They can be your best friend or your worst enemy. A bookmaker, or bookie, is a person or organization that takes bets on sporting and other events at previously determined odds. Remember, bookmaking is a business. They operate on commission so they want to take in as many wagers as possible. You can gamble on a variety of sports in the UK, including football, golf, tennis, cricket, horse racing and greyhound racing and more. Bookmakers offer each-way bets. These types of bets consist of two separate bets, a win and a place. On a win bet, your selection must finish first in the event. On a place bet, you will get a return on your selection based on which place you chose. The place bet is a fraction of the win odds, usually 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 or 1/5, depending on the event. If the gambling bug has you in its grasp, there are novelty events people actually bet on such as the outcome of political elections and reality TV contests, or if there will be a white Christmas. In my opinion, you’re addicted if you do this and should seek help. Bookmakers aspire to guarantee their own profit by getting the amounts of each amount equal to the odds or by attaining a balanced book, an equal number of bets on each side of the point spread. Bookmakers are not in it to make money off the bets themselves. They make money off the amount of people betting by commissions, regardless of the outcome. Bookmaking is legal in the UK and a contributor to the economy through the National Lottery. In the UK, make sure your bookie is a member of the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS), which settles disputes between gambling establishments and their customers. The only legal bookmaker is state-owned and operated in countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada and Sweden. In Canada, bookmaking is part of the lottery program, known as Sport Select. In the UK, there are more than 8,000 bookmakers. The four major ones are William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and state-owned ToteSport. Other players working up the ladder are Sky Bet, Bet 24, Betfred, Bet365, Sportingbet, Victor Chandler, Stan James and Mansion. Modern Technology’s Effect on Gambling Most bookmakers have an online component to their brand. However, the safe websites only accept bets from countries where gambling is legal and from people over 18 years old. They are usually linked to online casinos so it’s important to avoid addiction no matter how many flashing graphics are coming at you. Bets are also taken through phones and text messages. Online bookmakers have made a name for themselves. Now, many televised sports in the UK and the rest of Europe are sponsored by them, sometimes with bookmaker names on player shirts, stadium signs and even event titles. The use of betting exchanges has cut out the middleman—bookmakers. Websites such as BETDAQ and Betfair match back (normal bets on a selection to win) and lay bets (against the selection) between different gamblers and cut into the bookmaker’s profit margin, known as an overround. Suffice it to say, bookmakers don’t like betting exchanges. They offer punters much lower overheads and arbitrage. However, betting exchanges do allow bookmakers to see the state of the market and set their odds accordingly. Choosing a Online Bookmaker Before deciding on a bookmaker, there are a few things to consider: Reputation: How many years has it been in the business? Check rating sites and forums. Ease of Use: Does it have easy to use software to make wagers? Can you make financial transactions easily? If possible, do a test drive before signing up. Betting Options: Does it offer lines that you like? What is the least and maximum bet allowed? Explore the website and check the odds before making a deposit. Bonus Programs: What are the incentives for new punters or loyal ones? Some offer a discount on your initial deposit and a smaller discount on additional deposits.