Like them or loathe them, there’s little argument about the fact that Sky have become one of the most important sports companies in the world since their formation in 1990. As well as helping to change the face of football in England thanks to their coverage of the Premier League, they’ve also altered the way that we watch other sports such as cricket, golf and tennis. If you like one of the main sports that British people tend to enjoy then you’ll have considered taking out a Sky package on one occasion or another.
Given their prominence in the sporting industry it’s no major surprise to see that they’ve branched out over the years. Rupert Murdoch is many, many things (some of them not acceptable to write on a public forum), but one of his main traits is that he’s very clever and knows where to money is. No shock, then, that a bookmaking arm to his empire began to take shape back in 2000. I’ll tell you more about their history later on, but sufficed to say that Sky Bet was followed by the likes of Sky Casino, Sky Bingo and Sky Poker. This is a company that wants to rule the world.
Over the years Sky as a company have learnt how to get their operation as slick as possible. From their football app that gives you a running commentary on games as well as video snippets for Sky Sports customers through to their main channel, the company is one of the best in the business for getting things running as smoothly as clockwork, so do the main features of the site stack up?
The short answer, as far as their live betting is concerned at least, is ‘yes’. Obviously Sky Bet’s greatest strength is their ties to Sky Sports and the other channels on the network, so to have a poor live betting service would be a massive letdown. Thankfully they don’t and, perhaps as some of you might have expected, the integration between Sky Bet and Sky Sports is close to flawless. A quick click on the live betting section of the site, for example, and the first thing you’re greeted by is a list of what’s live on TV that you can get on.
Interestingly they’re not so self-obsessed as to only tell you what you can bet on on their own channels, instead also informing you of what you could be watching and betting on on the likes of BT Sport. When all’s said and done, as long as you’re betting with them they probably couldn’t care less where you’re watching the sport from. Initially the page just gives you a selection of simple bets, such as Win, Lose or Draw and the opponents playing the game. It’s when you click on the individual event that things become a bit more interesting and your options open up somewhat.
I’ve already mentioned the word ‘slick’ in relation to Sky Bet and you can see it in almost every aspect of their website. When you open up any invent to see the bets in more detail, for example, you’ll get a live Twitter feed running down the righthand side of the page. Not bad if you want to know what social media is talking about before you place your bet. Unlike some sites, where you’ll see the number of markets you can bet on without having to enter the event’s own page, Sky Bet want you to click in to find out what you can bet on. That’s no great hardship, mind, and you might just find a market you didn’t know existed when you start to mooch around.
It’s no surprise that Sky Bet’s site is smooth and their live betting feature is a good one, but what is slightly surprising is the fact that the number of options open to you are quite wide ranging. At the time of writing there’s a football match going on between CF Mounana and Supersport United (no, me neither) that has well over forty different events for you to bet on. This includes the likes of Total Goals, Next Team To Score and Winning Margin. All in all, Sky Bet’s live betting system is very good indeed.
No surprise that Sky Bet’s live betting is good, even less surprise that their live streaming is excellent. This is, after all, a company that made a fortune by televising live sport. The best way of streaming things is via their mobile app. You don’t have to have a bet on any of the events that they stream, instead you just need to have a Sky Bet account that’s in profit. The exception to that is their horse racing coverage, where you need to bet £1 on the race you want to watch.
As you’d expect from a Sky company, it’s football that they stream most regularly. In fact, at the last count they offered over 6000 streams from the likes of the Bundesliga and matches from the Netherlands. They also offer tennis and horse racing on their live streams, though in truth other bookmakers probably offer better coverage of the latter. If live streaming is key to the way you bet then you will be more than happy with the way that Sky Bet do things.
Sky Bet offer a decent Cash Out market, particularly with reference to – you guessed it – their football coverage. There are more than 20 different football bets that are eligible for Cash Out, as well as Win & Each-Way bets on horse racing, Match Result in the tennis and the same market in darts.
Recently the company has introduced a Cash Out Boost, allowing punters to ‘turbo charge’ their winnings. This isn’t something you can plan for, instead being applied at random in the hope of encouraging more people to Cash Out their bets. The maximum ‘boost’ you’ll get is £50, but that’s not to be sniffed at.
Request A Bet
I also have to give a mention to Sky’s new ‘Request A Bet’ feature, given its uniqueness. This is essentially the modern day equivalent of going into the bookies and asking them for odds on a given event of your choosing, but instead of speaking to someone in the shop you tweet them or use the app. You can send a tweet to @skybet using the hashtag #RequestABet or, alternatively, click on the ‘Create A RequestABet’ button within their mobile application. From there you tell them what you’d like to bet on and, if they can do it, they’ll offer you odds.
Clearly this is more for bets such as ‘Harry Kane to be top scorer and get sent of three times’ than it is for suggestions like ‘My husband will burn the tea later’, but you could always give random ones a go, I suppose. The idea is that use the service to get odds on a bet you can’t find anywhere else, so bear that in mind when looking to get the information you’re after. There are specific rules for RequestABet bets on different sports, which you’ll want to have a read of if this is a feature you fancy using.
I’m going to try to use the word ‘slick’ less in my review from now on, but the well-oiled machine that is the Sky empire does encourage you to think in such terms. It’s the way it’s run that is so smooth, though, as opposed to the different sports they cover. That means I should hopefully be able to control myself in this section…
If I have over-used the word ‘slick’ then that’s probably as nothing compared to how much I’m unsurprised that football is so well covered. As I mentioned at the start, Sky Sports literally changed the way we watch football and the money in the sport within the UK, so Sky Bet’s football betting is about as good as it gets.
What are you hoping to have a flutter on? If it’s something as well-known as the Premier League then you’ll have more than enough markets to keep you interested and entertained. If it’s something more left-field then…well it’s pretty much the same, actually. How do you feel about having a bet on the outcome of the Argentinian Cup? What about the Egyptian Premier League or the Malaysian Super League? Perhaps your a secret fan of the Estonia Esiliiga? I could happily continue naming random football divisions from around the world, but I’m fairly certain that you get the idea by now.
From enhanced Accas through to Football Coupons via matches with Price Boosts, Sky Bet’s football coverage is genuinely excellent. As I type this, Wolfsburg are gearing up for a Bundesliga match later in the week against Eintracht Braunschweig, a team whose name I had to copy and paste and double-check it wasn’t actually a really strong German lager. I might not have heard of them, but Sky Bet has – that’s why there are 43 different bets that you can place on the match. Look at something more mainstream, such as the Europa League final, and there more than 130 bets to be placed.
As is the case with most bookies, the more random the event the less bets you’ll find available. Even then the least number I can find available to bet on in a list of more than 100 matches coming up this week is 7 in a game between Deportivo Flandria and Guillermo Brown in the Argentinian National B Division. If you’re particularly desperate to get a bet in on the Deportivo Flandria v Guillermo Brown game then I’d suggest you probably need to get out more anyway. Their coverage is the best in the business, let’s just leave it at that.
Sky Bet often offer excellent Price Boosts, so these are worth keeping an eye out for when you’re placing your bet. Their normal odds are often fairly decent for the football, with markets such as ‘First Goalscorer’ regularly being topped by them if you look at odds comparison sites. You’ll probably be able to find better odds on plenty of events but they won’t be wildly different, so don’t be worried that you’re going to have to go digging around. Sky Bet will either have the best odds or the difference between theirs and the best odds will be negligible.
As I’ve already said, Price Boosts are a regular occurrence on Sky Bet. They’ve added the surprise factor of having them on their Cash Out function, but you can often find them on accumulators and other sections of the site. The company has claimed to have given away over £12 million in boosted bets in one month alone, so it’s certainly a promotion that they take seriously.
One of Sky Bet’s biggest promotions when it comes to their football coverage is the one that is tied in to Sky Sports, the Soccer Saturday Super 6 game. The idea behind that is that you stand a chance of winning £250,000 if you correctly predict the score lines from six different football matches chosen by Sky. There’s also a £5000 prize up for grabs every week. Combined with their Bet Club, which rewards loyal punters, that’s a very decent promotion.
Like a man who hasn’t got over the girlfriend that broke his heart, horse racing will never be Sky Bet’s first love. As even the least observant amongst you will no doubt have picked up on, football is the sport that they plough the most effort into. The gee-gees are still covered well enough, however, as I’ll explain now.
To give Sky Bet their due, they’ve made real efforts over the years to up the ante when it comes to their horse racing coverage, no pun intended. Those with an appropriate subscription to Sky can tune into At The Races, their dedicated horse racing channel. There’s also a strong tie-in between Sky Bet and Sporting Life, the newspaper that ran for over 100 years and specialised in horse racing tips. It’s now an online offering and you’ll find links to Sky Bet odds all over it, with a reciprocal arrangement on Sky Bet’s website linking you to Sporting Life’s hints and tips.
As for the coverage itself, it’s fairly all-encompassing. As I write this I can find odds on races from the likes of Yarmouth, Ayr, Lingfield, Southwell and Kempton when it comes to British and Irish racing. There are also races taking place today in places such as Happy Valley in Hong Kong, Baden-Baden in Germany and Finger Lakes in New York, all of which I can find plenty of markets for. Now obviously just because a company chucks in a few foreign race courses doesn’t automatically mean that they’ve got strong coverage of the industry, but on the flip side it is absolutely worth noting that not all bookmakers do offer such a wide variety of bets.
As with most top-end bookies, Sky Bet offer the Best Odds Guarantee. That means that you’re at least reasonably safe in the knowledge that you’ll be paid out at the best possible rate for your bet, should it be a winner. I’ve been paid out that way by Sky Bet numerous times and I’ll tell you, it doesn’t stop being a really nice surprise! Obviously taking advantage of a promotion like that isn’t the same as getting particularly decent odds in the first place, but having something like that to fall back in is always reassuring.
When it comes to actual odds, Sky Bet doesn’t disappoint. A quick look at the 14.10 at Lingfield today and I can see that they’ve got the best odds or joint-best odds for seven out of the twelve runners. It’s a similar story with the 12.15 at Happy Valley, though to be fair only three bookies are covering that one. That in itself is a good thing, though, as it’s an indication that they’re not going to try to screw you over simply because they’re one of just three bookmakers covering a race. They do their best to give competitive odds regardless and that’s something that should set your mind at rest.
Because of the ties to Sky, Sky Bet’s promotions for racing change with a reasonable degree of regularity. As with the football, the company’s Bet Club promotion rewards the most loyal of customers and the Price Boosts are applied often to different races. Sky Bet are one of only a few bookmakers that allow you to Cash Out certain horse racing bets, which is well worth bearing in mind.
There’s an extent to which the company likes to depend on unpredictability to keep people coming back. Which of your Cash Out choices will be subject to a Price Boost, for example? They also pick races at random that benefit from extended placing. For example, the 17.10 at Lingfield on the day I write this will pay out on four places instead of three, as long as there are over ten runners. I’ll be honest, the company’s promos aren’t exactly industry leading, but there are a few half-decent ones in there that casual racing fans will want to take advantage of.
If there’s one major area where you’d expect Sky Bet’s ties to Sky Sports to really come into their own then it’s in the company’s coverage of other sports. Interestingly, though, that doesn’t really seem to be the case. They still cover all of the usual things aside from football and horse racing, but they don’t really go above and beyond. Some of the sports they offer markets on include:
- Gaelic Games
- Formula 1
As with any other bookmaker worth their salt, you can bet on any big event in the world of entertainment and politics via Sky Bet, as well as on numerous different virtual events. In fact, their virtual coverage is actually quite decent, going further than just virtual house racing to include virtual football, virtual speedway and virtual greyhounds. They aren’t the sort of things that most punters are going to get really excited over, but I was still impressed at the variation on offer on that front.
Odds and market coverage are both in-line with most of the other main bookies in the industry, which is to say that they’re best at the more mainstream events. One area where Sky Bet do reasonably well is in promotions for other sports. Today there’s a One Day International taking place and Sky Bet have got numerous Price Boosts in play for it, so cricket lovers will be pleased. The company’s also paying out on seven places instead of the normal five for the BMW PGA Championship, meaning golf fans will also be happy enough. There aren’t loads of promos for other sports, but still more than some competitors.
About Sky Bet
In July of 2000 BSkyB signalled their intent to open up a sports book by purchasing the Sports Internet Group. Sports Internet Group had within its realm Surrey Sports, which was a telephone and online betting company. It also included Planet Football and Opta Index, so the more observant pundits in the industry could see what that acquisition was going to lead to. Sure enough, Surrey Sports was rebranded to Sky Bet in 2002 and a new member of the industry was officially born. BSkyB went on to buy the 365 Media Group and in 2006 both totalbet and ukbetting were folded into Sky Bet, seeing the company’s growth leap forward.
As the years have gone by and Sky Bet proved itself to be a solid member of BSkyB’s roster, the company branched out further into other online betting areas. That started with the creation of Sky Bet Vegas in 2003 and has since grown to include Sky Casino, Sky Poker and Sky Bingo. They are all under the umbrella of Sky Betting & Gaming, which is itself owned by CVC Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and Sky plc. The company is mostly based in Leeds, though there are also offices in Sheffield, London, Guernsey and Rome. There are other parts to Sky Betting & Gaming, with the most obvious being both the Soccer Saturday Super 6 game that I mentioned before and Sky Sports Fantasy Football. The latter offers a £25,000 prize to the overall winner.