There surge in online (and particularly mobile) betting over the last decade or so has prompted a common question from many punters; is one option better than the other – online or the high street?
Whilst this is a complicated and multi-faceted question, the main point that people really want to know is who offers the best odds? At the end of the day, as punters we are looking to get the best possible prices for our bets as this is going to make us the most money if and when we win.
The easy answer to the question is that, more often than not, you are going to get a much better range of odds online than you will on the high street. There are a few different reasons for this.
Why Do Online Bookies Offer Better Odds?
1) More Choice
If you walk down your local high street then you will find that there are a handful of betting shops at most. There are only a small number of companies that still operate from physical shops in the first place so your options are limited from the off.
Let’s assume that an average high street has 3 betting shops, which is actually pretty generous; this means that we are able to compare the odds for a single bet at each of those three bookmakers. This is going to take more time than it’s worth for most punters, and this is why many fail to do any price comparisons at all, and thus the high street bookie is able to charge a bit more for their services. The way they do this is by offering lower odds.
Move this bet to the online marketplace and it’s a very different picture. There are a staggering number of online bookies so your first stop would likely be some sort of odds comparison site. This will give you an instant overview of dozens of bookmakers and the prices they are offering on your bet. They also offer direct links, often to that specific bet, and you can place the bet with the best priced bookmaker within a matter of seconds if you already have an account.
It could take 15 or 20 minutes to compare just 3 different bookies on the high street, but only you can compare dozens in seconds. Therefore, if you want to bet in a physical location or you prefer using cash, you will probably be getting less favourable odds.
2) Increased Competition
This follows on from the point above. Online bookies know that you are able to see a much wider range of odds than you can on the high street. Therefore, they need to price their markets more competitively.
For example, Ladbrokes couldn’t offer you 5/1 on a bet online when most other bookmakers were offering 10/1. They know that people shop around and therefore very few people would ever take their much lower odds.
On the high street, however, they could get more people to take this price as they may not know any better. If they are the only bookmaker on a particular street then customers will find it almost impossible to check if they are getting good value or not.
Competition is great for punters because it drives prices up as bookmakers attempt to get people through the door. A lack of competition means they can increase their margins since no one is challenging them.
Racecourse bookmakers have felt the backlash from this as well. For years they’ve been quite sneaky on track, colluding to make a bigger margin between the group that are on the track that day. But, the implementation of online and mobile has meant that people are able to cross-reference these odds and see how out of line they are. If they get too greedy, punters will walk away.
3) Lower Margins
Bookmakers make their money by creating margins on certain bets. This can be called overround or vigorish in some circles, although the word ‘vigorish’ tends to be associated with more dubious practices. In layman’s terms, it’s the money the bookmaker makes for offering their services.
The margin is usually around the 2% mark, meaning that they make 2% margin on all bets that are made. There’s no official industry standard for this, but most bookies use 2% as a ballpark figure for most markets or bets that they offer.
Given that online betting sees a lot more traffic and therefore a higher turnover of bets, you will find that they will have lower margins than that of the high street, and lower margins means better prices for punters.
For example, let’s say that an online margin for one of the bigger bookies was 1%. It takes £100,000 on one market and as a result bags £1,000 in profit. A high street bookmaker might offer prices on the same market, but instead they charge 3%. This means that if they take £100,000, they get £3,000 profit – their costs are higher to be fair.
The difference here is £2,000. The next question you should be asking is where does that extra £2,000 comes from? Well, you’re probably already thinking it, but that money comes from the punter in the form of reduced odds. So, instead of offering 3/1 on something winning, they might have it priced at 2/1.
This is a rough example, but given that bookmakers deal with millions of pounds every day, these numbers just from their margins or can really add up, and it’s the punter that foots the bill.
4) Infighting: Same Brand, Different Price
We’ve spoken already about how online is far superior in almost all cases when it comes to betting, but you also need to be aware of the relationship between the website and the high street shops of the same brand. Or should we say, lack of relationship?
For example, if Coral was offering odds of 10/1 online, the odds for the same bet in their store isn’t necessarily going to be the same. In fact, more often than not, it’s going to be much lower. The high street stores and online bookmakers are almost independent of each other when it comes to prices, even though they are operated by the same brand.
If we stick with Coral, they have their Coral Connect card where you can link your online account to their high street stores. It’s possible to go into their betting shop, place a bet using your Coral Connect card taking the odds from the store, track the bet online in your Coral account and see the same bet is priced higher online. You’ve in fact taken a worse price as you’ve made the bet inside the shop.
We aren’t flaming Coral here, they are just an example, all bookmakers do it.
It’s going to be impossible to stick a figure on the difference in value between the two. It’s also worth noting that you don’t get the best price online compared to the high street every time, just most of the time.
If we were pressed to come up with a number – and you need to remember that this isn’t across the board – we would suggest that online betting odds can be as much as 40% higher than on the high street.
If you are into your accumulator betting, then these are the bet types that are really going to see a difference in value. Small adjustments for each bet have huge implications on the overall odds for acca’s.
Should You Avoid the High Street?
We all know that high street betting is in decline. More stores are closing every year and they are dominated by just a few of the biggest brands in the industry.
The fact of the matter is that each store has more overheads than most online platforms. This makes them expensive to run and so they need to be harder on their margins to make enough money to cover these costs.
We aren’t saying that you should boycott the high street bookmaker altogether, they still have their strong points. One of the plus sides to them is that you can bet in cash. This means your bet is totally anonymous, and you don’t need to store any data online that could potentially be hacked or stolen.
Note: This is extremely unlikely.
The high street has that social side too, a healthy dose of human interaction. They often get a bad rap for attracting an ‘odd’ sort of crowd, but there’s nothing like placing a bet amongst friends and winning as a group. The feel of cash in your hand is much for fun than watching digits on a screen that you may never even draw out of your account. It’s so very impersonal.
The industry needs to evolve though, and the high street needs to get smart to keep up. Will physical bookies still be around in 10 years time? It’s tough to say, but the limits that have been brought in on the highly lucrative Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) which were hailed as the saviour of high street bookies is really going to sting.
At this rate, it does look like the high street may have only a limited time left, especially as the likes of both online and mobile betting are continuing to develop and improve.