An independent bookmaker is a company that sets its own odds and does not have any affiliation with other bookmakers. They are typically owned and operated by a small group of people and do not have the resources of large, multinational betting companies.
Independent bookmakers are often seen as being more customer-focused than large betting companies, as they are not beholden to shareholders or investors. They may also be more willing to offer competitive odds and bonuses in order to attract customers.
However, independent bookmakers can also be more volatile than large betting companies. They may not have the financial resources to withstand periods of financial downturn, and they may also be more vulnerable to scams or fraud.
Private bookmakers tend to have a more exclusive aura about them. They might promise to provide a high-class experience that is much more bespoke than one of the major chains.
A better quality of customer service is normally one of the benefits of using a UK independent bookmaker rather than a big betting site like Bet365, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power or BetVictor.
It used to be the case that independent bookmakers would only accept new customers by referral. However, now it is often possible to create an account with a UK private bookmaker without being referred by someone already a customer of that particular British bookie.
Some independent bookmakers only operate via a betting shop. Others have embraced the internet and have launched their own online betting sites. In some cases, private bookmakers will accept bets over the phone. A mix of all the above services may also be available.
Without further ado, here are our selections for the UK's best five independent bookmakers:
Claiming to be the world's finest bookmaker, Fitzdares provides a unique personal service. Unlike a lot of independent bookmakers in the UK, Fitzdares also runs an online casino site. Being the official betting partner of Premier League side Fulham has raised the profile of this private bookmaker, which recently announced it is set to launch online in Canada as well.
Fitzdares is known for its plush member's club in Mayfair, but the company has been told that it will have to move out of the premises at the end of its lease, so it will be needing a new home.
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Billing itself as the leading luxury bookmaker in the UK, the history of Star Sports can be traced back to when it was originally launched as Star Racing back in 1999. Now based in Brighton, a rebrand that took place on the firm's 20th anniversary has helped to bring it into the modern era.
Star Sports offers boutique bookmaking services to clients with credit betting provided. The firm says all calls will be answered by experienced traders and it runs an exclusive hedging facility. Star Sports has a reputation for taking large bets that other independent bookmakers will not.
Having begun life as a retail unit 25 years ago, BetGoodwin is the modern company that used to be known as Goodwin Racing back in the day. At BetGoodwin, the telephone betting service is among the biggest and best in the UK, but there is also an online site for those who prefer to place sports wagers via the internet.
Hayley Turner, Tom Cannon and Alan King are among the names from the world of horse racing to have signed up as brand ambassadors for BetGoodwin. Darts star Michael Smith is also included on the firm's list of brand ambassadors.
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Ireland's independent bookmaker QuinnBet - which is owned by the family of Sean Quinn - has a growing reputation in the industry. Operating online in the UK, it is famous for providing some top betting bonuses like acca bonuses, crossbar insurance, best odds guaranteed and more.
QuinnBet is the sponsor of the Punchestown Grand National Trial for the next three years and its odds are also set to be featured on all the sporting event pages on Oddschecker through a new deal. QuinnBet's profits were up last year to €2.2 million after tax, showing its rapid rise.
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While it is a much more famous betting brand than the other private UK bookmakers on our list, BoyleSports is still proudly independent, which helps it to provide some great sports odds.
At BoyleSports it is possible to choose from mobile, desktop and phone betting in the UK. The online site also includes a variety of online casino games such as slots, blackjack and so on.
BoyleSports opened the firm's 300th shop in the Republic of Ireland in September 2022 and it has continued to expand in recent times, snapping up 33 William Hill shops in Northern Ireland.
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The above five private bookmakers are our picks for the best independent bookmakers in the UK. However, there are some other legal private bookmakers that are worth considering too:
Some other independent bookmakers operate betting shops but not online or by telephone.
Independent telephone bookmakers in the UK are betting operators that offer their services primarily over the phone. Unlike large online betting companies, these independent bookmakers often provide a more personalised betting service. Customers can place bets on various sports and events by calling a dedicated phone line.
Key characteristics of independent telephone bookmakers in the UK include:
The existence of independent telephone bookmakers is a testament to the diverse nature of the betting industry in the UK, catering to different preferences and needs of bettors.
Below is a list of independent telephone bookmakers in the UK:
Independent Irish bookmakers are privately owned betting businesses in Ireland, operating separately from the larger, often internationally-owned corporate bookmaking chains. These independent bookmakers offer betting services, typically with a more personalised approach and a strong local presence. They may operate through physical betting shops, telephone betting services, and in some cases, online platforms.
These independent bookmakers are known for their focus on local sports and events, and they often have a loyal customer base. They contribute significantly to the diversity of the betting industry in Ireland, offering an alternative to the larger, more commercialised bookmaking entities.
A short list of some independent Irish bookmakers, as per the Irish Bookmakers Association, includes:
As with large betting sites, there are various key pros and cons to using private bookmakers.
Better odds: Private bookmakers often have higher prices than big UK chains offer
Trade on credit: Independent bookmakers may allow bets to be placed on credit
Higher stakes: Some private bookmakers accept bigger bets than online betting sites
Bespoke service: Clients receive individual attention after joining private bookmakers
More expertise: A higher level of knowledge is typically found in their trading team
Trust: It may be hard for UK sports fans to know whether they can trust private bookies
Usability: The online sites run by UK independent bookmakers tend to be quite basic
Customer service: Help may not be available 24/7 due to a far smaller support team
When we review the UK's top private bookmakers, here are the areas we are assessing:
Is the independent bookmaker trustworthy and are they licensed? No private bookmakers are ever going to be recommended if they are not licensed. Checking out what customers of the private bookmaker think is part of this stage.
As with online betting sites, it is important that private bookmakers are willing to accept a range of bets. Do they cover lots of different sports, or is there a niche focus on a single sport such as horse racing? Is the choice of sports markets to bet on limited?
As we noted above, one of the top benefits of using private bookmakers in the UK tends to be that they can be more generous with their prices. Comparing odds between UK online betting brands and leading independent bookmakers is not always straightforward. However, some private bookmakers like QuinnBet do have their odds listed on comparison websites such as Oddschecker alongside their top industry rivals.
While massive UK online betting sites such as Bet365 and Betfair are able to provide new users with a generous welcome bonus, this might not be the case for a private bookmaker. However, free bets and special promotions may still be offered, perhaps as a way to reward regular customers for their loyalty to the firm.
Some private bookmakers offer the chance to trade on credit, so how does this work in practice? For those independent bookmakers taking bets online, we take a look at which payment methods can be used to make a deposit.
Whether or not there are fees or charges associated with deposits and withdrawals is included here. The speed of withdrawals is crucial as private bookmakers are often able to pay faster.
While private bookmakers are known for providing a bespoke betting experience, their customer service department is likely to be small. How long does it take for customer support agents to respond to queries? Is there a range of different ways to get in touch with the customer support team, or more limited options?
Not all private bookmakers are set up for mobile betting. This can make it challenging for them to attract UK sports fans who have grown used to being able to place a bet while out and about. However, some private bookmakers have been able to embrace mobile betting and they might even have their own betting apps available to download.
All top online betting brands have a detailed responsible gambling policy in place these days. Private bookmakers, therefore, need to follow suit by showing that they take responsible gambling seriously. If they operate online, then tools such as deposit limits need to be in place to allow their customers to control spending.
There are a few different types of private bookmakers that UK sports fans should know about:
Independent betting shops: The most traditional way to place a bet on the big race of the day or a football match is still to walk into a betting shop and pay in cash. While a lot of independent betting shops were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and had to close their doors, some remain.
Online independent bookmakers: The rise of the internet means that online betting is now massively popular in the UK and around the world. Private bookmakers have sought to keep up with changes in the modern world by launching their own online betting sites. This has enabled them to try to compete on a level playing field with top online bookmaker brands like Ladbrokes.
Independent telephone bookmakers: For a lot of UK sports fans, telephone betting is still the way to go. A lot of the top UK private bookmakers provide a telephone betting service. This involves ringing up and speaking to a trader, who will be able to offer a price for a requested bet.
Racecourse-only independent bookmakers: Horse racing and betting have been linked for a long time. As a result, some private bookmakers can only be found at racecourses in the UK. This means that they have resisted the temptation to open up a new online betting site. The only way to place a bet with a racecourse-only independent bookmaker is to have a day at the races.
New private bookmakers: Although there is a huge amount of competition in the world of private bookmakers in the UK already, new independent bookmakers continue to be launched. While it can be difficult for them to make an impact due to how crowded the field is, some UK sports fans are always willing to give them a go by placing bets with new independent bookies.
Steven is an experienced iGaming content writer who has been working in the industry since 2018. He is passionate about sports betting and enjoys writing about all aspects of the industry, including bookmaker reviews, betting tips and strategies, and news and analysis. If you have any questions about online gambling in the UK, please don't hesitate to contact him.