The online gambling sector now involves a wide range of different companies operating an equally diverse range of internet sites. Our online gambling options now cover almost everything from sports gambling to casino gambling and even financial gambling and lotteries, but it all started with the big bookmakers and their decision to take their sports gambling online. Many of the first online sports gambling were introduced by the established bookmakers we all recognise from their extensive presence on our high streets, but it wasn’t long before they were joined by a number of new bookmakers who did not have any betting shops in our towns and cities and were only accessible online. All of these bookmakers also quickly began to expand their online operations to include what we now refer to as online casino gambling, by adding a huge range of gambling games to their established sports gambling sites. This development then encouraged another type of internet gambling organisation to enter the market, this time concentrated solely on the online casino gambling sector and offering a much wider range of gambling games but no sports gambling options at all. These specialist online casino operators are clearly not bookmakers as we understand the term, but they now have an increasingly important influence on the online gambling scene and have created an even more competitive market. Clearly the big high street bookmakers still have a very strong position in the online gambling scene because most of them have been able to establish a strong public awareness of their brand through their presence on our high streets. The internet only bookmakers have had to compete through other means, mostly by significant sports sponsorship deals supporting specific events or by supporting high profile football clubs where their brand name gets widespread satellite television coverage right across Europe. The big bookmakers are of course not the only important contributors to the success of the online gambling scene, the big software companies have also had a major role to play, particularly when it comes to online casino gambling. This is because almost all the gambling games featured on the online casinos are designed and supplied by the casino software companies. The software is responsible for the financial management systems employed on these sites, and of course the quality of the graphics associated with the games, but by far the most important input from the software designers lies in the games themselves.
The success of a particular online gambling site operated by one of our leading bookmakers, particular those which feature a full range of gambling games as well as sports gambling options is therefore not solely down to our recognition of the bookmakers brand name it also depends heavily on their choice of software supplier. The biggest and most popular of the high street bookmakers in Ireland is of course Paddy Power, and the Paddy Power online gambling site also probably has the biggest following among Irish sports gambling and casino gambling fans. Very early in the development of the Paddy Power online gambling site they chose to feature gambling games supplied by a company called Wagerworks, and it proved to be an excellent decision on the part of the management because many of the gambling games on the Paddy Power online casino site are still relatively exclusive because they are still the only major bookmaker to use Wagerworks as their primary software supplier. The other major bookmaker with a significant estate of betting shops in Ireland is Ladbrokes. Again we all know the Ladbrokes brand because they are they are certainly the second largest bookmaker in Ireland and probably the biggest bookmaker in Ireland and the UK as a whole. Ladbrokes however have cooperated with a number of different software companies over the years and many of their slots games in particular can also be found on other sites. The Ladbrokes online gambling site has however been amongst the leaders in the development of the online casino gambling scene, with their online poker platform and their specialist online bingo sites being particularly successful. There are not many online gambling site operators offering as many gambling options as Ladbrokes and they continue to gain in popularity. The only other major bookmaker with a substantial high street presence, both in Ireland and the UK is Betfred. Established in 1997 by two brothers with just one betting shop, Betfred now has over 800 betting shops and since 2004 a very popular online gambling site. Betfred like to refer to themselves as the ‘Bonus King’ among bookmakers, and they have certainly offered a number of interesting and innovative bets and bonus deals over the years. The Betfred poker site for beginners is particularly successful, and they also specialise in gambling on lotteries from all over the world including of course our own Irish lottery.
The other major bookmakers with big online gambling sites are all internet only companies, which as we have already said rely on sports sponsorship to raise their brand profile. Bwin for example are probably best known for their shirt sponsorship deals with two of the biggest football clubs in Europe, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. The Bwin online casino gambling site is particularly well regarded with excellent graphics and a number of increasingly popular skill games such as backgammon, Yatzy and Mahjong. Another of the major online bookmakers known for their sports sponsorship is 888 Holdings. The 888 sports gambling options include all the Irish horse racing meetings as well as our GAA sports, so the 888 internet sports gambling site has become particularly popular here in Ireland. The 888 online casino gambling site also offers a full range of interesting gambling games including a variety of different versions of poker. Last but certainly not least is Party Gaming, a major online gambling company employing as many as 1300 people in Gibraltar, India and many other countries across Europe. Party Bets is their online sports gambling site, but they also operate a number of specialist casino gambling sites including Party Poker, Party Casino and PartyGammon.