For many years the big high street bookmakers held an extremely dominant position in the gambling industry, but the advent of online gambling has clearly altered that balance. Even in the area of sports gambling, which used to be the bread and butter of the high street bookmakers’ business, they now face serious competition from the new internet only bookmakers who do not have any betting shops and do all their gambling online. These online bookmakers are the equivalent of companies such as Amazon in the retail sector, and clearly have similar advantages in terms of operating costs. It is however not only in the sports gambling sector that the traditional high street bookmakers now face stiff competition, the relatively new online casino gambling sector is also attracting new entrants on a regular basis and increasing the pressure on the established bookmakers we all know on our high streets. It was of course the big high street bookmakers who first invested in the technology and software necessary to introduce online sports gambling for their customers, and it was those same bookmakers who then decided to add a few gambling games to their sports gambling sites beginning what we now know as online casino gambling. Those of us who now do most of our gambling online have a great deal to thank those traditional bookmakers for, but as with almost every area of commerce loyalty only goes so far and other factors start to come into play. In spite of the additional operating cost associated with managing a chain of betting shops, the high street bookmakers do still have some advantages over their internet only rivals, particularly when it comes to brand awareness among the gambling public. Walk through almost any town centre in Ireland and it would be almost impossible not to come across at least one Paddy Power betting shop on the way. Bookmakers such as Paddy Power do not need to spend a great deal of money promoting their brand, whereas for the online based bookmakers it can be a major additional cost. The online bookmaker Bwin for example spends a great deal of money on shirt sponsorship deals with major European football clubs such as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in order to increase their brand awareness and attract new customers to their online gambling site. At the moment there appears to be room in the sector for both types of business models but only time will tell whether we will begin to see whether the high street bookmakers will be able to maintain their presence in our towns and cities.
At the moment there is no doubting that Paddy Power is Ireland’s favourite high street bookmaker, and they currently operate over 200 betting shops across the country. Paddy Power was established in 1998 and as with most of the other traditional bookmakers at the time concentrated solely on the sports gambling market. Since then of course they have expanded into every online gambling sector including a full range of online casino gambling games alongside their comprehensive sports gambling coverage. There is no doubt that Paddy Power are a very successful and trusted bookmaker and are able to offer almost every gambling option you are ever likely to want on their online gambling site, from a full range of sports and sporting events to traditional gambling games such as roulette and poker, and of course a massive range of slots games. Their chosen software supplier is Wagerworks, and that partnership has proved to be very successful right from the beginning particularly with the popular range of slots supplied by Wagerworks many of which remain exclusive to the Paddy Power online casino site. Of the other big high street bookmakers with a high street presence in Ireland, Ladbrokes is probably the best known. In fact Ladbrokes is arguably the biggest bookmaker in both Ireland and the UK and also the probably the oldest with roots back to the late 19th century. Ladbrokes were also among the first of the traditional bookmakers to enter the online gambling sector, and still play a major role in both the online sports gambling market and the online casino sector. They cover a huge range of sports and sporting events from all over the world, as well as offering a very popular online poker platform and a 24 hour online bingo site. They even offer access to some of the world’s most popular lotteries, including of course the Irish lottery. The only other bookmaker to have a significant high street presence in Ireland is Betfred, and although they do not have as many betting shops in Ireland as either Paddy Power or Ladbrokes they are still a powerful force in both the online gambling sector and on the high street. Betfred was established in 1997 by two brothers with just one betting shop, but they now operate over 800 shops across Ireland and thee UK plus a very popular online gambling site. Betfred have established a good reputation among sports gambling fans for their in-play gambling options, and their range of online gambling games is also second to none.
When it comes to the online only bookmakers, we have already mentioned Bwin and their famous shirt sponsorship deals, but there is another major online bookmaker with a similar approach and that is 888 Holdings. Again they have established their brand awareness through both football shirt sponsorship and particular sporting events, but they also offer a huge range of casino gambling options including the 888 poker site. For Irish sports gambling fans 888 sport offers special online sections dedicated to both Irish horse racing and the GAA sports. Another major online bookmaker which we cannot ignore is Party Gaming. Most people associate the brand with their Party Poker site, but they also offer a full range of sports gambling options on their Party Bets site. This is an another online gambling bookmaker which provides access to almost every conceivable gambling opportunity through their specialist online gambling sites.