.
For example, Bet365’s desktop site is one of the best around, with an intuitive interface and as many markets in as many sports as you could possibly want to see. Yet their mobile app is also elegant, easy to use and quick to respond to your requests, making it ideal for sticking a last minute bet on a race at the Cheltenham Festival. Using a service where the app is just as good as the website is a no brainer for people who can’t exactly carry their laptop around a racecourse with them.
Whether you’re using the website or the app, Bet365 provide great live betting, streams, stats and many other top features to allow you to bet the way you want to, where you want to.
The company’s gigantic power in a very competitive market means that few bookmakers can beat them for important stuff such as value, banking options, loyalty schemes, cash out and more. If you’re a serious punter then all in all, one of the best bookies out there.
Founded in 1946 by father and son William and Victor Chandler, BetVictor used to be known as Victor Chandler International Limited. William Chandler had been an owner of Walthamstow Stadium and had had a betting stall at the greyhound track, so the company is steeped in gambling history.
Though they’ve now settled on the name BetVictor, the company has gone through numerous rebranding exercises over the years. In 2004 they gave VC Bet a go, then went back to Victor Chandler in 2008 before settling on their current moniker in 2012. If you’re wondering why we think they’re a top-notch bookmaker for all your horse racing needs then consider this: In 2014 the racehorse owner Michael Tabor took over the company. If anyone’s likely to know what’s good for racing fans then it’s surely an owner of racehorses.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
There are countless horse racing features that make BetVictor one of our favourite places to go when we’re looking to place a bet on the Gee-Gees. We’ll talk about Cheltenham specifically in a minute, but for now there are two things we want to mention that you might be interested in. The first is that BetVictor cover horse races from all around the world, meaning that you’re almost always going to be able to have a bet on a race with them if you want to. And when there aren’t any races going on anywhere? You can bet on virtual racing instead.
BetVictor’s website is excellent, so if you’re the sort of punter that likes to use desktop sites then you’re not going to be disappointed. You are going to miss out, though, as the BetVictor mobile app is one of the best in the business. Whichever way you want to place your bet you’ll be pleased to know that you can then stream it live after you’ve got your bet on. Great for those of you that can’t get to the racecourse or can but would rather watch the race in the bar on your phone…
If you’re looking for particularly deep ante-post markets then you might be slightly disappointed, but the odds are more than good enough to make up for that and you can also place in-running bets if that tickles your fancy. Like most top-end bookmakers, BetVictor offer a Best Price Guarantee when to comes to horse racing, so you’ll know that you won’t be short-changed with your bet. They also offer racing specials (check for availability) such as their Lengthen The Odds market, which allows you claim a win for extra places. If you love betting on the Sport of Kings then the fact that BetVictor has such a decent pedigree will be a big draw for you.
If you want to place a bet on horse racing then you’d be reasonably hard pushed to find a more appropriately named company to do that with than RaceBets. Founded in Germany in 2005, just two years later they were the largest bookmaker in the country and three years after that they actually invited German Racing to invest in the company. Since then they’ve repaid a percentage of their profits into the horse racing industry, so it’s entirely fair to say that they give back to the industry that’s helped to create them.
RaceBets were bought by Betsson since but still offer full coverage of UK and Irish racing, which they have done so since 2012, so we had no hesitation whatsoever in adding them to our list of recommended bookmakers for the Cheltenham Festival. Operated under the name RaceBets International Gaming Limited, the company’s regulated by the Malta Gaming Authority and have a license through the UK Gambling Commission. They are a top-notch bookie that not as many people know about as you might think. They don't have the name recognition of the likes of Ladbrokes or William Hill, but their horse racing coverage is second to none.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
It’s that coverage that makes them so hard to resist for all of your horse race betting needs. You can bet on around a quarter of a million races every single year through RaceBets, with events covered from 40+ different countries. Their ante-post market is excellent, they cover numerous different types of bets and you can even take on their own pros if you fancy your chances of bashing the bookies. If you like watching your races live then you’ll want to head to the Live Stream page, where you can watch hundreds of live races from far-flung places such as Dubai and Canada.
As you would expect from a company that specialises in horse racing, you can take advantage of numerous different regular promotions. Obvious ones like Best Odds Guaranteed are there, with that one applying to racing not only from the UK and Ireland but also South Africa and United Arab Emirates. You’ll find loads of different bonus offers (variable through the year), plus more interesting promotions such as money back if your horse is beaten by a nose and first fence feller refunds (when available) in any race on site.
RaceBets is one of our favourite bookmakers to bet with on the racing. They’re obviously lacking other major sports that you might want to have a flutter on, but what you lose in variety you more than make up for by way of specialised betting opportunities. Their odds are often quite decent, but of course it’s the market depth that impresses the most. In short, if you’re looking to place a bet on a horse race then you’d be silly not to check out RaceBets.
Unibet is part of the Kindred Group, which itself used to be known as Unibet Group Plc. It was founded in 1997 by Anders Ström and has gradually grown to become a real powerhouse in the betting world. A large part of that is due to the manner in which the Kindred Group has absorbed other bookmakers into it, which have in turn been re-branded under the Unibet banner. A good example of this is Stan James, which was acquired in 2015 and then dissolved in 2017, with customers moving over to Unibet instead.
In 2017 Kindred Group also purchased 32Red, the Malta-based bookmaker and gaming business. It was another step along the road towards Unibet becoming far more UK-centric in it coverage. As well as taking over the online businesses of the likes of Stan James and 32Red, Unibet has also taken on their sponsorship responsibilities. This is relevant to us here because Stan James sponsored numerous races associated with Cheltenham, including the Champion Hurdle during the Cheltenham Festival. That race, along with the seven races known as 'The Road To Cheltenham', will now be sponsored by Unibet instead.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
The combination of the company’s desire to appeal more fully to a UK-based audience and the fact that they’ve taken over those racing sponsorship responsibilities means that Unibet’s coverage of horse racing is as competitive as any of the other major bookies out there. They offer the industry-wide standard of a Best Odds Guarantee for UK and Irish racing.
In terms of offers they do tend to have a few specific promotions when big horse racing events are in progress, so it’s always worth double-checking their 'Special Offers' page regularly to see what’s going on. On top of this there are plenty of regular offers that change from the flat to the jump season, but you can always get extra place daily on select races and lucky bet bonuses.
One area that is not a disappointment is their Live Streaming. Unibet TV, as the Live Streaming function is known, is really good and is easy to navigate to on the site. If individual races are to be streamed then you’ll see the 'UTV' symbol next to both the race details and the main page with the race course name on. Alternatively you can head to the Live Streaming tab at the top of the page, if you prefer. Live Streaming is free on Unibet, as long as you’re logged in and your account is in credit. Occasionally they might require a set amount of money to be bet on an event in order to stream it, but they’ll make that very clear to you ahead of time.
Betway is the bookmaking arm of the imaginatively named Betway Group. Founded in 2006, the company has forged a reputation as one of the best multifaceted online entertainment companies around. As well as the sports book there is also an online casino, bingo arm and poker site. Sufficed to say, if you like to have a flutter through the medium of the internet then Betway has got you covered.
Since its formation and development into one of the biggest sports betting companies on the internet, Betway has grown its reputation and name recognition through numerous high-profile sponsorship deals. These include the likes of Premier League Darts, boxing matches and a partnership with West Ham United Football Club. The reason we like and trust them for their Cheltenham coverage is that they have also sponsored the Queen Mother Champion Chase in the past.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
Sponsoring a race such as the Queen Mother Champion Chase isn’t something you do if you’re not serious about your horse racing. That Betway’s also sponsored races such as the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster, the Chester Cup, the Yorkshire Cup and the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York is a sure sign that horse racing is a sport the company wants to be known for. Irish Jockey Davy Russell is a Betway ambassador and writes a regular tips blog for the company, as is the English jockey Richard Johnson. They are part of Betway’s excellent Cheltenham coverage, involving daily blogs looking at the events to come.
When it comes to coverage, Betway are very competitive. As well as the obvious races from the UK and Ireland, you’ll be able to bet on ones from further afield. These include races from places such as South Africa and America. On top of that, you’ll also be able to live stream most of those races. It’s worth noting that not all of them can be watched online, but a fair whack of them can and you can watch both on the main site and on the mobile app. Racing isn’t the only sport that’s live streamed, of course, but it’s the one we’re most interested in.
As far as odds are concerned, Betway are often there or there about. If they don’t have the best odds in their own right then they at least tend to match others, though more often than not you’ll struggle to improve on what you can get through them. To ensure your interest is always piqued, the company runs numerous different horse racing promotions that you’ll want to keep your eye out for, such as money back second (up to £25) on ITV races (when available).
Named after Fred and Peter Done, who founded the company as a single shop in Manchester in 1967, Betfred is one of the biggest bookmakers in the UK. The owners are Manchester United supporters, which explains why they have twice paid out early on the Red Devils to win the Premier League. They will no doubt have regretted their decision, however, with Arsenal winning the title the first time they did it in 1998 and Manchester City taking the title from their city rivals on goal difference in 2012. Fred Done also personally lost £1 million when he had a bet with fellow bookie that Manchester United would finish ahead of Chelsea before the 2004-2005 Premier League season.
That should give you something of an idea of the sort of bookmaker we’re talking about here. They’re not afraid to go big on publicity stunts if it means that that will garner the company some attention from the press and punters alike. Little surprise, then, that Betfred are one of the largest sponsors of horse racing in the United Kingdom. That, combined with the fact that they owned the Tote from 2011-2019, is why we’re keen to recommend them to you as a bookie you want to have an account with ahead of the Cheltenham Festival meeting. As an example, in previous years the company has sponsored the biggest race of the week, the Gold Cup.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
As long as you stake £1 you can live stream racing from across the UK and Ireland. You can do this on either the company’s main desktop site or via their mobile app, so you never have to miss out on the action as long as you’ve got internet access. Given that both the main site and the app are perfectly functional and easy enough to use, you’re unlikely to be caught short when trying to get a bet on.
As former part-owners of the Tote, Betfred have all the totepool bets along with some great offers on horse racing pretty much all year round. Best Odds Guaranteed is a given, offers for Lucky bets are also popular, when you consider that Betfred invented the Lucky bet type. They’re also a decent company to bet with thanks to their general coverage of the racing, with tips, hints, suggestions and course guides all found on their site.
When it comes to Cheltenham specifically, Betfred are hard to beat. They may not have the very best odds or offers that can’t be rivalled, but Betfred TV offers some of the best coverage around. In previous years they’ve spoken live to trainers such as Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins, heard from jockeys like Noel Fehily and Richard Johnson in the weighing-room and generally just been a head in front of their competition for your attention. The fact that their coverage is free is also great news.
Few bookmakers in the entire industry offer the same level of name recognition as William Hill. Founded by the man it’s named after in 1934, it began life in less than auspicious circumstances when you consider that gambling was actually illegal at the time. The company has had numerous owners over the years, from Sears Holdings who bought it in 1971 through to Brent Walker in 1989. It’s enjoyed its fair share of ups and downs during its existence, too. Brent Walker’s collapse in 1997 led to a leveraged buyout by a Japanese investment bank called Nomura, who eventually sold it on again to Cinven and CVC Capital Partners in 1999.
The turn of the millennium saw a turn in fortunes for the bookies thanks to the explosion of online betting, and partly because of William Hill’s sponsorship of Sunderland and Newcastle Greyhound Stadiums, interest in the company spiked once more. They bought 624 betting shops from Stanley Leisure in 2005 and subsequently overtook Ladbrokes as the biggest bookmaker in the UK (although lost that recently following other bookmakers merging). They have cornered around a quarter of the UK betting market, which is one of the main reasons we’re not afraid to recommend them to you for your Cheltenham Festival betting needs.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
Obviously such a gigantic bookmaker is hardly going to lag behind the competition when it comes to the big race meetings, so it’s no surprise to discover that William Hill offer all of the usual attractions for punters. Best Odds Guaranteed is a staple of the bookie, as is live streaming of all UK and Irish races as well as selected offerings from elsewhere in the world.
In truth William Hill doesn’t try to compete with the more gimmicky offers of the younger, newer bookmakers. They need to drum up business and garner attention in order to get their name out there, whilst William Hill boasts one of the best-known names in the industry. Saying that they do have some great value offers and the ante-post service is as good as it comes, with their market depth also worthy of a mention. If you like to place accumulators or the like then they’ve got you covered too, so there’s not an awful lot to criticise William Hill for. Not the most exciting bookie on the block, but sometimes reliability and name recognition is just as important.
Betfair is perhaps best known for its exchange. That’s not a huge shock, considering that the company is the world’s biggest online betting exchange. If you’re not sure what an exchange is then the simplest way of explaining it is to say that it essentially allows punters to act as if they are the bookmaker. It sees customers betting against each other rather than against a bookie, with a commission paid to the company to allow it to make a profit. Say you’re betting on the Gold Cup and you think the favourite hasn’t got a chance of winning, you can 'lay' the favourite, meaning that you bet on every other horse. Obviously if lose, however, you’ll have to pay out accordingly.
Anyway, back to Betfair. The company was founded in 2000 and went from strength to strength over the following years. In 2012 they opened their own fixed-odds service in order to offer competition to more traditional bookmakers. A merger was agreed between Betfair and Paddy Power in 2016, resulting in the formation of Paddy Power Betfair. They are operated as separate entities in the UK, with the result being that Betfair now has access to high street shops when previously it was an online only company. As far as why we recommend them for Cheltenham is concerned, their size as a bookie is a huge part of it. They’ve also made deals over the years with the likes of the New York Racing Association and Timeform, showing their love of racing.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
Their love of the racing industry manifests itself in numerous ways that you can take advantage of as a punter. There are plenty of promotions that you’ll want to know about, for example. Perhaps you’d like to get a free bet if you back a winner with a starting price of 3/1 or greater? Maybe you want to take advantage of their Best Odds Guarantee offer or watch racing live through their streaming service? You can do the latter as long as you’ve placed a bet of 50 pence or more on the race you’re hoping to watch.
Betfair’s odds are often competitive. They may not always be the very best on every single race, but you can normally find several best odds options within any given race. They also run a promotion called Each Way Edge that means their odds can improve further if you want to take a risk. Essentially that offer says that if you want to take less places you can improve your Each Way odds, or you can shorten your odds by taking more places. It’s not available on all races but is worth looking out for.
Market depth through Betfair is reasonably impressive. At the time of writing you can bet on races throughout the UK in places like Sedgefield, Warwick and Chepstow as well as in Ireland, Germany, Chile and Sweden. If all else fails then you can always turn to their virtual racing, too.
Founded in Dublin in 1988 when three Irish bookies named Stewart Kenny, David Power, and John Corcoran merged, Paddy Power has grown to become one of the biggest and most influential bookmakers in the market today. It runs the biggest telephone betting service in Ireland and in 2016 merged with Betfair to become the even more powerful and influential Paddy Power Betfair. The two companies are run as separate things, but it’s still always worth knowing about these sorts of mergers and arrangements within the bookmaking world.
Initially the new company garnered attention within the media thanks to the novelty bets they offered, but that was all part of a broader strategy to expand throughout Ireland and over into the UK. By the start of 2006 the company had done exactly that, with 150 shops on the Emerald Isle and a further 45 in the United Kingdom. Since the turn of the millennium the company has continued to grow and expand, offering bingo in 2007, for example. They have often put forward controversial betting markets and regularly pay out early on bets for the associated media coverage. It is a strategy that works, with Paddy Power having one of the largest shares of the European market.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
As always, though, controversy and media coverage isn’t enough to win and keep bettors. Thankfully, it’s a well-known fact that the Irish love horse racing and Paddy Power’s coverage of the Sport of Kings reflects that. The website might look a bit cluttered but a bit of time spent searching through all of the information will see you richly rewarded.
When you click on the ‘Horse Racing’ tab on the lefthand side you’ll reveal Quicklinks to the next five races, plus a link to all of the courses with races taking place that day. You can seek out future racing as soon as the following day or as advanced as the following year. There are also links to special offers and even virtual racing.
The main racing page has all of that information in a clearer format, as well as sections with tips for the day and bets that are trending. These tips include information on horses that have won several times on the course that they’re running on that day, which is always worth bearing in mind when it comes to placing your bet. If that’s the sort of thing that tickles your fancy then make sure you check out the horse racing section of the Paddy Power blog.
Paddy Power’s promotions are exactly as numerous and impressive as you’d imagine from such a huge company. From paying out on extra places in selected bets through to money back if your horse loses out to the starting price favourite from time to time. They also have the offers that most other bookies have, such as Best Odds Guaranteed, so you know you’re not missing out.
Paddy Power’s Live Streaming service is one of the best in the business, with the company helping you out by keeping the general sport service separate from the horse racing. You’ll know if you can stream the race you’re betting on live because there’ll be a ‘Watch Live’ button on the race page. You normally have to be logged in and have placed a bet of at least £1 to watch racing live, which you’ll want to do if you’re hoping to analyse the horse’s form.
It’s becoming more and more common for bookmakers to exist online only, for them to have no high street presence. That means that the two hundred plus Boylesports shops that are in place across Ireland makes the bookie a somewhat original prospect. The first Boylesports was opened in Market Hill in Newry, Northern Ireland, in 1989 by a man named John Boyle. Since then it has grown and grown, employing more and one and a half thousand people across the Emerald Isle. They have been a fixture in Irish gambling since before the move by majority of companies online came about, meaning that the bookmaker is well-respected in the industry.
As with countless other companies that began life away from the mainstream English and British market, Boylesports made a name for itself through sponsorship over the years. A deal with Leopardstown Racecourse was signed in 2011, for example, which was also the year when they sponsored a meeting at Newmarket. That all came after Boylesports’s sponsorship of the International Hurdle at Cheltenham between 2006 and 2009. Outside of horse racing, the company has sponsored two then Premier League teams in Sunderland in 2007 and Aston Villa in 2008. That’s why you might well recognise the name of the company, even if you’ve never been to Ireland.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
Given all of the various sponsorship of races that Boylesports has carried out over the years, it’s no major surprise to learn that the bookmaker takes its coverage of racing very seriously indeed. Click on the sportsbook homepage and you’ll see Horse Racing at the top of the list of sports covered, unless there’s a major event taking place that they think their audience will be more interested in. It’s not just a matter of convenience as to why that’s gaining a mention - they also do their utmost to cover as many different races as possible from numerous different locations.
Click on ‘Horse Racing’ and you’ll find that the coverage is split into numerous different tabs. As well as the obvious one of UK & Ireland, there’s also international racing from the United States of America, Latin America and Australia. Away from that you’ll see Virtual Horse Racing is also covered, as are the Irish and US Totes. Expect to be able to bet on all of the biggest English racecourses if they’ve got anything on, plus smaller ones lie Cartmel, Kenilworth and Lingfield. If you’re looking abroad then you’ll see locations like Philadelphia, Golden Gate Fields and Geelong Synthetic crop up.
Even the world’s biggest horse racing fanatics like to look away from the Sport of Kings every now and again and if you do then you’ll find all of the biggest sports on their list. From British institutions like football, golf and tennis through to more unusual offerings such as handball, rugby and speedway. They’ll even let you bet on random events in politics and television, should that take your fancy. If you’re going to have a bet on the horse racing then you’ll want to know what’s happened in the race, so the company’s Live Streaming feature will be a big plus for a lot of you.
If you’re scratching your head and wondering why you haven’t heard of Sport Nation as a bookmaker then don’t worry, you’re not on your own. The site is part of the Argyll Entertainment AG family and was originally called Bet On Brazil before a re-branding was undertaken in 2017. Alan Brazil remains on board as a Brand Ambassador, but you don’t need to worry as he’s not in charge of coming up with the odds or anything like that. He simply lends his ever-increasing face to the project and offers forward football tips when it seems appropriate to do so.
Just because Sport Nation is a relative newcomer in terms of their name, don’t think that that means that they lack experience. Argyll Entertainment have been around for some time and the original Bet On Brazil site was launched in time for the European Championship in 2016. They’ve re-branded, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t still have the experiences they learnt back then. Powered by SBtech, the catchphrase is ‘Don’t Bet On Boring’ and that tells you a lot about how they like to approach their sportsbook coverage. Argyll Entertainment is based in Switzerland, but they’ve got a UK Gambling Licence in order to allow them to focus on this market.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
Sport Nation have two major markets that they have targeted since the sight was first launched under its former guise: football and horse racing. When you look at the sports that they cover, you’ll see them both in that order on the list - unless there’s a major event like the British Open in golf or Wimbledon taking place. Click on ‘Horse Racing’ and you’ll find that the coverage is split into two sections: UK & Irish racing and International racing. Click on the one you want and you’ll then find that you’re given more options.
Firstly you’ll be able to select from any of the Next 3 Races, with the rest of the races being covered split up further into Today, Tomorrow and Future. They’re relatively self-explanatory markets, with ‘Future’ being another word for ante-post betting. For the racing close to home, you’re looking at all of the biggest courses around the country and Ireland as well as smaller courses such as Cartmel, Windsor and Huntingdon. One thing to watch out for is that the International market is predominantly taken up by races from the future, such as the Belmont Stakes and the Breeders Cup Distaff.
Should you fancy venturing further afield than just the horse racing then Sport Nation has got you covered. Their football betting is up their with the best on the market, particularly when tournaments like the World Cup or European Championship come around. The list of other sports that you can bet on is reassuringly long, taking in the likes of handball, Aussie rules and American football, as well as mainstream offerings such as tennis, golf and darts. In-Play betting and Cash Out options are both available, though sadly Live Streaming is not at the time of writing.
Mr Green was the brainchild of Fredrik Sidfalk and Henrik Bergquist, who had helped Anders Holmgren to set up Betsson in 2001. Six years later they came together with Mikael Pawlo to create an online casino, ensuring that they had all of their ducks in a row before launching the website the following year. One of the ways in which they gained attention was by getting casino games from numerous different suppliers rather than having an exclusive deal with one. They also allowed customers to have a centralised wallet, which appealed to those that like to play countless different games. That’s become standard practice, but Mr Green was one of the first sites to offer it.
Mr Green has taken a leaf out of the book of numerous different smaller bookmakers, using sponsorship deals to get their name out there into the wider world. The first came about in 2014 when they struck a deal with the oldest club side in Ireland, Bohemian Football Club, then another sponsorship was taken on in 2016 when they linked up with Wigan Athletic. Fast-forward a year and Mr Green ventured into Scotland, becoming the official casino partner of Celtic. That came on the back of Mr Green’s sportsbook launching in April of 2016, then re-branding and launching version 2.0 in September of the following year.
In 2019 the company were bought out by William Hill, which has added much more depth and experience in the area of racing.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
As you might well have guessed from the introduction, Mr Green’s expansion in the world of sports betting has been a relatively recent phenomenon. They’re a company that likes to make sure they’ve got things right before jumping into whatever it is that they’re taking on, however, so don’t feel as though that means they should be avoided. They worked hard to get the sportsbook right before launching it and when they noticed tweaks could be made they weren’t afraid to make them and the re-launch it.
As a result, the site that you’ll encounter now runs smoothly and covers everything that you’d expect. When it comes to horse racing in particular, there’s plenty to catch your eye. They cover races that take place across the UK and Ireland, with races from South Africa also covered whenever they’re on. At the time of writing you can opt for races from the likes of Ballinrobe, Cartmel, Chelmsford City and Huntingdon. You can look at some ante-post options too, if that’s the sort of thing that interests you.
In terms of general coverage, their selection is limited but well done. Obvious options such as football and tennis are on there, with slightly less expected variations such as futsal and Gaelic sports also on the list. The depth is decent, though the company particularly excels when major tournaments like the World Cup roll around. When it comes to offers, they’re excellent with their racing coverage. As well as standard ones like Best Odds Guaranteed, you’ll also find daily ones such as Jockey Specials, Winning Distances and Price Boosts. They were slow to cover racing, but they’re more than making up for it now.
It won’t take you long to ascertain from a look around 138’s website that the company has a history of targeting the Asian betting market. The company began life in Asia as ‘SunGames’, launching itself as 138 and switching focus over to a UK audience in 2012. That means that it’s a relatively young sportsbook in English terms, but in the Far East market they established themselves well before branching out. As is so often the case with new betting companies on the UK market, 138 got some decent sponsorship deals early doors in order to get their name out there. Supporters of Watford Football Club will recognise the name immediately, given that it was splashed over the Hornets’s kits from 2013-2018.
Coming under the umbrella of the parent company ‘Fesuge Limited’, they’re based on the Isle of Man for the purposes of gaining a Gambling Licence to operate in the UK. As mentioned before, you can see the Asian influence all over the company’s website. As well as putting online gaming at the forefront of what they offer, 138 also ensure that their customer service is available in both English and Mandarin. You’ll also find the site’s layout to be unusual if you’re used to using the services of more traditional English bookmakers, but once you’ve got used to it you’ll appreciate what it offers.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
When you click on 138’s sportsbook, the first thing you’ll notice is horse racing at the top of the list of sports that the company covers. That tells you a lot about how they see the sport in terms of importance! They then split their coverage up into two different and distinct sections: UK & Ireland and International racing. You’ll find the Next 5 Races at the top of the horse racing page, then tabs for racing that’s taking place in the rest of that day, tomorrow and in the future.
As this is being written, 138 are covering races taking place on courses such as Cartmel, Redcar, Leicester and Ballinrobe. Interestingly, their international coverage seems to be based more around ante-post bets on the big events like the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Still, some bookies don’t even bother with non-UK or Irish racing so you take your wins where you can find them. When it comes to offers, you’ll find plenty of standard promotions, with Best Odds Guaranteed being the one that horse racing aficionados will be most interested in.
If you’re hoping to bet on some other sports as well as horse racing then 138 have done their utmost to ensure that you don’t need to look anywhere else. Sports such as football, tennis and golf are ones that you might wish to take advantage of their Cash Out feature for, whislst the likes of futsal, MMA and even e-Sports are also covered. The market depth is surprisingly decent, too. Not that that should be a surprise, of course; companies don’t get to become such powerhouses in the Asian market unless they’re able to cover all of the biggest sports in the world.
Some bookmakers believe that all you need to win custom is a name that people know and trust. 10Bet is one of the new breed of bookies that are out to give those complacent competitors a shock, making up for a lack of brand recognition with exciting offers and good sports coverage. Founded in London in 2003, the company has won numerous awards since its inception and have grown to become one of the biggest new names in online betting.
In 2014 a list was compiled of bookmakers that UK-based punters were most likely to place bets with and 10Bet came second, just behind Bet365. That should tell you exactly how far they’ve come in such a short space of time. No doubt part of their success is due to the 2012 release of their mobile betting app, allowing people to place bets on the move as well as on their main computer. No exactly innovative in a competitive industry, but their app is one of the best on the market.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
When it comes to horse racing, 10Bet’s features are decent enough. As with pretty much all of the bookmakers we recommend for Cheltenham, they offer Best Odds Guaranteed. That means that you can place a bet really early and know that you’ll get the best odds regardless of what happens to the market. They also offer regular promotions that shift and change throughout the year, such as money back as a free bet if the horse you bet on comes second in a race to the starting price favourite along with faller insurance, extra places and more (check the 10Bet site to see the latest deals for racing).
10Bet is an alternative to the more mainstream bookies out there, but as an alternative their offerings aren’t quite as good across all areas. For example, their tips and advice isn’t quite as advanced as some of the more popular and well-known sites, lacking the star quality of interviewing the top jockeys and trainers that are happy to speak to 10Bet’s competitors.
There’s still plenty to recommend the site, this is a proper bookie for proper punters. They’ve got good market depth, decent odds and a reputation as an exciting, trustworthy bookmaker to bet with.
NetBet is a bookmaker that’s very much worth your time. You may not have heard of them, but that’s mainly because they’ve forged a reputation as one of the best bookies on the continent. Given that a lot of the better-known bookmakers tend to keep up with each other by offering pretty much the same sports and offers, going with a slightly lesser-known one broadens your options for both odds and events.
Formed in 2001 and bought out by Cosmo Gaming Company Limited in 2009, NetBet has tried to increase it’s name recognition through sponsorship deals. As is often the case, they found that using football was a good method for getting their name out there, so they partnered up with West Brom, St. Etienne and Steaua Bucharest. Obviously that’s suggestive of a football heavy leaning, but their horse coverage is good enough for us to think they’re worth looking at when it comes to Cheltenham.
HORSE RACING FEATURES
Having been operating as a bookmaker with a licence since 2006, NetBet know what they’re doing when it comes to sports coverage. They have plenty of decent promotions that mean you won’t feel you’re getting short-changed in that department. As with most major bookmakers, for example, they offer a Best Odds Guarantee on horse racing. You can opt for a partial Cash Out when that option is offered, which is handy, and they often put forward prize boosts and bonuses for accumulators.
At the time of writing you can have bets on races from Newmarket, Perth, Fontwell, York and others, so their coverage of UK and Irish racing is fairly decent. If you’re hoping for a little bit more than that, such as racing from the US or South Africa, then you’re likely to be a tad disappointed. They also don’t offer live streaming and, at present, their live betting is only for sports like football and tennis. Not many bookies offer in-play betting on horse racing, though, so that’s not exactly a shock.
If you’re interested in betting on sports and events other than horse racing then you’re in for a treat, with slightly more obscure sports such as MMA and Futsal covered. When it comes to odds, they’re generally quite middle of the road. A look at an odds comparison site will show you that they’re not always the best in the business but they’re rarely, if ever, the worst. We’d always suggest having accounts with as many bookmakers as possible in order to ensure you get the best possible deal. NetBet’s excellent website and app, combined with their European market coverage, is enough to ensure that they’re on our list of best bookies.
Why Bet With Our Recommended Bookies?
It’s entirely fair for you to ask why you should be placing your bets exclusively with the bookmakers that we recommend. The answer is simple: because we’ve done the hard work for you.
Over years of practice, trial and error and doing our best to keep track of the bookmakers that are the most reliable, we’ve had plenty of bad experiences as well as good. We know the bookies that do good offers, the ones that you can’t trust and the ones that that you most definitely can.
If you’re reasonably new to the world of betting then it might seem odd to look at a host of different bookmakers. Surely you just find one that’s covering the race and place a bet with them, yes? Well no, actually. The truth is that most bookmakers offer something slightly different from each other. Does the bookie you’re placing you bet with offer live streaming, so you can watch the race you’ve stuck a bet on? What about advice from former jockeys or horse trainers, does a bookie offer that?
When it comes to the big races in the National Hunt calendar, such as the Cheltenham Festival week or the Grand National, bookmakers also tend to have special free bet offers or the likes available for you to take advantage of. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having different accounts open with different companies in order to take advantage of these offers – in fact we positively encourage it to allow you to always get the best odds and terms.
So in answer to the original question, you should bet with our bookies because your money will be safe, they’ll be licensed and obeying the laws, we’ve separated out the wheat from the chaff and we research which bookmakers have the best offers for you to take advantage of.
For information about how to bet on horse racing see our articles.
Gambling Licenses And Betting Law
Given that around £150,000,000 is bet on the Cheltenham Festival every year, it’s important to ensure that you’re spending your money with the right people. The sad fact is that the explosion of the internet and the desire for punters to find as good a deal as possible means that there are some unscrupulous people out there. Any Tom, Dick or Harry could set up a website calling themselves a bookmaker and disappear off with your money before you even realise that they’ve never even opened a book, let alone ran one.
That’s why the bookmakers that we mention on these pages are all licensed and known to obey the stringent laws that are in place regarding betting. It’s why we decided to set up the page in the first place, to make sure that good people use the right companies. In that spirit, it’s also helpful for us to briefly explain what the licensing laws are and why it’s important that bookmakers obey them.
Since the advent and subsequent explosion of online bookmakers there have been two main Acts passed by Parliament to deal with the burgeoning business. The first was the 2005 Gambling Act, the principle aim of which was to make sure that gambling was as open, fair and honest as possible. The hope was that this would stop gambling, especially of the online variety, from being used for nefarious means by unscrupulous characters.
It might not seem all that significant, especially when you consider that gambling had been around for decades before it was introduced, but the Act was the first to put any kind of regulation onto online gambling in the UK. There were still some grey areas, though, so the 2014 Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Act was brought in to try to clarify things further. Not all that shocking, considering the way the internet had grown over the preceding ten years.
Between them, the two Acts ensure that a company must have a licence issued to them by the UK Gambling Commission in order to operate in the United Kingdom. As the Gambling Commission is an independent, non-departmental body you’re protected from the notion that one political party or another might try to interfere with its running. Companies that get a licence are duty-bound to ensure that your money is as protected and safe as possible.
Though this may be a somewhat simplistic summary, if you don’t make sure that the bookie that you’re placing bets with has a licence then you run the risk of your bets not being protected. You won’t have anyone to complain to or to turn to for help. Thankfully every single bookmaker we tell you about is licensed and obeys the law. Look out for a UK Gambling Licence notification at the bottom of any betting site you use, such as the one from Ladbrokes shown above.
If you’ve read the section on licensing and the law then you’ll know that we take our recommendations seriously. It’s vital that you ensure you’re placing your bets with a reliable bookmaker for a whole host of reasons, not least of which is the fact that the reliable ones do a lot to help you gamble responsibly.
Plenty of us have been there before. We feel as though one more bet will get us into the black. We know that there’s a certainty running at four o’clock and if we can only get a bet on then all of our financial woes will be solved. Only it very rarely works out like that. You get seduced by the possibility of the big win, but if it doesn’t come off then you’re in an even worse situation than before.
The best bookmakers promote the notion of responsible gambling, the aim of which is to make sure that you bet within your limits. You need to do your best to stay in control, to keep on top of the money that you’re betting with and to never bet more than you can afford. Bookies assist you in this by allowing you to set deposit limits, meaning that you can’t place too much money into your account within a given time period. You’re in control of this, just as you’re in control of the ability to exclude yourself from being able to access the website, or sections of the site, permanently or for any period of time.
Have fun, but don’t lose sight of the fact that ‘fun’ is exactly what it’s supposed to be. There are a lot of independent gambling advice services out there that can help and give advice too, such as Be Gamble Aware.