by Alex Deacon of

The Racing and Football Outlook

If you're not already betting online, then why not?

Putting a bet on is very easy and nearly all of the betting sites have detailed tutorials to take you by the hand through the process. All of the bookmakers and betting sites are broadly similar and it's usually a matter of just clicking on the price you want to take and filling in an online betting slip. Once you get used to it, it's certainly easier than going out
in the cold and walking to the local betting shop!

However, just because betting online is easy is no excuse for making silly bets you wouldn't otherwise make and you should get into the habit of always double checking your bet before you hit the button to confirm it. Apart from the fact that the odds may have changed since making your bet ­especially if you are betting in-running or betting through a third-party site, almost everyone has a horror story about a bet made in error by clicking the wrong button.

Security is often a worry for those who are new to making any kind of financial transaction over the internet, but if you stick to the well known reputable firms, you shouldn't have any problems. As with anything else, word of mouth is often the best indicator and you could do worse than see who other punters recommend in the SoccerLotto forums. If you are putting in your card details, make sure there is a padlock symbol at the bottom of your web browser ­ that means that no-one else can read the information you're sending to the website.

Once you do take the plunge, you'll find a huge range of betting opportunities are available, from the high street firms and the Tote to spread betting, exchanges, poker rooms, casinos and more. You can even buy your lottery tickets on the net.

Most bookies will offer the same sort of multiples and combination bets that you can get in the shops, and many of them offer tools that will work out the payouts for you. Some of the odds comparison sites offer tools that will find the best payout for your weekend accumulator by looking at the odds from perhaps 15 or 20 bookmaker's sites. Because it's so easy to find the best prices and put a bet on, you owe it to yourself to open accounts with as many bookmakers as possible. You will be rewarded for a little bit of effort here in the long run and perhaps even in the short term if you take advantage of some of the special offers and free bets that the layers offer to new clients.

However, bookmakers are not the be-all and end-all of betting online and the rise of betting exchanges is perhaps the most important way that the internet has changed the betting landscape. Instead of betting against a bookmaker, you bet against other punters who either back or lay a selection in an event. The markets are ruthlessly efficient and layers' profit margins barely scrape above break-even meaning that backers will often find the best price.

Having the option to lay a selection means you can bet against a team you don't fancy or simply trade out a bet to lock in a profit. And unlike a bookmaker, you are not obliged to lay every horse in a race. If you don't fancy a horse to win, you can look at laying it as simply betting it will lose.

The exchanges have become increasingly influential since Betfair ,­ by far the biggest,­ was launched on Oaks Day in June 2000. It's now possible to bet on almost everything from the FA Cup final and Grand National to chess championships and Swedish handball.

Some believe that it's the only way to bet, but it is worth checking their odds against the bookmakers before putting your money down. Whilst the odds on the exchanges may initially look more attractive, you will have to pay
commission on your winnings that may account for up to five per cent of your net profit, so in some instances, the bookies will have the edge.

Again, it's worth shopping around and making use of the various odds comparison sites like but of course the big advantage of exchanges is that if you don't like the odds on offer, you can put in an order at a price you do like. While the exchanges are the most successful innovation so far, there are other unique betting experiences to be had online.

Bethilo, ( powered by spread betting firm Sporting Index, is one such example. At its heart, Bethilo is a spread betting site, but with a simple interface and shorn of all the jargon it is much simpler to use than most of its peers. The minimum stake is just a penny and with limits on your losses, bethilo proves that spread betting does not have to be a high-risk white-knuckle ride to be fun.

At first glance Binary Bet ( looks like another slant on spread betting - this time from IG ­ but is in fact closer to fixed-odds betting. Prices are quoted on an index between zero and 100 and you 'buy' or 'sell' at that level. If the event happens ­- for example Arsenal beat Man United at Old Trafford ­- that market makes up 100. If it doesn't ­ Arsenal draw with or lose to United ­ it makes up zero. If you bought Arsenal for £1 at 25, you would make £75 profit if they won, or lose £25 if they lost. The number quoted is in fact a percentage chance of the event taking place, perhaps the most natural way to think about odds and probability.

Binary Bet also shows odds in decimal mode. In the example given, Arsenal would be quoted at 4 to beat Man United (because 25% equates to a one in four chance or 3-1). Risking the same £25 on a bet at 4 would make a £75
profit or a loss of your £25 stake. Binary Bet's twist is that you can bet in a traditional way but with the benefits of spread betting, such as the option to close bets at the currently quoted price to lock in a profit or limit a loss.

Intrade ( is another interesting site. It is an exchange site with the option to buy or sell on a zero to 100 index. So far, so spread betting. Where Intrade distinguishes itself from its rivals is the range of markets covered. There is no racing or sport on Intrade's site, just financial markets, current affairs, politics, law and the like making it a news addict's dream.