The Future of Online Betting, What Will Happen?

online-betting-gamblingBack in April of last year, something came into effect which drastically changed the landscape of betting and the bookmaker forever. Something that probably flew under the radar of most of us reading this. The UK Government opted to introduce a limit on the maximum stakes for fixed odds betting terminals (or FOBTs). Frankly, it was monumental.

For those of you that don’t know what an FOBT is, it is effectively a glorified casino in a box. Punters could come into a bookies, stick their cash in and play digital versions of roulette, blackjack, slot machines, and a host of other games. The odds on these were fixed (as the name suggests) to pay out about 70p on the pound. And with maximum stakes for a given game of £100, it was incredibly easy to burn through money.

You see, in my opinion FOBTs are (or at least, were) the devil. They were designed to be addictive. There was no skill involved. You could go into a bookies and blow a months wages in your lunch hour (something that actually happened to a mate of mine once). But the stakes were limited to a maximum of £2 per game. And all of a sudden, those people who had been propping up the high street bookmaker lost interest. Which isn’t a bad thing frankly

William Hill started to tell landlords that that if they didn’t cut rents, then up to 900 shops would have to close. They also went on to post a £63.5m loss as a result of this. Ultimately, it was reported that the company may have lost as much as £1 billion. And across the high street, bookmakers saw revenues down by 12%. I know, boohoo, poor bookies.

But that was a long time ago. And things have settled down a bit, except, maybe they haven’t. You see, a week ago, I saw an article in The Financial Times that caught my eye, with the Gambling Commission looking to instigate limits on how much consumers were allowed to bet online. Almost £1.2 billion was wiped off the market value of the gambling sector overnight.

Here’s the thing. This kind of approach is something that will always sit well with the General Public. Even as somebody who is involved with the betting industry, I can appreciate that it is problematic. Addiction is rife, there is a very clear marketing campaign across multiple bookmakers trying to bring in the kind of casual “mug” punters that they love. People just don’t like that. They see betting as something that is inherently wrong.

BETTING IS BAD?

Honestly, there are definitely problems within the world of gambling. And bookmakers should be held accountable whenever they can be. God knows, they deserve that. But this isn’t about me getting on my soap box quite yet. What I will say though that it has been a historic problem. In 2016, Paddy Power were lambasted for allowing a customer who was working five separate jobs to fund a gambling habit to continue.

It was found that a “senior employee” notified a shop manager that “steps should be taken to try to increase Customer A’s visits and time spent in the gambling premises”. Something that the Gambling Commission described as “at odds with the licensing objective of preventing vulnerable people from being exploited by gambling”.

Let’s not kid ourselves. There are people who have problems with betting. And I really do think that bookmakers should be held accountable and do more to help these people. There are vulnerable members of society out there who are being roped into betting that they can’t afford. That is just fact.

But gambling and betting in and of themselves are not inherently bad things. There are plenty of ways of betting, whether through a bookie, a gentleman’s agreement down the pub, or even trading on the stock exchange. All of those are a form of betting, each with massively differing outcomes.

Your mate lands a quid in an empty pint glass, he takes a fiver off you. Banks over invest in something, there is an economic bubble created, it bursts, banks start to go under. Before you know it, you have the worst economic depression since the so called “Great” one in the 30’s. Both are, at their core, gambles. But one costs you another pint, one costs years of economic uncertainty.

But the act of gambling isn’t the problem. The problems that stem from betting come about when people overstretch themselves, make silly and uninformed decisions, and generally show a willingness to “back stupid”. This is a term that I will probably use a lot, and it really isn’t supposed to be derogatory at all.

However, the fact of the matter is that people will always fancy and outsider, there will always be somebody backing Leicester to win the Premier League. Those kinds of bets may well land occasionally, but that doesn’t mean that they are smart bets. They are bets whereby people are “backing stupid”.

ONLINE CASINOS, WHY THE CALL FOR RESTRICTIONS?

This brings me back to the current situation with online casinos. Trying to actively win money through an online casino is backing stupid. What you are dealing with is fundamentally an algorithm that is designed to create a pseudo random number. You can’t predict this; you can’t influence the outcome, the odds reset themselves after every spin. And the same applies to blackjack, slot machines, virtual sports betting, craps. I could keep going.

The fact of the mater is that online casinos carry a lot of overlap with FOBTs in my opinion. They both are very fast paced. For example, a virtual roulette spin can take anywhere from a third to a quarter of the time that an actual roulette wheel takes to spin. They both encourage impulsive betting as well. There is always a “repeat bet” button. Before you know it, you’re simply hitting it without thinking.

And of course, the reason that so many people are against online casinos is because it is an inherently solitary activity. I’ve spent many a good night down the casino with mates. Walking in with a hundred quid and leaving with a profit is an amazing feeling. But we’ve also talked, drank a bit, and importantly, we’ve enjoyed a night out. And when I’ve lost money, I’ve still paid for that experience.

online-fruit-machine

I have also spent time with online casinos. It involves me, sat alone at a table or lay in bed. Covering the same sets of numbers, betting a few quid at a time. I can genuinely say that within a matter of minutes, I’d burned through the twenty-something pound I had in an old betting account. That was betting at £2 stakes and just hitting that repeat bet button (I was young and naïve, I thought I had a system. I didn’t). The scariest part was, I didn’t even realise that the time had passed.

How easily is that multiplied? It could have been £10 stakes, in which case that’d have been over £100 in a few minutes. Or I could have been betting for half an hour without realising, which would have been… Well, I almost daren’t calculate it, but you could easily be looking at £150 in half an hour. It really is that easy to fall into the trap.

So, I can absolutely see why the general public and the government may call for restrictions on online casinos. In my experience that I just shared, I was already betting to the new maximum stakes and could have very easily lost a lot of money. And that is all scalable, and the marketing for online casinos is towards people who like to “bet stupid”. It’s a melting pot of disaster, waiting to happen.

IS THIS THE END OF ONLINE BETTING?

So, is this the end of online betting? It is quite apparent that in the pursuit of public opinion, any Government will quite happily clamp down on betting. That really doesn’t have to be a bad thing as I believe the max stake on FOBTs proved. But it does undoubtedly impact a lot of people that use online betting as a way of making a second income. But personally, I think that there’s a lot of life left in the old ‘gal yet.

Online betting is a long way from dead. If anything, I am inclined to believe that it is very much the future. I don’t doubt that there is a strong need for change in the structure of betting online. But as a nation, we love a bet. In a survey, 45% of British adults had engaged in some kind of betting in the last four week.  The number drops to 27% if you exclude those who only play the lottery. But that is still a massive number.

And it’s not surprising really. Betting and British culture come with a lot of overlap. You could almost say that it is ingrained into our culture. And for context here, you only have to look at the Unlawful Games Act of 1541. This prohibited “new devised games” that were causing “the Decay of Archery”. That was almost 500 years ago that the Government of the time was interfering in betting activity.

Fast forward to when this Act was repealed in 1845, and you start to have a betting scene that honestly, wouldn’t look too out of place next to modern Britain. It was reported that better “educated gamblers” focused on racing with sporting magazines reaching a circulation of about 300,000 by the 1880s. For context, this was reaching around 1% of the population at the time.

Nowadays, the Racing Post’s website alone is close to breaking the top 10,000 websites in terms of global internet traffic and engagement over the past 90 days (at the time of writing). And it interesting to me that this is really just the digital equivalent of what you saw in the late 19th Century. Educated gamblers focusing on racing (and to be more up to date, sports betting).

The thing is, if you follow the media, we are all on the verge of becoming addicted to gambling. And as I’ve stated, that is a very real problem that needs to be addressed. But the answer doesn’t lie in simply blanket banning online betting. Online casinos, I understand. Really, they aren’t fair to punters. I said before I wasn’t going to get on my soap box, but I will now.

end-of-betting

The fact of the matter is that these kinds of operations exist almost exclusively for bookies to take money from people. They are aimed at people who are inclined towards gambling addiction, they aren’t fair, and they remain very much a part of that “game of chance” approach to betting. There is a strong case for restricting these elements.

But sports betting is a much fairer institute. There are varied odds, there is competition. Arguably more competition than there has ever been before when you consider the fact that betting exchanges are a thing (and a topic I will be exploring properly a little later on). As such, I don’t think that you will ever really see restrictions on this kind of betting. Because at the end of the day, picking a horse is a game of skill, not a game of chance.

When you pick a horse, so long as you don’t bet stupid, you aren’t just choosing a name you like or a jersey that’s a pretty design. You are looking at form, the course, the trainer. You should be using available information in order to make an informed decision about your bet. And that is why I don’t believe that there will ever be a blanket ban on online betting.

Some naysayers in the industry will start talking about this like it is the end times for betting. They will say that Governmental involvement will ruin the industry, bookies will close, and the market will generally become less competitive. Now if you’ll pardon my French here, that’s bollocks.

There will always be bookies making money. There are over 80 online bookies licensed to operate in the UK. That shows just how much money there is to be made. This has grown exponentially since the firsts online betting site, a company called Intertops went live (a company that somewhat ironically, did not actually have a license for UK gambling).

Those 80 bookies also mean that there is more competition than ever before. Something that only helps bolster the betting scene for punters.

THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO BE A PUNTER…?

This seems like a great point to talk about how that competition between bookmakers has made it probably the best time to be involved in betting in history. At least, so long as you are a punter. Quite literally, as I am writing this, I have gone to a website called Oddschecker. For those who aren’t familiar with Oddschecker, it is a website that… Well, it checks odds.

The most popular bet currently being placed is for the 19.00 at Chelmsford City. It is backing a horse called Lord Halifax. By visiting just one website, I can see that odds are being offered ranging from 2.25 going as high as 2.38 through bookmakers. If I go to Betfair’s betting exchange, I can get odds of 2.6. And it has taken me seconds to check that information out.

Compare that to calling round different bookmakers to get quotes on odds way back in the day. Making notes on said odds, going back to a bookie only to find that the odds had shifted. Going from the bookie on one side of town to the bookie on the other side of town, only to find that they were both offering the same miserable odds. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I think it highlights my point nicely.

Checking that took me seconds, I was warm and comfortable the whole time, and if I were to back that horse, I could potentially look at making as much as an extra £3.50 on a £10. Sure, that isn’t much, but at £100, you’re looking at an extra £35 profit. And that isn’t a bad amount for les work than I ever would have had to have put into getting the best odds.

But there is even more to it than simply being able to get the best odds possible. There are so many different ways of betting. One of the most obvious examples involves lay betting. One the off chance that you aren’t familiar with this term, it effectively means betting on something not to win. Let’s be honest. It’ much easier to guess what won’t win, than what will.

This type of bet came about exclusively through betting exchanges, more specifically, Betfair. Launched in 2000, their betting exchange allowed punters to lay bets and effectively act as a bookmaker themselves. This adds yet another element of competition to pricing and it is exactly the reason why I could have made that extra profit.

Betfair themselves ran a very successful advertising campaign that was all about the fact that you could get better odds on the exchange. They might have used the ridiculous tagline of “where gut instinct meets smarts”, but their claim about winning bigger on an exchange than a bookies is true.

It also resonates that as a punter, when you bet on an exchange, you are betting against somebody “like me” the average Joe in the advert states. Again, if you are an “educated gambler” that can give you a massive edge.

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE!

All of this paints a pretty good picture of why you can be more successful as a punter now than you have ever been before. But I still don’t think it comes close to really showing the scale of what is on offer in online betting these days. The fact of the matter is that there are methods of betting that can guarantee you profits under the right circumstances.

Take for example, matched betting. This is an approach that involves using special offers from bookies and betting exchanges to ensure that you ultimately lock in a profit. It’s somewhat complicated, and I have provided a gross oversimplification of the process, but it is definitely something that is not just viable, but proven to be successful.

Dutching involves backing multiple outcomes on the same event with a view to ensuring that a profit can occur regardless of what happens. This generally requires calculators that use the available odds and tell you how much to stake to lock in a profit. Not every event has this opportunity, but they definitely exist.

One of the better known ways of guaranteeing that you make money is arbitrage betting. This typically involves exploiting a difference in odds between two bookmakers to ensure that you lock in a profit either way. This is something that could always be done, but as is the case with so much. It is even easier than it ever was before.

horse-racing-betting

And all of that is before you even talk about what I consider to be one of the most promising and entirely new ways of betting which is trading. On a betting exchange, you can effectively buy and sell the bets that you place. This means that if you (for example) back a horse on a betting exchange to win at odds of 10.0, and those odds shorten. You can “sell” that bet back to somebody and cash out a guaranteed profit.

The reason that this is the most interesting development in betting for me lies in the fact that it is an evergreen method. Matched betting is great, but opportunities can start to dry up. Arbitrage and Dutching are not constants. But with a bit of know-how, you can always trade successfully.

And some people have used one  (or a combination of these methods) to become incredibly wealthy. And what’s really interesting is that these people are also now more than ever willing to share with others.

YOU’RE NOT ON YOUR OWN NOW

If you wanted an edge on your betting way back when, there were a few different approaches. You could take your time to learn how to read form, understand the Racing Post, apply all of that with whatever knowledge you had on a given course. Sometimes, you might happen to know somebody who could do all of this and you might get the odd tip down the pub.

Alternatively, you could read the racing pages and follow the advice of the tipsters in there, if you were hoping for an easier approach. There we also those now infamous premium phone lines that you could ring at a cost of £2 per minute where an answering machine would slowly reel off bets for you, inevitably costing you more money and netting those tipsters a decent profit in the process.

Nowadays though, there is just so much support out there if you are budding bettor. From free options through to premium subscriptions and even products that will teach you everything that you need to know. No matter where you are starting out, you aren’t on your own.

Probably the most obvious place to start is of course the myriad of online forums. If I type Betting Forum UK into Google, I get about 19,000,000 results. Take off the stipulation about the UK, and that number grows to an incredible 50,300,000 results. That’s potentially hundreds of millions of people, all talking about betting, and all wanting to help others.

One UK based betting forum that I looked at had 3,250 members participating in over 100,000 threads. On top of that, there are also similar numbers of betting blogs, all offering you advice on how to bet, what to bet on, and much more. Put bluntly, there is reams of free information out there to help you improve your betting online. That just wasn’t an option once upon a time.

If you’re really serious about betting and don’t mind investing a bit of money, this net is cast so much wider. In my time, I have looked at literally thousands of betting products. Not surprisingly, they aren’t all winners. There is a massive gulf in terms of quality (which is why you should always look to a reputable site for reviews), but some of what is good is very good.

The fact is that here are tipsters and betting products on the market that will suit everybody. No matter what your budget, you approach to betting, or even just whether you want to have a bit of a punt on the football , build a portfolio around niche sports, or learn how to create a successful career based around trading on betting exchanges, you can find something.

WHY ISN’T EVERYBODY DOING IT THEN?

When people find out about my involvement in the betting industry, I always get the same response. “Yeah but it’s all a scam isn’t it? Nobody actually makes any money through betting, right?” and I have to tell them the same thing, every time. Yes, yes people do. And some people make very good money off it. But that doesn’t mean that everybody does.

The second question that inevitably follows this up is “If it’s that easy, then why isn’t everybody doing it?”. And the answer to that is much more nuanced than the one for the first question.  But I think that the shortest answer is that it that just because people can do it, it really doesn’t mean that it is easy.

Honestly, it is something that you will rarely see said (at least, by those who are trying to sell you some crappy “get rich quick” tipster service or betting system), but actually making an income through betting can be hard work and demanding. Often in ways that you don’t really think about.

I mean, let’s examine a hypothetical situation that is also pretty typical of what most beginning bettors encounter. You’ve got around £1,000 which you want to use as your betting bank. You’ve found a tipster service that is doing well, and you decide to subscribe to them. So, you pay out £30 for the first month, betting to £10 stakes. Unfortunately, the tipster you subscribed to has unknowingly started a losing run.

online-betting-success

A few weeks later, you’ve had a couple of small wins at middling odds, but ultimately, you’re £250 down. All that you see is the other things that you could have done with that money. That has a very substantial psychological impact, especially if you have a family to support and it can put pressure on relationships.

Or maybe you find a trading system that looks good. You try it out, but actually, you’re spending several hours just sat around waiting for an opportunity to appear. It is time consuming and frankly, a little bit dull. Sure, it isn’t hard work, but it can become mentally taxing.

As a result of this, you start to modify the parameters a little bit, because at least you’re not just sat staring at a screen. This makes it more interesting, but you start to lose. Because at that point, you aren’t betting with your head. You’re betting for entertainment (which there is nothing wrong with, but it isn’t the right approach if you want to make money).

Honestly, I want to talk about all of this in more detail at some point in the future. I think that there is a massive amount to talk about in terms of the psychological aspects of being a professional punter or even just a bettor who takes themselves seriously. But I do believe that I’ve done a good enough job of highlighting the fact that whilst betting can be profitable, it is naïve to come into it thinking that you are simply getting “easy money”.

CONCLUSIONS AND FINAL THOUGHTS

It seems inevitable to me that there will be stronger sanctions on online betting as we move into the future. As I said earlier, it’s quite an easy and popular move for any Government of the day. The fact of the matter is that whilst there is definitely some hypocrisy to it (because the numbers show just how many of us in the UK like a bet), Joe Average likes to see gambling as being a bad thing.

And this leads me to a distinction that I think it is incredibly important to make, and that is the different between betting and gambling. The Oxford Dictionary defines gambling as “the activity of playing games of chance for money”. They also define the word gamble as “to risk losing something in the hope of being successful”.

The key elements there is the term “games of chance” and also risking something “in the hope” of it being successful. Gambling to me is about chance and luck. Roulette is gambling. Craps is gambling. FOBTs and Online Casinos are gambling. With all of those, you as the bettor are dealing with fixed outcomes, and as such, it is very difficult to make any informed decisions.

Betting on the other hand is all about that informed decision, especially if you want to take it seriously. When you look at a given horse race, there may well be 6 outcomes. But those 6 outcomes are not equal. It isn’t like rolling a dice. And there is also information available on what the chances of those outcomes may be. Things like form, a horse’s weight, the going of the course, and so on and so forth.

Using this information, you can ascertain the likelihood of a horse winning. And as such, I don’t see that as being the same as gambling. It isn’t a game of chance. One might even look at this scenario and deduce that what you are actually engaged in is very much a game of skill with the bookie. And with the right knowledge, you can beat them in the long run. Even with their so called house edge.

final-betting-thoughts

All of this leaves me with one final point that I really want to talk about, and it all cycles back to the core theme of this article. And that is the online betting element. You see, I believe that over time, bookmakers will start to scale back the bricks and mortar. The fact is that the overheads on hundreds, if not thousands of buildings and people are substantially higher than a server farm and a bit of software.

Even looking at the here and now, I can’t help but feel that one of the main reasons that the storefronts still exist for the likes of William Hill, Ladbrokes, and Bet Fred is as a form of advertising. Keeping those high street names in the mind of the kind of casual punter that they love so much.

Elsewhere, you have online betting which allows you as a punter convenience, more betting markets, better and more competitive odds, and a host of extras such as bonuses. And let’s be honest. As time passes, we are all becoming more and more comfortable using technology. Even my 83 year old Nan has an iPad that she uses for a host of different things. The future is, as they say, very much now.

So, here are my final thoughts. Despite what many people may say, online betting is here to stay. In fact, it only keeps getting better. There are of course elements that will probably become more tightly regulated in the future, but those are unlikely to be thins that mater to the skillful bettor.

And honestly, there isn’t a better time to start learning that skill. Whether this is picking up the Racing Post yourself and learning to read form, bet on paper for a bit, or spending hours poring over betting forums. These kinds of steps can potentially be life changing ones in the long run.

Of course, all of that takes time. Which means that there also the myriad of products out there today. And whilst the vast majority of them aren’t great, there is definitely money to be made following the right advice.

I titled this article “Online Betting Is Dead, Long Live The King” when I was writing it, but honestly, that felt a little bit “clickbaity” to me. Online betting may well be the king when it comes to betting, but isn’t close to dead right now. It is thriving. And you can rest assured that it will only continue to get better, especially for you, the punter.

More competition means better everything in this market. Additional services and tools like Oddschecker and a myriad of calculators help you to gain that edge over the bookies. And all of that can be turned into cash in the long run. But so much of this future only works online. And so, I want to close by asking you this. With everything that is going on right now, why would you want to be trapped in the past, whilst the future is so bright?

 

Related Content and Resources:

 

How You Can Win More Money Through Your Betting? The Mind of a Gambler

 

How Brexit is Affecting Gambling and Trading in The UK

 

How To Make Money From Gambling, What is Really Possible?

 

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