Ladbrokes is one of the best-known companies in the betting industry, boasting a name-recognition that most other brands could only dream of. Given that they’ve had on-street stores in place around the UK since the early part of the 1960s it’s fair to say that they’re a company that is synonymous with the industry. What’s quite interesting to me is the fact that it started life in one of the most exclusive ways possible, turning from commissioning agents for Ladbroke Hall trained horses into a bookmaker for the British aristocracy.
Nowadays things are a little different for the company. In July of 2015 an agreement was reached for Ladbrokes to merge with one of their big rivals, Gala Coral Group. A new company, Ladbrokes Coral, was set up with Ladbrokes CEO Jim Mullen becoming the chief executive of this newly formed company. The actual merger itself didn’t take place until towards the end of the following year, with the company having to sell off around 400 shops in order to for it to be approved because of competitiveness issues within the industry. The most important thing for punters to bear in mind is that, despite the merger, Ladbrokes and Coral are operated as two different companies. Read my review of each of them and you’ll see how they differ.
You don’t get to be one of the most well-established names in the bookmaking industry without learning a few things about how to win over customers. Ladbrokes may have fallen behind the opposition at some points in their existence, but more often than not they’ve been leading the way. Here’s how they cover some of the main features that I’m interested to know about:
As I sit to write this review at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, a week after the end of the Premier League season, there are 55 events available for me to bet on live and in-play with Ladbrokes. That is not an unimpressive amount considering the random time of day and the fact that football is going into its down time in most countries. Indeed, it’s worth noting that only fifteen of those events are football games, with the majority (twenty-seven) being tennis matches. That tells you a fair amount about how seriously Ladbrokes takes live betting.
I’m writing this review on the back of having written my Sky Bet one and I have to say that the difference in the two company’s websites is stark. I couldn’t stop using the work ‘slick’ when I was talking about Sky Bet, but with Ladbrokes things feel a lot more clunky. I’ve used the site countless times before and that’s never really occurred to me, so it might just be because I’ve been using Sky Bet a lot recently as I was writing that review, but suddenly Ladbrokes’s site doesn’t seem anywhere near as smooth. How much that matters is down to personal taste, of course, but given that the key feature of live betting is how quickly you can log on and do what you need to, I thought it was worth mentioning.
As I say, it’s all a matter of personal taste and there’s certainly nothing wrong with Ladbrokes’s live betting pages. They’re what you might politely term ‘functional’ and I’m absolutely sure that a lot of people will like that. At the top of the page you’ll find a list of tabs outlining the different sports that you can bet on in-play, so it’s nice and easy to navigate to a specific place if that’s something that matters to you. As you scroll down the page you’ll notice that each sport is separated into its subsection and you’ll be able to bet on the most obvious markets, such as who will win or whether it will be a draw, right from within the page.
I would never call myself a tennis buff, but I do consider myself to be a fan. Even so, I’ve never heard of either Marton Fucsovics nor Stefano Napolitano, whose match I’m being offered odds on. I’ve said before that, as a general sports fan, if I go on a bookie’s live betting page and don’t recognise half of the words on there then I’m fairly confident in saying that their coverage is decent. With that in mind, I’m off to place a bet on the Correct Score of the Italian Serie D game between SSD Monza 1912 and A.C. Mestre…
When it comes to live streaming, Ladbrokes is a bit of a letdown. On the one hand, there is a tab at the top of the page that allows you to select either the events that you can bet on live or those being streamed. On the other hand, clicking on that tab reduces my list of options from 55 events to just 4. Likewise if I look at the company’s ‘upcoming section’ it tells me that there are 139 different things to bet on live over the next two days, whilst there are only six matches I’ll be able to live stream; four of those being football and the other two are tennis.
That really is a shame, because the integration of the live stream and in-play betting is great when it’s available. There’s a small screen in the top right hand section of the site where the action takes place and you can make it bigger if you want to. The bets you can place then sit below that and it’s nice and simple to respond to what you’re watching. They also only ask you to have an account with them and a positive balance in order to be able to live stream, or to have placed any bet in the previous 24 hours. One thing of note is that what I’ve said here doesn’t apply to the horse racing, but I’ll explain that shortly.
If the live streaming is something of a let down then the way that Ladbrokes handles its Cash Out system makes up for it a tad. When you enter an event to look at the bets on offer in detail you’ll notice there’s a small green symbol above some of the betting options. This denotes that Cash Out is available for that market and is a really handy thing if, like me, you enjoy Cash Out but are never too sure whether or not your selection counts towards it.
If I’m honest I was half expecting that symbol to only be present on live events, with some bookmakers doing similar things but implementing it in a sloppy fashion. Instead you can see which ante-post bets will be available for Cash Out just as easily as you can see it for the live events, meaning that you can plan ahead if you’re not too confident on your bet. Given that most companies offer Cash Out, it’s nice to see one making things as simple as possible for you, rather than hiding the events that will have it available within the site’s terms and conditions.
For me personally, the features that a bookmaker offers are key. Nowadays odds, if we’re being honest, tend to be much of a muchness between the big boys and more often than not I’m unlikely to miss out on loads of money for my smaller bets. How the bookie offers me those bets, on the other hand, is all important. That said, it really does matter how they cover the most important sports, so here’s a little look at what Ladbrokes do about it.
Ladbrokes Betting Exchange (Betdaq)
Betfair might well be the best-known of Exchanges in the world of bookmaking but it isn’t the only one. Back in 2013 Ladbrokes purchased Betdaq for €30 million, giving itself an extra string to its online betting bow. It’s probably fair to say that Ladbrokes’s exchange is a smaller affair than Betfair’s is right now, but then again the latter is the company that invented that way of betting and has had a lot longer to perfect the way it works.
The Ladbrokes Exchange, on the other hand, has the benefit of being attached to one of the most respected bookies in the business. If you’re a little bit unsure of how it all works, therefore, you might want to have a dabble with a company that you’re already using and trust.
How The Exchange Works
If you’ve never bet through the Exchange before then it can all seem somewhat intimidating. The simple way to think about it is that betting on the Exchange essentially allows you to become the bookmaker. You can place a bet Backing a selection, which means you think it will win, or you can Lay an outcome, which means you think that selection will not win.
I’ll explain that in a bit more detail. In ordinary betting you Back an outcome, which is to say you’ll bet on HorseX winning the race it’s running in. You can still do that in Exchange betting, but you’ll be receiving odds not from a bookie but from a normal punter who believes that HorseX will not win the race. They are Laying HorseX, which is a short way of saying that they think any horse except HorseX will win the race.
On the other hand, if you don’t believe that HorseX will win the race then you can Lay it instead. In this instance you’ll be presented with a Liability, which is the amount of money you stand to lose if you’re wrong and HorseX does in fact win the race. If you’re right, however, then you’ll win the money that the other punter bet on HorseX, much as bookmakers do when someone loses their bet.
Why Bet On An Exchange?
The beauty of Exchange betting, other than the fact that you’re removing the bookmaker from the equation, is that you have much more flexibility over your bets. Because you’re practically playing the part of the bookie you get to dictate the odds that you’ll offer. If someone else thinks that those odds are fair then they’ll take you up on them. This means that you can offer higher odds to a punter if you think an event is literally never going to happen – such as Bournemouth winning the Premier League – and if someone thinks Bournemouth might do a Leicester City then they’ll take you up on the odds.
Alternatively, of course, you might think that something is really likely to happen and therefore will want to offer quite low odds. This will reduce your liability as the lower odds are on the Exchange the less you’ll have to pay out if the unlikely happens. You might not get anyone willing to take you up on the odds you’ve offered, but if that’s the case then you won’t have lost anything – a bet only becomes valid once someone has Backed it and someone else has Lay it.
Why Is The Exchange Good For Ladbrokes?
If you’re cutting the bookmaker out of the bet then a simple question might well be, why should Ladbrokes even have an Exchange in the first place? The answer is that they take a small commission from winning bets, normally in the region of 5%. This means that they don’t have to do anything specific to manage the Exchange, basically leaving it to its own devices without having to set odds or look at markets, yet they still make a healthy profit with each bet that’s placed.
The more that you bet with the Exchange the more likely it is that you’ll be able to negotiate a smaller percentage of commission directly with Ladbrokes, so if you’re a high stakes player that tends to do well then you might want to investigate Exchange betting. All in all it’s a decent way to have a flutter, allowing you to quite literally hedge your bets and protect yourself from any major losses. There are system bets that some people might encourage you to use, whereby you place a standard bet with one bookmaker and place another bet on the Exchange in order to guarantee yourself a profit. Do be aware, though, that if you’re discovered doing this then you will likely have your account cancelled and be banned from placing any further bets in the future.
For better or worse, football is the most popular sport in the world. That is especially true in the UK, where the Premier League is one of the most watched leagues ever. Ladbrokes is a clever company, so their coverage of football reflects its popularity.
As with the rest of the Ladbrokes site, the page that houses their football coverage is functional looking. Along the top you’ll see the main countries whose leagues the majority of punters enjoy having a flutter on, so you’ll find the England, Scoltand, Spain and Germany each have their own tabs. There’s also a ‘More’ tab that drops down to reveal all of the other countries that Ladbrokes will offer bets on. This is the moment you’ll realise that their coverage truly is quite extensive as you’ll scroll down a bit, then a bit more, then you’ll just keep on scrolling.
At the time of writing the company offers bets on the leagues of 51 different countries. That would be impressive in and of itself, but you also need to bear in mind that plenty of those countries have more than one league and Ladbrokes often cover those. As an example, you can have a look at bets for five different Argentinian leagues, eight leagues in Finland and all nine of Sweden’s leagues. That is what I would call comprehensive coverage.
We’re not necessarily talking about having coverage just for the sake of it, either. Looking at Australia, there are four different leagues to bet on, the last of which is the Australian West State League. Clicking into that reveals that you can bet on 27 different things in the derby between ECU Joondalup SC and Joondalup United, so if there’s something in that particular game that you want to bet on but Ladbrokes doesn’t cover then I reckon you’re just a big nerd. All of that is to say nothing of their coverage of major events such as international tournaments or big European events.
A quick look at a match between Atalanta and Chievo reveals that Ladbrokes are currently offering the best odds on a draw and are not too far off the best odds on an Atlanta win (2/7 compared to 31/100). In reality that is something of a rarity, as more often than not other bookies have slightly better odds for most big games. They’re rarely way off the pace, though, so if they’re covering a random game that not many other bookies are offering odds on you’re not likely to find them wanting that often.
As I mentioned at the start of the piece, Ladbrokes began life as a commissioning agent for horses that had been trained at Ladbrokes Hall. That history has carried over into the modern day, with the company doing their best to keep up with competitors when it comes to the coverage of the horse racing.
Ladbrokes is more than aware that online punters are, on the whole, not that focussed on one particular meeting. What people want to do when they’re betting online rather than directly at the racecourse is place bets on select races from across the spectrum of a bookmaker’s coverage, so Ladbrokes give you the option of creating a custom race card by selecting the races you want to know about. You’ll find the option to do that on the main page, which starts with the next three races then goes to all racing for the day before listing races coming up tomorrow. You’ll also find future racing and racing specials have their own sections.
As I mentioned when I was talking about live streaming, Ladbrokes don’t require customers to have placed a bet to live stream most sport apart from the races. When it comes to the gee-gees you need to have placed a bet of £1 or more if you’d like to live stream it. There’s a handy little symbol next to every race that will be live streamed, so if you only like to bet on races you can watch then you’ll have to keep an eye out for it. Right now you could bet on racing coming from Delta Downs, Golden Gate Fields, Sandown and Catterick, with plenty of other courses covered too. In short, their coverage is more than decent.
I’ll mention the Best Odds Guarantee in a moment because Ladbrokes go one-step further than most other bookmakers on that front. when it comes to just straight odds, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their offering most of the time. I had a look at three races at random and only in one of them did they not have either the best or joint-best odds. Interestingly, the one where Ladbrokes offered the best odds on the majority of the horses was was the 10.55 from Greyville in South Africa. Don’t assume that because a race is taking place in a far foreign land that they won’t have decent odds.
Ladbrokes’s coverage of other sports can perhaps best be described as ‘perfunctory’. There are enough options in there to keep most people satisfied, but those that really love to bet on odd and unusual offerings will perhaps be a touch disappointed. Obviously the most mainstream sports, such as rugby, cricket, tennis and golf are in there, with the following being an example of some of the less well-covered sports they offer:
- Gaelic Games
- UFC / MMA
As you’ll no doubt have noticed, that list isn’t exactly exhaustive. One area they are quite good on is what I like to call ‘popular culture’. Is there a big election coming up? They’ll give you odds. What about a TV event that has got the nation gripped? Look no further. They even offer odds on the more unusual things like the Mercury Prize winner in music or the next James Bond in film.
Ladbrokes High Street Betting Shops
Ladbrokes merged with Coral in 2016 and together the two bookmakers own more than 4000 shops throughout the United Kingdom. Of those about 2500 come under the Ladbrokes umbrella. Despite the fact that the new company, Ladbrokes Coral, was forced to sell about four hundred shops in order to ensure the merger didn’t go against the rules regarding competition when mergers and acquisitions take place, they still have more shops on the high street than most other major companies.
Ladbrokes’s history officially dates back to 1886 when a company was formed in order to act as commissioning agents for horses trained at Ladbroke Hall. It didn’t take on the name ‘Ladbrokes’ until 1902, the point at which Arthur Bendir joined the original founders, messrs Schwind and Pennington, and the operation moved to London from its Warwickshire home. Though they enjoyed moderate success, mostly as a bookmaker to the aristocracy and upper classes of the nation’s capital, business dwindled after the Second World War as the company failed to adjust to the new style of bookmaking that was springing up throughout the country.
The company was bought by Mark and Cyril Stein in 1956 and that was when its fortunes really began to change. The Stein’s could see the changing of the wind in the bookmaking world and were poised and ready when the law changed to allow on-street bookmakers in 1961. Mark Stein quickly invested in on-street shops and made his more appealing than anyone else by becoming the first bookmaker to offer fixed odds betting on football matches. The company was also the first to offer odds on who would become the next leader of a political party, with these ‘firsts’ causing a major thirst for shops to open throughout the UK.
Ladbrokes’s investment in betting shops improved year on year so that by the millennium they had more than 2000 shops to their name. This included the purchase of a Belgian bookmaking firm named Le Tiercé SA back in the 1980s. They have always been a solid, reliable presence on the high street and that fact has only been solidified after the Competition and Markets Authority give permission for the Ladbrokes-Coral merger.
How does a company go from being the commissioning agent for horses trained at a country house in Warwickshire to one of the best-known bookmakers on the high street? Via a reasonably circuitous route, it transpires. Mr. Schwind and Mr. Pennington began the company back in 1886 and not much changed until 1902, at which point a man named Arthur Bendir joined the team and it all kicked off. Under Bendir’s persuasion the company name was changed to Ladbrokes and the head office was moved to London. In 1956 it was bought by Mark and Cyril Stein, though it continued to act as a bookmaker for London’s great and good.
What helped Ladbrokes stand out from the competition was the presence of Mrs. Helen Vernet, who had joined the team in 1919 and had been made a partner by 1928. She was their representative on the racecourse and it was very unusual for a major betting company to allow a woman to do that job. In 1961 the advent of the Betting and Gaming Act, allowing bookies to open up shops, revolutionised the industry and Mark Stein was quick to take advantage. He opened up a chain of them and also invented fixed odds betting on football matches, which proved immensely popular. Over the years the company has enjoyed ups and downs, with the pre-tax profit drop of nearly 50% being one of the worst moments. It has never faded away, however, and remains one of the most trusted bookmakers in the industry to this day.