Biggest Bookies And The Distribution Of The Gambling Industry In The UK

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You may look at the betting and gaming industry and believe there’s a lot of healthy competition, with countless brands now vying for our pennies. Many businesses however, although they may appear impartial, are in fact part of the exact same group, and you’ll likely never know it. As with many markets, there are in fact a couple of large players and the rest are left to scramble for the rest of the habit.
It is not only the old high street bookies such as William Hill and Betfred that occupy the best places in the largest betting company leagues. Many early online just bookmakers have beaten the older land based operators, such as Bet365, and the planet’s biggest and earliest online exchange, Betfair. Mergers between already large companies like Ladbrokes and Coral and Betfair and Paddy Power has generated behemoth bookies. The near future of bookmaking in the UK is in the equilibrium as it risks getting a monopoly of a very few enormous companies, very much enjoy the energy markets.
In this article we also look at the progression of the UK gambling industry, the size of the profits made together with the progressive change to online betting and gaming.
Largest CompaniesUK Market ShareUK Market SizeEvolution of GamblingMergers
Largest Betting Firms Ladbrokes-Coral Group Plc (possessed by GVC Holdings)
Ranking 1
#2.5 Billion
Workers 30000
High Street Shops
Established 2016 (Merger)
William Hill were ousted from top spot after the merger in 2016 of Britain’s second and third biggest bookmakers in 2015, completed 2016. The new firm, imaginatively named Ladbrokes-Coral Plc, creates nearly #2.5 billion in revenue each year and workers over 30,000 people and is listed on the FTSE 250.
In 2018 the new group was further bought by GVC at a deal worth roughly #4 billion, adding further power to the brand on an global scale. GVC also own and run websites like sportingbet (although we wouldn’t recommend them to wager with), partypoker and Bwin.
Ladbrokes, Britain’s oldest gambling company founded in 1886, and Coral, based in the 1926, have over 200 years experience of being a bookmaker between them. The group own almost 4000 betting shops, although were forced to sell over 300 from the merger, and are two of the most recognisable brands on the British high street.
Coral, started by Joe Coral an online bookmaker from the 1920’s, grew rapidly following legalisation of off-course betting shops in 1961, becoming one of the very first bookies to take advantage. Merging with another firm in 1971 to become Coral Leisure the group was acquired by Bass in 1981. In 1997 Ladbrokes chose their very first effort to purchase Coral from Bass however this was blocked by the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission at the time. Coral was sold to Morgan Grenfell, a private equity company in 1999 and merged with Eurobet, among the very first online betting sites, in precisely the same calendar year. Gala bingo, founded in 1991 and functioning over 150 halls using an additional online presence, merged with Coral in 2005 to form the Gala Coral Group.
Ladbrokes was launched by two men who acted as a commission agents for horses (trained at Ladbroke Hill). Following a move to London from the early 20th century the firm became a bookmaker for wealthy clients. Falling on harder times following WWII the business was sold for just #100,000. The identical legalisation of betting shops that drove Coral’s increase in 1961 nonetheless reversed the fortunes of Ladbrokes also, who were afterwards floated on the stock market for #1M in 1966. With forays to the resort (Hilton Group) and home convenience industry the Ladbrokes group grew to second biggest UK bookmaker. Before the Coral merger Ladbrokes also obtained BETDAQ, the 2nd largest betting market, 2013.
The group now generate over a third of the profits from digital sources and involving them have more online clients than any other company. For more about each brand visit our complete reviews.
Ladbrokes Review Coral Review
William Hill Plc
Ranking 2
#1.7 Billion
Employees 16000
High Street Shops
Launched 1934
For a very long time William Hill were the largest betting company in the UK with over 2300 shops and only under #2 billion in yearly revenues. The operator, that currently generates up to #200 million in annual profits and can be listed on the FTSE 250, comes from humble beginnings.
In 1934 the company was established by Mr William Hill, who after some early failures and illegal ventures found he could make money using a loophole that permitted off-course betting using credit or post. Hill’s entered late into the gaming store industry, starting their first 5 years following the change in law in 1966, due to the creators belief they were a cancer . He relented when he saw how fast his competitors were getting forward.
The business changed ownership many times down the years. Bought for 700 million in 1997, the brand was again sold two decades after for 825 million and listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2002.
The William Hill team have experienced some corporate failures through the years but their competitive strategy, particularly online, has allowed them to control the industry landscape. Possibly the most well-known bookmaker in the world, mainly down to the fact Hill’s have spread outside the UK over any other bookie, and also due to their vast amount they spend on advertising and sponsorship.
William Hill Review William Hill Casino Review
Paddy Power Betfair Plc
Ranking 3
#1.75 Billion
Workers 8000
High Street Shops
600 (UK + I)
Established 2016 (Merger)
Many mergers are merely about money. Coral didn’t really bring anything fresh to Ladbrokes for instance, but also the merger between Betfair and Paddy Power in 2016 to create the third largest gambling brand was certainly mutually beneficial to both parties.
Paddy Power, one of Ireland’s largest bookmakers, was set in 1988 but it was the online age that actually saw the brand come to life via its often controversial advertising strategies. Holding over 600 shops across the united kingdom and Ireland and boasting retail earnings of almost #1 billion Paddy Power brought the real world places, marketing strategy and cash to the merger.
Betfair on the other hand had a very distinct history in the gambling industry. Located as a peer-peer gaming market rather than a traditional bookie in 2000, Betfair became the largest of its type in no time at all. Despite better odds on offer in the exchange, the industry still remains fairly small (see later) and so in order to compete Betfair launched a fixed odds sports book in 2011. Betfair would be the smaller party in the merger, making less than #500 million in revenue. Because of this PP shareholders received 52% and Betfair 48 percent of the new firm.
Paddy Power Review Betfair Review
Bet365 Group Ltd
Position 4
#2.3 Billion
Employees 3500
High Street Shops
Established 2000
Bet365 meteoric increase has all come form the digital industry, and believing that only now is the online gaming market bigger than the high road (excluding national lottery) that is a fairly impressive performance. When they state in their advents which Bet365 is the worlds favourite online betting company they are not lying.
Launched in 2000 from a tiny temporary building in Stoke by today multi-billionaire Denise Coates, Bet365 currently generates massive online revenues and is the biggest private employer in Stoke. They own the soccer stadium.
Denise started the company by borrowing against her fathers mortar and brick bookmaking business, established in 1974 from Stoke City chairman Peter Coates. Selling off the shops to Coral at 2005 Bet365 became an internet only operator in the place where they have gained a massive customer base of more than 20+ million people from 200 countries. The manufacturer has the best reputation inside the betting and gaming industry from the punters and insiders and boasts among their most loyal customer bases of any business.
Often mentioned as a success story of British online business, if you were to rule out the offline gambling sector then these guys would be the greatest. Multi-award winnings and constantly developing new technologies and ideas the only way that this organization is moving in the future is up.
Bet365 Review
Ranking 5
#800 Million
Workers 1000
High Street Shops
Established 1967
The Betfred travel to getting one of the largest independent gambling companies in the united kingdom is much more heart-warming than most others. Launched from one shop in Salford by Fred an Peter Done in 1967, the group now have a multi-billion turnover and up to #1 billion in revenues annually. Based in Warrington the company has never been sold or merged and remains in the very same hands as it started in.
Fred Done is famous in particular for paying our early on Manchester United to win the league double only for them lose on both occasions (1998 and 2012). In addition, he dropped #1,000,000 at a personal bet with Victor Chandler (proprietor of BetVictor) betting again on Man United, this opportunity to complete higher than Chelsea in 2005 – they did not. Despite all these misjudgements Fred is also famous for inventing the Lucky 15 along with other complete cover bets.
The company has a sizable gaming store performance, and since buying around 300 stores that Ladbrokes-Coral were made to sell now own at the area of 1650 shops in the united kingdom. Famed for being one of the best racing bookmakers Betfred improved their exposure in this market by buying the bag in 2011 for #265. This allows them to enable totepool bets to other operators in addition to providing bespoke bag bets others do not have. Despite this Betfred’s future seems mixed and will probably hinge on how well they develop on the internet in the next several years.
Betfred Review
888 Holdings Plc
Position 6
#600 Million
Workers 1600
High Street Shops
Launched 1997
888 is a completely modern betting company, there’s absolutely no amorous back story here. Currently part of a rather convoluted corporate structure, 888 Holdings is your gaming arm of parent firm Cassava Enterprises. Originally founded as Virtual Holdings conducting an early casino site, casino-on-net, by 2 Israeli company men, the business grew in step with the development of the internet.
The brand was renamed 888 in 2002 and despite having a hard hit when online gaming became illegal in several US territories in 2006 has continued to rise in every area of online gambling. The team operate a sports (888 Sport) and poker site (888 Poker) along with several casino (e.g. 888 casino, 777 casino)) and bingo brands (e.g. 888 bingo, 888 ladies, Wink Bingo) with a distribution of 61% casino, 18 percent poker, 11% sport and 9% bingo.
888 are a international online specialist which will only grow in the future. The company was fined almost #8M from the gaming commission in 2017 for failure to properly shield vulnerable gamblers in the UK. This may slow down the aggressive growth strategy of the company, although only slightly.
888 Sport Review 888 Casino Review
Kindred Group (Unibet, 32Red, Stan James, et al)
Ranking 7
#800 Million
Workers 1400
Top Steet Shops
100 (Stan James)
Launched 1997
Kindred is a name that you will likely not have heard of, it’s in fact the rebranding of this old Unibet Group Plc after the acquisition of over a dozen other brands.
Fast becoming one of the biggest betting companies in Britain and Europe the Kindred group comprises Stan James, 32Red, and Maria. Unibet is of course the jewel in the crown, the Scandinavian brand has grown to become among the largest online gaming websites with over 15 million customers.
The future intention of this brand is clear in their current history of takeovers, paying #19 million for Stan James (which contains a new real world presence) and #175 million for the best rated online casino 32Red.
Unibet Review 32Red Casino Review
Market Share And Gambling Revenue Distribution
UK offline and online gambling market share
The pie charts above show a general representation of the supply of gaming revenue in the united kingdom. Offline gambling remains the biggest sector as this comprise the national lottery (28 percent ), compared to high street bookies (27 percent ) and land-based casinos (5%) only online betting is bigger (40 percent ). The trend from offline to online is predicted to remain in the long run.
Within the online marketplace casino is the biggest (slots 37% and other games 15 percent ), followed closely with sports betting (40 percent ). Exchange betting (3 percent ), online poker (2%) and online bingo (2%).
The Size Of The UK Gambling Industry
The UK gambling sector currently generates roughly #15 billion in annual revenues and is increasing rapidly at around 8% per year. Of this total on a third (Number 5 billion +) is made from online gaming, with a rough split of 60 percent casino and 40% sports betting.
The industry as a whole is responsible for contributing approximately #8 billion into the UK treasury each year and directly employs over 100,000 people (possibly up to 500,000 if you include indirect workers ).
High Street Bookmakers And Land Bases Casinos
Supply of high street gaming venuesDespite the continuous shift towards online betting since the turn of the millennium there are still around 9000 betting shops in the UK (90% of which can be controlled by Coral, William Hill, Ladbrokes and Betfred), 600 bingo halls, and 1800 arcades and 150 land-based casinos (63 owned by the Rank Group and 41 by Genting). There are in the region of 200,000 gambling machines worked in the united kingdom too, of which approximately 40,000 will be the controversial fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The National Lottery (and other lottery) revenues are also included in the general gambling earnings figure. This constitute to #3.5 billion of the total, with at the region of #250 million moving back to great causes.
High street bookmaking is responsible for a similar amount, #3.5 billion yearly, claiming over 95 percent of their non-remote gambling earnings in the UK. Pool betting (like the Tote) makes up 4 percent with other sources, for example on-track bookies, making up just 1%.
Land-based casinos create #1 billion in annual profits. Just under half of this comes from roulette (44 percent ), per quarter from blackjack (25%), a fifth (20 percent ) form slots and other digital games and the rest from various other games and tables.
Online Betting And Casino
Sports betting distribution in the UKApproximately 57% of internet gambling earnings comes from distant casinos. Of this 3 quarters derives in slots, together with the rest coming from table and other games (an opposite trend to land based casinos). Poker, which can be categorized under casino, creates less than 2 percent of the total revenue.
Sports gambling is the second biggest industry, producing around 37% of the general earnings. Of this around 54% comes from football gambling, around 32 percent from horse racing and the rest from different resources (of that tennis constitutes nearly half).
Other sources of revenue include exchange betting (~3%), online bingo (~3%) and pool gambling (~0.5%).
In 2014 the online sector made up 29 percent of the total market share, by 2016 this had grown to 32%. By 2020 the business could approach 50 percent of annual earnings generated from gambling related actions in the united kingdom.
Evolution Of High Street To Internet Betting
Apart from the odd independent bookie and some of the stalls you see at racecourses, all bookmakers today offer online betting. Obviously, it didn’t used to be this way, and prior to the internet era breaking into the sector was easier said than done. For a full history of gambling see our dedicated page.
Prior to 1960 from the UK it was illegal to take bets from horse and greyhound tracks. Betting was heavily regulated by the government and although prohibited operators did exist, overall you’d find it really hard to put a bet from the track.
Bookies did still take bets off-course through loop-holes in the law that allowed bets to be obtained by telephone or through postal order. This is the way William Hill started out. In the event that you were rich enough of course there were always options open to you, Ladbrokes for example began as a gentleman’s bookmaker for high profile clients. In the event that you were nevertheless a normal working-class lad or lass nevertheless, there were very few choices open to you.
Even then most gambling at the time was for horse and dog racing only. Football betting was mostly outlawed, except for non stakes pool gambling syndicate games, such as the soccer pools (which still exists now ).
Basically before 1960 betting wasn’t very easy as you had to attend some race-track to do it (or do it illegally in a back street gambling den). That is unless you were rich once the law did not really apply to you and you could bet through discreet retailers.
1960 Betting And Gaming Act And Betting Shops
Gambling shopIn 1960 the government eventually embraced the new era. Normal people had more disposable income in their pockets and they wanted more freedom with how to spend their cash. The gambling act for the first time allowed off-course gaming and by the following year, May 1961, a whole host of new betting shops opened across the length of the country at a rate of 100 per week.
Betting was still largely restricted to horse racing, together with rules in place such as the’trebles rule’ on soccer. This meant all footy bets necessary to be accumulators with 3 or more choices otherwise you could not bet. The only sport you could put singles on was rushing.
Still this new sector was adopted by the people of Britain, sowing the seed that eventually led to the UK getting the largest gambling state (per head) in the world.
One of the first people to open one of these new betting shops was Joel Coral and 10,000 stores are reported to have started over the first 6 months. Ironically the UK’s now largest high street bookie, William Hill, originally refused to open gambling shops, saying they had been a cancer on society. He reneged in 1966.
1970s And 1980s
The bookmaker sector grew exponentially over the years after legalisation of high street betting. By the 1970’s there were 15,000 stores in the United Kingdom.
Here is the time when a lot of the biggest names we know now made and solidified their standing. Britain’s oldest bookmakers, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral were earning so much they also started to spend money on other leisure sectors.
Regardless of the enormous achievement of high street bookies in the past three decades the sector had a limited clientele. The huge majority of punters using betting shops were working class men and the reputation of shops as being dark dens full of smoke and filthy language did not help to change this.
Bookies sought to create a bigger customer base by introducing new features, such as live sport in shops and fresh soccer coupons to encourage more diverse clients and bets. The removal of the’trebles rule’ on soccer in 1990’s moved a great way towards helping the bookies branch out, together with punters now able to back singles on a selection of sports.
A progressively better image, wider array of bets and markets, more televised sports (especially Premier League football) and also an ever-increasing disposable income, saw the bundles of bookmakers rise again.
From the mid-1990’s the industry seemed locked down with five massive companies dominating the landscape, along with a couple of independents throughout the nation. Many believed betting and gaming will be like this forever. This was before the internet came along.
New Millennium And The Internet Online betting 2As the 1990’s brought to a close a brand new threat began to emerge into the old established order, online gambling. This was dangerous to the established high street bookies than you may imagine.
High street bookmaking was controlled by various betting and gambling functions and much more importantly stakes were taxed (9p/#1 staked). Online gambling nevertheless was a tiny bit like the wild west, you could basically set up in which you desired, launch a website and start accepting bets from customers — tax free.
Although preventing tax on gambling stakes and winnings was at the time illegal it was almost impossible to police. New firms along with the old high street bookies started to set up new websites, mainly based off shore in Gibraltar or Malta, to make the most of the tax free trade (many are still based there today).
From the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the market share online was very low and even though the new unregulated online trade was a concern it wasn’t prevalent enough to cause changes yet. The bookies were still making enough from the large street though tax avoiding new brands were taking a slice of their profits.
Victor Chandler And Tax
In 1999 Victor Chandler (now BetVictor) moved his bookmaking business off shore to Gibraltar in protest at the betting tax rates in the UK, selling his 41 shops to Coral. This enabled Victor to supply gaming chances to global clients, especially from Asia, without paying UK tax. Additionally, it allowed UK punters to bet with no paying the 9p/# bet taxation.
It’s believed it was this decision that directed the then UK chancellor, Gordon Brown, to remove the betting tax in 2001. Saying that although he eliminated the tax paid directly by the punter new taxes were imposed on the bookies profits earned in the UK and by this point the ship had largely sailed and many conventional bookies were running their online performance from abroad.
2005 Gambling Act
gambling act 2005
Finally the authorities realised the status quo couldn’t continue indefinitely. This {wasn’t|was not

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