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The best online bookmakers in 2024: what do the leading betting firms offer horse racing punters?

Picking the best bookmaker used to be no more difficult than seeing which firm had a betting shop near to your house. Online betting is the dominant force now, which means among other things the choice extends further than just the retail giants like Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill.

Of course, this shift means that product matters more than ever. Convenience is still part of the equation, but that is more likely to make punters stick with the same bookmaker for horseracing betting than they always have, rather than shop around for the best prices, enhancements and offers.

All serious bettors know that this is to be avoided. You do not need an account with every single online bookmaker, but you should have several options to consider ahead of any bet that you strike.

The RP Recommends team are not just judges of horses. All are also dyed-in-the-wool horseracing bettors. Most of us have been around for as long as online betting has, so we know how the landscape has changed, for the better as well as worse for punters.

The individual firms and our main recommendations will be covered in this article. Read on to learn about the top online bookmakers worthy of your time and stakes when it comes to betting on horseracing.


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About the author

Keith Melrose has been the Racing Post's betting editor since February 2019 and has spent his near 20-year career in the fields of form and betting. In 2021 Keith was nominated for the HWPA's specialist writer of the year award, with submissions that included a punter's guide to finding the optimum stake for any bet using the Kelly criterion.


RP Recommends: the must-have betting accounts for horse racing in 2024

1. Betfair

For best odds, no restrictions and a huge amount of choice, the Betfair Exchange is unbeatable.

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2. bet365

Good early odds, which they are not afraid to stand. Price-matching on ITV races is a strong offer.

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3. Coral

An appealing workhorse account for racing punters. They are strong on best odds guaranteed (BOG).

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Cheltenham: 62,429 racegoers attended on the Thursday of the festival
Punters should have several account options to consider ahead of any bet that you strikeCredit: Edward Whitaker

The best online bookmakers for horse racing betting in 2024

bet365

When it comes to horseracing, bet365 offer few frills but get the basics right more than most. They have a solid tendency to take their own position on markets, as opposed to many firms who track one another's prices. They will often hold their prices for longer, too, even when offering standout odds.

There is also a major offer on ITV races that rarely gets discussed. From 10am until 15 minutes before the off, bet365 will match the prices of Ladbrokes, William Hill, Paddy Power, Coral, Sky Bet and BoyleSports on all ITV races. It is a strong offer for any Saturday punters who bet in the mornings.

Counter to that, bet365 rarely offer the very best each-way terms on major races. However, extra places are often available.

Main pros:

  • Great all-rounder
  • Take a view and hold it more often than most
  • Excellent ITV Racing offer
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Betfair

The Betfair Sportsbook was introduced in 2012 but has rarely stood out. Prices will often mirror those of sister firm Paddy Power and enhanced each-way terms, while better than most, can often be beaten by Sky Bet, another Flutter stablemate.

Betfair remain a huge player, because they are the dominant betting exchange. Near the off in a race, exchange odds will typically beat traditional odds. The Betfair Exchange also offers a starting price mechanism these days. Similar to show prices, the Betfair SP beats its traditional rival far more often than not. This is true even after the exchange's commission is factored in.

The Betfair Exchange is also the best platform for punters to engineer strong positions on races, by considered utilisation of the lay function. Mathematically, this is almost always a much better play than the cash-out function offered by online bookmakers, which has a margin built in that far exceeds Betfair's commission.

Main pros:

  • Industry-leading bookmaker
  • The dominant betting exchange
  • Ability to back and lay is a big advantage
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Betfred

Multiples punters, particularly those who love a Lucky 15, need to have Betfred among their options for betting on horseracing.

Beyond their long-established bonuses, Betfred are a useful firm to bet with. They are competitive in most aspects, without standing out on anything besides the aforementioned bonuses.

Main pros:

  • Brilliant for Lucky 15 betting
  • Offer competitive prices on racing
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Coral

In some ways, Coral is the Honda of online bookmakers. They're reliable and not especially sexy, but my Honda CR-V is still hard on the bridle after 110,000 miles. Parent company Entain's strategy seems to involve pitching Coral increasingly as the online bookmaker for horseracing punters.

What this means in practice is that, relative to other bookmakers, Coral place something more of an interest on trading. In theory, good punters can expect to be entertained for longer by Coral. The flip side is that they do not go in so much for the marketing-led campaigns such as enhanced place terms on ITV races and early concessions on Cheltenham or the Grand National. That said, they are joint best-in-class when it comes to best odds guaranteed.

Main pros:

  • A horseracing-focused bookie
  • Joint best-in-class for best odds guaranteed
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Ladbrokes

'The Magic Sign' will always have heritage appeal to a subset of punters. Newer arrivals to horseracing betting might wonder what all the fuss is about. Generally speaking, when it comes to racing you will be better off with Coral. Most prices, particularly day-of-race ones, seem to be merged with their sister company anyway.

One area where Ladbrokes surpass Coral is on bet boosts, with up to four per day available. One of these is reserved for sports betting, which is an area where Ladbrokes remain a major player.

Main pros:

  • Established and respected bookmaker
  • Major sports betting player
  • Bet boosts
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Paddy Power

In the early days of online betting, Paddy Power tended to lead the way. In terms of marketing, they are still well in front. When it comes to what they can actually offer clued-up punters, others have caught up.

Nowadays, a Paddy Power account performs well on many metrics: early prices will often be second up after William Hill, each-way terms are comparable with anyone outside of Sky Bet. But as that implies, your Paddy Power account will stand out on few counts in 2024.

Main pros:

  • Marketing genius
  • Early prices up quickly
  • Decent each-way terms
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Sky Bet

The favourite of each-way punters, Sky Bet will often offer the most places on the major Saturday handicaps. Seven and even eight places is not uncommon on fields with 20 runners or more.

Sky Bet also tend to offer a wide range of short-term ante-post bets. It has been observed that their overrounds on these races can be among the tightest, though, so tread carefully.

Main pros:

  • Industry-leading each-way terms
  • Focus heavily on the big betting races
  • Decent range of short-term ante-post markets
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Tote

If so much of choosing the best online bookmaker is putting as many colours as you can on your palette, then mixing in a bit of Tote betting is necessary from time to time.

If you are an SP punter, the Tote guarantee will ensure that you never lose out compared with the industry SP. Previous analysis by the Racing Post has shown that the Tote's SP guarantee makes it better than the traditional prices offered and competitive with the Betfair SP. However, it must be said that the latter still wins out more often than not.

The Tote is also the home of the Placepot, which comes with guaranteed pools sizes on at least one card every day. The easiest, but not the only way to play in the Placepot, is directly through the Tote.

Exotic bets like the Swinger (pick two of the first three, in any order) are handy to have in your quiver. It is also the best place to bet on French racing as since 2023 Tote have commingled with the French PMU pools. Traditional bookmaker odds on French racing generally have huge overrounds and are best avoided.

Main pros:

  • The home of pool betting
  • Tote guarantee on starting prices
  • Placepots and other exotic markets
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Unibet

If you want a price and no-one else is offering it, Unibet can be a good place to go. Their ante-post suite is usually the most extensive of any bookmaker and they will price up races that are not available anywhere else.

Otherwise, Unibet's bet boost offerings are solid. They are in the pack when it comes to the best online bookmakers.

Main pros:

  • Strong suite of ante-post markets
  • Not afraid to price up a race
  • Bet boosts are solid
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William Hill

A few years ago, William Hill started pricing up a lot of races within a couple of hours of declarations. This meant that they would be the only bookmaker offering odds for a good 24 hours before others went up or any money worth mentioning went into the Betfair market.

It is a bold approach, and there is a lot of fun to be had – and ricks to be found – betting effectively person-to-person with the Hills odds-compiler. However, they are naturally defensive in such an exposed position. High stakers will not last long if regularly skinning these early prices. Hills also do not go in for BOG at all, which is presumably related to their early-pricing strategy.

Away from that, Hills are second only to Sky Bet when it comes to enhanced place terms. They also offer daily bet boosts, although these come with similar caveats to taking Hills' early prices.

Main pros:

  • Races are often priced up quickly
  • Enhanced each-way terms
  • Daily bet boosts
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Two other leading bookmakers worth betting with

BetVictor

Later than others with BOG and mid-table when it comes to offers, BetVictor don't stand out much among other online bookmakers these days. Where they excel is on so-called justice refunds, when for example a horse who refuses to race has their backers' stakes refunded. This is handy for some and only occasionally useful for the rest of us.

Main pros:

  • Best odds guaranteed (BOG)
  • Offer justice refunds

BoyleSports

Sports bettors should similarly have Boylesports on their radar. Many of BoyleSports' leading offers are on football, and some of their standout racing promotions are football-led. The ability to lengthen your odds by specifying a winning distance is sure to have been influenced by the popular bet builder offer on football. When it comes to the basics, BoyleSports remain competitive but rarely stand alone.

Main pros:

  • Strong in the sports betting market
  • Ability to lengthen your odds
  • Competitive racing prices

Betting on horse racing: the key factors to consider in 2024

Competitive pricing

Basic, but true. The first thing most punters ought to be looking for once they've settled on their view of a race is the price of their selections. How much prices vary between the best online bookmakers will depend on when you tend to bet. Those who go in the night before will see lots of differences of opinion, whereas mid-morning on the day of racing tends to show much more uniform pricing. Accordingly, standout prices on popular horses have to be snapped up quickly and this is another reason to hold multiple accounts.

Offers that you can make count

Free bets for new accounts are all well and good, and those who are less interested in betting and just into free cash will make use of nothing else in the lifetime of a betting account. But if you are a horseracing bettor, and you bet late enough that the difference between online bookmakers is often marginal, then you will need to find out which of the most popular offers best suit your style of punting.

Each-way punters will be interested in enhanced place terms. Most firms will offer extra places on handicaps on ITV Racing. The most aggressive tend to be Flutter firms (Sky Bet especially, but also Paddy Power and Betfair) and William Hill. Some firms, principally Sky Bet, will also offer extra places on the better midweek races.

The Cornwallis Stakes has attracted has once again attracted a big field of speedy juveniles
Bet boosts allow you to increase the odds on your selectionsCredit: Edward Whitaker

Multiples punters, especially those who look at Lucky 15s, Lucky 31s and Lucky 63s, will want to stick closely to Betfred. The boosted wins for getting all winners on a Lucky, and the multiples of odds on one winner, are long-standing offers.

There are also bet boosts, which allow you to increase the odds on your selections. Generally, these will be restricted to one per day. It is rational to use these on a horse who is already best-priced with that firm, but anecdotally this sort of behaviour is particularly likely to be picked up by trading algorithms designed to minimise the sharp money taken by online bookmakers.

Assessing your ante-post options

The variety of ante-post options is another argument in favour of multiple accounts. Early in the year, some online bookmakers will start offering non-runner no bet (NRNB) for the Cheltenham Festival. William Hill went first in 2024, beating usual larks bet365. But you might fancy taking more of a risk for odds that might be several multiples higher.

More short-term ante-post betting, for races that might be a few days to a couple of weeks away, also demands multiple accounts. These races are often priced up defensively by individual online bookmakers. There is a good chance that one of them has taken a chance on the horse you fancy.

Firms like bet365, Sky Bet, Paddy Power and Unibet tend to offer the greatest number of short-term ante-post markets. Unibet are particularly keen to offer ante-post markets that no-one else will price up.

Best odds guaranteed: yes or no?

In the early-2010s, firms tried to generate more action in the mornings by promoting best odds guaranteed. This offer meant that if you took an early price and your selection returned at a bigger SP, you would be paid out at the bigger odds. This 'no-lose' option was popular and soon became commonplace.

The trend has reversed in recent years. Some online bookmakers were giving too much leeway to early bettors, others did not like the way it spoiled traditional trading. Layers often like drifters.

Shakem Up'Arry: memorable winner at Cheltenham for Harry Redknapp
Bookmakers that offer best odds guaranteed (BOG) now tend to do so only from the morning onwardsCredit: Edward Whitaker

Nowadays firms that do offer best odds guaranteed (BOG) will tend to do so only from the morning onwards. BoyleSports (with some caveats), bet365, Betfred, Coral, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power are first out of the traps at 8am on the day of racing. Betway and BetVictor join the party at 9am.

In theory, a good punter should be backing far more steamers than drifters so BOG ought not to be a major consideration most of the time. But it can pay off handsomely on those exceptional days.

Security for your personal details

Unless you are brand new to betting, you will know that customers are being asked to hand over more personal information than ever before to online bookmakers. Some if not most of this is absolutely necessary to protect vulnerable individuals and minimise the criminal proceeds that pass through betting accounts. Other aspects, like those associated with affordability checks, are much more contentious and have been covered extensively by the Racing Post.

Bettors will want to know that this information is safe with the bookmakers with whom they share this information. Security is a hugely important part of the online betting business model and is taken incredibly seriously.

A word on bookmaker restrictions

The most common user complaint among punters with online bookmakers these days is the practice of restricting accounts. This is when an online bookmaker will restrict an account's stakes to pitiable amounts, literally pennies in many cases, or close the account simply because they do not deem your business to be sufficiently profitable. You do not even have to be a winner. Showing sharp tendencies, such as consistently beating SP or boosting standout odds, can often be enough.

Anyone who has been betting with reasonable skill, for any amount of time, at anything above the most modest stakes will likely have encountered restrictions. We all have on the RP Recommends team. We would love to see an end, or at least a massive reduction, to the practice of restricting business based solely on some sense of profitability, which is now almost certainly done via algorithm. The nearest comparable market, that of loyalty schemes and credit card bonuses, take a much more even-handed approach that hones in on clear abuse, rather than firing at will on the clued-up.

However, when it comes to picking the best online bookmakers we have put these bugbears to one side. This is largely because restrictions, while far too draconian for our liking overall, are imposed so inconsistently. One of us might have been shut down by one firm in a matter of weeks, while another might have held a winning account with that same bookmaker for 15 years. And these same two individuals' experiences with another bookmaker may be totally flipped around.

As such, we will advise on online bookmakers as even-handedly as possible. Naturally, our direct experience with a firm that shut us down years ago will be a little less. And we will always call for the curtailing of current practices, which we believe to be unsustainable for a healthy betting industry. But our recommendations will run on the assumption that you will be able to get on with all firms, at least in the short to medium term.


Conclusion

When it comes to the best online bookmakers for horseracing, the names that established themselves in the early days of online betting – the giants now – are likely to stay there for the foreseeable future.

By all means experiment with newer firms, as RP Recommends writers do and on which we will report back, but the best offers and greatest security will come from firms that built themselves up during the industry's boom years.

Which bookmakers you choose will come down partly to personal taste and user preference, but the advice in these quarters is that the best online bookmakers are the ones offering the best price about the horse you fancy. The advice, therefore, is to give yourself as extensive a choice as is possible.

In case it was not clear by now, most savvy punters will have several accounts. The other advantage with having accounts with major firms is that bets with many of them can be placed directly through the Racing Post website and mobile app.


RP Recommends: read the full series


Commercial notice: This article contains affiliate links. Offers are handpicked and come from operators our experts have first-hand experience of. Opening an account via one of these links will earn revenue for the Racing Post, which will be used to continue producing our award-winning coverage of horseracing.


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Keith MelroseBetting editor

Published on 28 February 2024inRP Recommends

Last updated 15:00, 28 February 2024

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