The world of bookmaking, especially online bookmaking, is seen by many as a way to make easy money.
The UK has been seen as incredibly fertile ground for new gambling companies too, since despite tighter regulation the landscape is still attractive to new businesses, and of course, the British love a punt.
This has seen an influx of new bookies opening their doors for business, especially since online betting became a possibility.
So many new bookies have popped up in the UK it has been difficult to keep track, and many haven’t lasted all that long either, which is a double edged sword for UK punters looking for new online bookies to sign up with.
On the one hand, there are plenty of sign up offers to take and steady flow of new bookies means a steady flow of new offers, creating a supply of sign up promotions that replenishes over time; however, there is a lot of competition in the industry, so when a new bookie becomes an insolvent bookie, customers lose their accounts, and in a worst case scenario, could lose any money that is in them too.
This makes choosing a new bookie a more important task than choosing which supermarket to shop in for example, and there are a few things you can learn to better equip yourself before making that decision.
Are All New Bookies the Same?
If all you do is briefly scan the homepage, then aside from having slightly different layouts, you could be forgiven for thinking new bookies are all the same.
Just like an Audi A3 and an Audi A8 look the same but are actually about £50k apart in price, it’s what’s under the bonnet that really counts when comparing two new bookies.
There are operating companies that own a number of different betting brands, and these can be almost identical in some cases, but most of the time, there is a huge difference between new bookies that are owned and operated by different companies.
This might be to do with the sports they focus on, the market depth, the unique betting features, the terms, security, and payment options, the propensity for running offers and promotions, or maybe even a completely new way of thinking about the act of sports betting that aims to revolutionise the industry.
So no, all new bookies are not the same, despite how things may appear, but the reasons you choose one over another will be personal to you, and may even require a little bit of time to try them out before one wins you over.
If you are someone who has happily placed your bets with a more traditional, tried and tested bookmaker, you might be wondering why you need a new bookie at all?
Well you don’t, not if you don’t want to, but there are certainly benefits to trying one or two of them out, even if it is only to get the welcome offers that tend to be far more generous than regular customer offers run by establish bookies.
Remember though, those established bookies were new brands once upon a time, and they had to have offered something new and a little left field to attract customers and keep them.
You might think that a new bookie that is trying to disrupt the industry these days is on a fools errand, that everything has already been done; but Betfair was that young industry disruptor back in the late 1990s, and look at them now.
How do People Start New Bookies?
To offer any sort of gambling service in the UK, you need a gambling license from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
These cost a little bit of money, but they need to be applied for and you need to prove that you can and will operate responsibly and within the law to be granted one.
This is actually one of the easier aspects to setting up a new bookie (although it does take a while), with the more difficult and expensive part being putting together the website itself, and all of the information that goes on it.
An online bookmaking website isn’t the same as a site you might use to host a blog or run a small retail business, it requires very powerful software to work effectively.
You don’t just need a robust site with the power to handle lots and lots of transactions all going on at the same time, you need it to look good, you need your own branding, you need odds that update quickly as things change, the ability to offer live betting… the list goes on and on.
And that’s before you even get around to marketing it and getting people to use it.
For this reason, starting a new bookie is pretty difficult if you are on your own. Financially, it is well beyond most people’s capabilities, even with investment.
You do sometimes get new bookies who set out on their own, with a bespoke website and even occasionally their own odds traders, but more often than not, some or all of these services are bought in.
There are software companies out there whose whole business is to provide these sorts of services, and then sell them out to new bookies, casino sites, even established bookmakers who perhaps aren’t able to offer everything that they want to themselves.
These software companies are set up in such a way that they can provide a full service with everything included, or just a few extras, like bolt ons, that existing independent bookies can integrate into their own sites without the punter knowing the difference.
With new bookies though, it tends to be a case of buying everything from a white label provider, even the license.
Let us introduce you now, to the concept of a ‘white label’ bookie.
White Label Bookies: What are they and Should You Avoid Them?
If you think about a payment provider like Visa, you can understand the concept of a white label bookie.
In order to take electronic payments, retailers pay a set monthly fee or a small percentage of each sale to Visa, in return for providing their electronic payment service. Included in that service is all of the safety and security, the tech that has been developed to allow the service to exist in the first place, staff to run the business, and customer support should it be needed, etc.
Each retailer could, in theory, come up with their own electronic payment system, but it would be incredibly difficult and expensive for them including many regulatory hoops to jump through, so instead they outsource that part of their business to Visa, and just concentrate on marketing their shop and products.
A white label bookmaker is just a bookie who outsources a large part of their business to a white label provider, so that they can concentrate on branding and marketing.
It’s a bit like a pick ‘n’ mix; brands can decide exactly what they want the white label provider to do for them, and what they are going to handle themselves.
A lot of new bookies choose this option because it is so much more affordable than doing everything themselves. They pay a fee and/or work on a revenue share basis, and don’t have to mess around hiring hundreds of staff to do all of the work that would otherwise need doing.
There are lots of different white label providers, and all have their own style, website template designs, and betting features. This means that once you know what one of them looks like, you can spot the betting brands that are working with them.
This isn’t a bad thing, it just means that the online betting industry can feel a bit samey, with cookie cutter websites only differentiated by colour options and branding.
You are unlikely to get anything too unique from a true white label bookie, as they can only operate within the confines of what is available to them from their white label provider, but there is some wiggle room in there to adjust margins on different betting markets, how to handle retention offers and promotions, exactly which products and markets to provide, that sort of thing. So white label bookies can still show some personality and offer value.
You can think of it as the difference between buying a 500ml bottle of Heinz Mayo for £2.99, and a 750ml own brand bottle costing £1.49.
So there is certainly no reason to avoid a white label brand – there are actually a few reasons why you might want to choose a new white label over a more unique and independent new bookie – but don’t expect many frills.
White label providers are also sometimes referred to as platform providers, although these are not quite the same thing. A platform provider can exist as a business and offer a fully functioning turn key sportsbook platform without also offering the ability to operate on their license. A white label provider will have that option.
There is a lot of crossover though because some full white label providers offer their own platforms for multiple products (casino, bingo, sports) as well, some only have platforms for some products and work with a platform provider to provide the rest.
We will mention Progress Play a lot on this page, and they are a white label provider with their own online casino platform and licensing capabilities, but they have not yet developed their own sportsbook platform. In order to offer a full white label service to new bookies then, they work with a sportsbook platform provider called BetConstruct, who have a platform for sports betting but are not a full service white label company.
Are All New Bookies White Labels?
Not in the true sense of the word, no.
A true white label would be a new bookie who buys everything in, and even operates on the license of their software provider. The software provider is technically responsible for ensuring the bookie is behaving themselves in these situations, but since they aren’t doing much for themselves, it’s usually fine.
However, most new bookies are buying a lot of their products and services from white label providers, even if they are using their own gambling license and perhaps handle their own customer service, for example. This is often referred to as a turnkey solution.
That said, occasionally a new bookie comes along with substantially more financial backing than usual, or they open in the UK having already built up an established business somewhere else in the world, and as a result have more money, resources, and existing expertise to lean on. They might just opt for some API (application programming interface) data integration, so perhaps adding virtual sports and a few odds feeds or something to an existing website.
MoPlay were a good example of a new turnkey bookie that launched with plenty of money to spend, bursting onto the scene just like Micah Richards at Man City, but never reaching their full potential. They teamed up with both Man Utd and Watford as their global betting partner in their first year of business; they worked with one of the top (and therefore most expensive) platform providers in SBTech; they even paid for almost all of their betting features rather than starting small and waiting for the profits to roll in; they had their own license; promotions and offers for sign up and retention were more generous than elsewhere – they clearly had cash to splash.
However, they also clearly overspent because they went insolvent after 2 years, despite being incredibly popular with punters. They were the only bookie operating under the license of Addison Global, their operating company, who also folded.
Kwiff would be another good example, except where MoPlay were simply trying to be the newest coolest bookie in town, Kwiff were offering something genuinely unique and interesting.
They had a sportsbook and casino operating under their own license, with odds and data supplied by a third party provider but using their own website and app which was developed in house. So they still used a white label provider for some parts of their business, but were much more independent than a true white label.
With Kwiff, you are offered odds on an outcome as normal, but there is also a random chance that your bet will be ‘kwiffed’, in which case your odds are significantly boosted so that if you win the payout is much more than you expected. This was a totally new concept, and as of 2023 Kwiff are still trading.
Kwiff were loss making to the tune of around £10 million at the end of their second year, which gives you some idea of the money required to set up on your own. You need to survive for a long time before the money starts coming in, if it ever does.
So while many new bookies are white labels, not all of them are, and some are sort of half and half.
Are New Bookmakers Safe?
All this talk of new bookies closing down might have got you worried about signing up for one, but you don’t need to be.
As already mentioned, any gambling business in the UK needs to be licensed to legally operate, so as long as you have checked they have an active license from the UKGC then the company is safe in terms of being a legitimate enterprise. Just head to the bottom of the homepage and click the link to their license in the small print – more on this below.
This doesn’t meant they can’t go bust of course, but only in extreme cases will this happen, and even if it does, it’s rare for your money to be at risk.
It’s not impossible though.
You see every UK bookie needs to provide information as to how customer funds on account are protected, and the Gambling Commission structures this into 3 categories:
- Not Protected
- Medium Protection
- High Protection
The protection level the bookie offers will be found in the terms and conditions (use ctrl + f to search for the word ‘protect’ and you’ll find it in seconds).
In all cases, your money is held in a separate account to the company’s own funds, but it’s what happens to those funds if the company goes under that is the important factor.
It’s more expensive and less advantageous for the bookie to have medium or high protection levels, so most new bookies only meet the minimum requirements, which means that money held in accounts can be used to pay creditors should the company become insolvent.
We mentioned MoPlay earlier. They only had the minimum deposit protection requirements in place, so when they unexpectedly went insolvent, customer funds were stuck and could not be withdrawn. While the insolvency process was going on, it was unclear whether customers would get their unspent funds back, because the terms stated that money could be used to help settle the company’s debts.
Luckily, Betfred came in and bought MoPlay’s customer base, shifting their accounts and all of their unspent funds onto Betfair’s website, so no one lost any money, but otherwise, that cash would likely have been lost. If you had a random £6.70 in there it wouldn’t have mattered so much, but for anyone with a significant amount of money resting in their accounts, it would have been a pretty tense few weeks.
This is where the true white label sites have a bit of an advantage over those who plough more money into their new bookmaking businesses, because they are taking much less of a risk.
A white label bookie is spending perhaps a tenth of the money, so even if things didn’t go well, their debts would not be anywhere near as significant, and they would also be able to see problems coming with much more warning as the expenses wouldn’t compound as quickly.
In turn, this would give them more time to decide how to react, and if their decision was to close the business, they could do so in a planned and structured way rather than suddenly having to turn the lights off and lock all the doors.
Lots of white label new bookies close down, but they tend to give a few weeks warning and let their customers know, to give them a chance to withdraw any money in the accounts and settle any bets that have already been made. Even if customers miss this opportunity, funds are often returned manually where it is possible.
So new bookies are technically just as safe as long established bookies, but it’s a good idea to understand the terms especially if you plan to wager large amounts, or if you don’t clear out your account regularly.
How to Tell Who Runs a Bookie
All online bookmakers must display certain information in an easy to find way on their websites.
Almost without exception, this information will be at the very bottom of the page in small print, with a few links to external websites.
It’s all a bit jargon heavy, often mentioning several company names so it can all get rather confusing, but the only bit you need to look for is the link to the license from the UK Gambling Commission, or UKGC.
It should stand out as it is a hyperlink, but if not, look for 5 numbers such as 44368.
This will take you to the site’s license with the UKGC on their website, and from there you can see which company holds the license the bookie is operating under, their address, any other domain names operating under the same license number, as well as any previous regulatory action such as fines for breaches of the license etc.
You want the license to be ‘Active’. This proves that the company is currently in good standing and is safe to use.
Sometimes licenses do get suspended temporarily while an investigation is going on, and sometimes they are surrendered or revoked, but basically, if it’s currently active that’s all you need to worry about.
Most white label bookies will be operating under a license that also has a lot of other domain names under the same license, so you can quite quickly tell if your site is a white label or not.
Progress Play are one of the biggest white label providers out there, and as you can see they had 195 sites using their license when this screengrab was taken, but they didn’t actually own a single one of those 195 brands.
That said, there are betting companies that have several of their own brands all operating under the same license who are not white labels.
There are even white label providers who have their own brands as well as providing white label services to brands they don’t own, but this will be clearly shown under the Domain Names tab as you can see above.
If you happen to find a site that does not have a link to a UKGC license, or that only has a link to a license from somewhere else such as Malta (MGA), then that company should not be operating in the UK and is doing so illegally.
In this situation, you should not use the site under any circumstances, even if it has licenses elsewhere. You will not be protected if you deposit money to an illegal or black market gambling site, and they can pretty much rip you off with no recourse, so if there’s no UKGC license, stay well away.