Our newspapers are often full of the problems being faced by our high street retailers as they try to cope with the increasing popularity of internet shopping, but we rarely read of similar difficulties as a result of online gambling in spite of the fact that online sports gambling and casino gambling is also becoming increasingly popular. To be fair we have to remember that it was actually the big high street bookmakers who invested the money to set up the first online gambling sites, which may be one reason why they have not been affected in the same way as many of the high street retailers. Since those early days we have of course also seen several new internet only bookmakers introduce their own online gambling sites, so the high street bookmakers have not had it all their own way in so far as competition is concerned. The original online gambling sites introduced by the high street bookmakers were concentrated primarily on sports gambling and were probably targeted at potential sports gambling fans who did not have easy access to their betting shops, but there is no escaping the fact that although more of us are gambling on sports and sporting events overall footfall in the betting shops has certainly fallen over the years. So much so that many of the bookmakers operating those shops clearly believe that it is only the FOBT’s installed in all their shops that are keeping them from closing. Perhaps we are still to see whether online gambling will eventually lead to the demise of high street betting shops because the bookmakers are under increasing political pressure to either remove the FOBT’s altogether or at the very least reduce the maximum stakes which can be wagered on those machines. Traditionally all the major bookmakers concentrated solely on sports gambling, but when they began to introduce some gambling games onto their sports gambling sites they opened up a whole new area of online gambling which we now call online casino gambling. Once again although these online gambling games include all the traditional games which can be found in the real casinos and several different versions of bingo the online casino gambling sites do not appear to have had a significant effect on their land based rivals. The online casino gambling sector is also another area where the big high street bookmakers who first introduced the concept of playing gambling games online have been joined by a host of internet only rivals concentrating solely on offering casino gambling games.
Although the online gambling sector has clearly become far more competitive since the high street bookmakers first introduced the concept, they are still very important players in both the online sports gambling and the online casino sectors. Ireland’s favourite bookmaker Paddy Power for instance still operates an extensive estate of betting shops in the country, and the Paddy Power online gambling site is also one of the most popular sites among the Irish sports gambling community and also among those of us who enjoy playing gambling games online. The Paddy Power online gambling site covers a huge range of sports and sporting events and also offers a full range of exciting gambling games including online poker, online bingo and a vast array of slots games supplied by one of the leading online casino software companies Wagerworks. Ladbrokes is another leading bookmaker with a significant number of high street betting shops in Ireland, and again as we would probably expect the Ladbrokes online gambling sites are also very popular in the country. Ladbrokes is probably biggest bookmaker in the UK and Ireland combined and also almost certainly the oldest with their origins dating back to the late 19th century. The Ladbrokes online bingo platform is particularly popular and offers bingo games 24 hours a day for a variety of different stakes and prize levels. The Ladbrokes online gambling site also provides their customers with access to most of the world’s lotteries and a variety of scratch cards. The only other major bookmaker with a high street presence in Ireland is of course Betfred, which was established in 1997 by two brothers operating in just one betting shop. Betfred now has over 800 betting shops in Ireland and the UK and an online gambling site which they set up in 2004. Betfred have become known as the ‘Bonus King’, a title they have been keen to develop with some very unusual betting options and of course different bonus deals to encourage their customers to remain loyal. The Betfred online gambling site again covers a full range of sports betting options plus a very comprehensive range of gambling games including a specialist online poker site for beginners. Poker is now one of the most popular online casino gambling games, so anyone wishing to learn how to play the game in a relatively safe environment should certainly consider this Betfred online gambling site. The other major bookmakers who have become well known since the introduction of online gambling are all primarily internet companies with no high street betting shops. These include 888 Holdings, Bet365 and Bwin, all of which only provide online gambling opportunities. Without a presence on the high street these bookmakers have had to establish their brands using different marketing strategies, the most common of which is football shirt sponsorship. Bwin for instance has agreed shirt sponsorship deals with two of the biggest and most successful football clubs in Europe, namely Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, which means that their brand is highlighted right across Europe every time either of these two clubs are involved in a televised match. The brand name isn’t everything of course but it does encourage people onto their sites, and once there they will find all of these online gambling sites provide an excellent range of sports gambling options and an equally impressive range of gambling games. Although the high street bookmakers definitely had a head start in the development of online gambling, these internet bookmakers have become formidable rivals over the last few years.