Paf sportsbook is not your everyday bookmaker or gambling site. Not even close. It was originally founded on the Åland Islands by an amalgam of charities (including Save the Children and the Finnish Red Cross) in 1966 as a ‘high street’ bookmaker that would generate funds for humanitarian and social causes on the islands. To this very day, this remains the company’s primary aim, while now serving bettors from Sweden, Estonia, Spain, and Italy, amongst others, in addition to mainland Finland.
Paf (or PAF) is an acronym for Play Among Friends and after successfully donating all their profits to charitable organizations for over three decades, in 1999 they decided it was time to take their wares to the Internet. As a result, their customer base grew significantly.
Today, Paf operates on an international scale, with over 200 different games including slots, casino, poker, betting, bingo, and lotteries. They also operate a large ‘high street’ gaming operation – on both land (including Helsinki, Stockholm, Tallinn, and Madrid) and sea – with over 1,500 slot machines and 55 gaming tables on ships in the Baltic Sea, in Paf Casinos on Åland and the Casino Sunborn in Gibraltar.
In 2016 alone, the Paf Group contributed an incredible €20 million to good causes.
The site and its contents are clearly geared towards the Nordic market – many of the slot machines being based around popular local themes – but the bookmaker also extends to the other side of the Atlantic, with US sports being very well represented with, literally, thousands of markets. It doesn’t, perhaps as you would expect of a site that is pointed towards the Scandinavian market, offer markets on horses or greyhounds.
Interestingly, or perhaps tellingly, the home page lists all Paf’s wares and its bookmaker (‘betting’ in the English translated version) is listed in eighth place in the menu – almost, it feels, as an afterthought – which is a shame because it’s in fact very good, with no need for it to be tucked away.
When you eventually find the Paf sportsbook there is much to love. It follows the traditional layout in that down the left side of the page is a listing of sports available and the number of different markets for each one. It’s not flashy but it’s functional and does the job – the way we like it. It presents its odds in decimal (EU), fractional (UK) or moneyline (US) formats.
The sports covered, in full, are… American Football, Ice Hockey, Tennis, Basketball, Athletics, Baseball, Volleyball, Soccer, Bandy, Boxing, Cricket, Cycling, Cyclo-Cross, Floorball, Futsal, Golf, Handball, Martial Arts, Motorsports, Olympics, Rugby League, Rugby Union, Snooker, Table Tennis, and Wintersports.
On the main body of the page are the live events, where one click opens a new page that contains everything you need to make your bet. The stats are excellent, as is the live in-play info, which allows you to enjoy the action as it happens, only one small step down from a live stream (which Paf doesn’t offer).
Again, it’s not flashy but it’s well presented, informative and does precisely what you want it to. Where Paf sportsbook differs slightly from what has become the traditional norm is that there is commonly no right-hand sidebar headed by the betting slip. Instead, the betting slip is created when you click on the odds you wish to take; the same box then allowing you to include the value of your wager. It works fine.
In terms of odds and value, they are generally competitive across the board and are definitely worth monitoring as they won’t, as a matter of course, appear on the traditional odds comparison sites.
While Paf’s casino games, slots, bingo, lotteries, and poker offer the punter the chance of claiming a welcome bonus of €100, there is no equivalent for new players on the bookie, which is a shame. However, dependent upon your location, Paf will offer a risk-free bet up to €20 [four x €5bets for free] when you place your first wager and they do occasionally offer other bonuses – sometimes for newbies. Therefore, new customers are advised to contact customer support for additional information on their up-to-date promotions. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are also good sources of info for Paf’s latest bonuses and promotions.
Mitigation for their lack of generous bookmaker bonuses can be traced back to the company’s raison d’être and their desire to plough profits back into good causes, so it’s difficult to judge them too harshly on this score. Indeed, that the profits made by Paf are donated can work in their favour in that it offers customers another incentive to open an account, regardless of the lack of substantial bonuses.
Paf’s casino and poker sections have always been characterized by their user-friendliness and this is now also true of the bookmaker. The software on which they all run – NetEnt, Microgaming, Evolution Gaming and Ongame – was tested intensively prior to launch and has produced a slick, smooth running online operation; indeed since its launch in 1999 the website has been improved greatly, always relying however on the simple and clean approach. But, with its easy navigation and intuitive style at the front end and the solid reliable software behind the scenes, it works well.
Paf’s customer services have improved immensely in recent years and are now in line with the big players in the sportsbook market. They offer a freephone helpline [0800-023-2291 – UK], which is open daily from 0800 – 2300 GMT, an email contact form [or email at firstname.lastname@example.org] and, now, a live chat facility (also open daily from 0800 – 2300 GMT). They also have Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts for those who use social media, and customers can use these to raise generic queries, some of which are also answered in the site’s excellent FAQs.
In general, there are few restricted countries, but bettors from the US and Turkey are unable to bet on Paf.
Mobile & Tablet
It is a mobile-optimized site and if you are betting on a phone or tablet you are presented with a configuration that resembles the desktop version and works nicely. It works fine for both iOS and Android, is straightforward for customers to navigate around and is adequately responsive. While there are currently no apps, given the quality of its mobile optimization this presents no problem.
In addition to a native Finnish version and a version that talks to the English-speaking world, Paf sportsbook also has Spanish, Swedish, Russian and Estonian versions.
Cash-out is an automated process on Paf sportsbook and so this is generally at the speedy end of the scale, with pay-outs usually processed within 24 hours.
Paf sportsbook is part of something special. In the sometimes less-than-honourable world of online betting, they have created an environment that not only offers its customers a good, solid and grown-up betting experience but also one that contributes to the greater good of theÅland Islands. Somehow, they have managed to balance the juxtaposition of gambling site and charity provider and in doing so have set themselves apart from almost every other operator in the industry.
Better still, they have achieved this by making virtually no compromises in the service they offer the punter, the only one you could argue is the lack of a regular welcome bonus for new customers.
But it’s a small price to pay and given where their profits end up its one that the ethically-minded punters are probably willing to concede. In fact, some may even be drawn to Paf for their take on ethical gambling.
The site itself is without frills but it does the job and does it very well, and always with some competitive odds. The number of markets is also impressive and while it doesn’t have the swagger and pizazz of some of the big players – not least because it doesn’t appear on some of the bigger comparison sites – it delivers in exactly the same way.
We would argue it is deserving of a higher profile. A lack of live streaming would perhaps be a grip but only a minor one and in truth, it loses little as a result. The bottom line is Paf offers the bettor a warm fuzzy glow, unlike any other bookmaker out there.