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03 Jul

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

You may examine the betting and gambling industry and think there’s a lot of healthy competition, with hundreds of brands currently vying for our pennies. Many businesses however, although they might seem impartial, are in fact component of the exact same group, and you may not ever know it. As with many markets, there are in fact a couple of large players and the rest are left to scramble for the remainder of the custom.
It isn’t just the old high street bookies such as William Hill and Betfred that occupy the top spots in the largest betting company leagues. Many early online only bookmakers have beaten the older land based operators, such as Bet365, and also the planet’s biggest and earliest online exchange, Betfair. Mergers between already huge companies such as Ladbrokes and Coral and Betfair and Paddy Power has created behemoth bookies. The future of bookmaking in the united kingdom is in the equilibrium as it risks becoming a monopoly of a very few massive businesses, very much like the energy markets.
In this article we also look at the progression of the united kingdom gaming industry, the size of the gains made along with the progressive change to online betting and gaming.
Largest CompaniesUK Market ShareUK Market SizeEvolution of GamblingMergers
Largest Betting Firms Ladbrokes-Coral Group Plc (owned by GVC Holdings)
Ranking 1
Headquarters
London
Revenue
#2.5 Billion
Workers 30000
High Street Shops
4000
Established 2016 (Merger)
ladbrokes-coral
William Hill were ousted from top spot following the merger in 2016 of Britain’s second and third largest bookmakers in 2015, completed 2016. The new firm, imaginatively named Ladbrokes-Coral Plc, generates almost #2.5 billion in revenue each year and employees over 30,000 individuals and is listed on the FTSE 250.
In 2018 the new group was further bought by GVC at a deal worth around #4 billion, adding additional power to the brand on an international scale. GVC also own and operate websites like sportingbet (although we would not recommend them to wager with), partypoker and Bwin.
Ladbrokes, Britain’s oldest betting company founded in 1886, and Coral, established at the 1926, have over 200 years experience of being a bookmaker between them. The group own almost 4000 gambling stores, although were forced to market over 300 in the merger, and are just two of the most recognisable brands on the British high street.
Coral, started by Joe Coral an on track bookmaker in the 1920’s, grew immediately after legalisation of off-course gaming stores in 1961, becoming one of the very first bookies to make the most. Merging with another firm in 1971 to become Coral Leisure the group was acquired by Bass in 1981. In 1997 Ladbrokes made their very first attempt to purchase Coral from Bass but this was blocked by the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission in the time. Coral was sold to Morgan Grenfell, a private equity company in 1999 and merged with Eurobet, among the first online gaming websites, in the exact same year. Gala bingo, founded in 1991 and functioning over 150 halls with an additional internet presence, united with ghostly in 2005 to make the Gala Coral Group.
Ladbrokes was launched by two men who acted as a commission representatives for horses (trained in Ladbroke Hill). After a move to London from the early 20th century the company became a bookmaker for rich clients. Falling on harder times following WWII the business was sold for just #100,000. The identical legalisation of gambling shops that drove Coral’s increase in 1961 nonetheless reversed the fortunes of Ladbrokes also, who were later floated on the stock market for #1M in 1966. With forays into the hotel (Hilton Group) and residence convenience sector the Ladbrokes team grew to second largest UK bookmaker. Before the Coral merger Ladbrokes also obtained BETDAQ, the 2nd largest betting market, 2013.
The group now generate more than a third of the profits from electronic sources and involving them have more online customers than any other company. For more about each brand visit our full reviews.
Ladbrokes Review Coral Review
William Hill Plc
Ranking 2
Headquarters
London
Revenue
#1.7 Billion
Employees 16000
High Street Shops
2300
Launched 1934
william-hill
For a very long time William Hill would be the biggest betting company in the UK with over 2300 shops and only under #2 billion in annual earnings. The operator, which currently generates around #200 million in yearly earnings and is listed on the FTSE 250, comes from modest beginnings.
In 1934 the company was established by Mr William Hill, who after some early failures and prohibited enterprises found he could earn money by means of a loophole that permitted off-course betting using post or credit. Hill’s entered into the gaming store business, starting their first 5 years after the change in law in 1966, as a result of creators belief that they were a cancer . He relented when he saw how fast his opponents were getting ahead.
The company changed ownership several times down the years. Bought for #700 million in 1997, the brand was sold a couple of decades after for 825 million and listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2002.
The William Hill team have experienced some corporate failures over the years but their competitive strategy, particularly online, has allowed them to dominate the market landscape. Possibly the most well-known bookmaker in the world, largely down to the reality Hill’s have spread out the UK more than any other bookie, and due to their vast amount they spend on sponsorship and advertising.
William Hill Review William Hill Casino Review
Paddy Power Betfair Plc
Position 3
Headquarters
Dublin
Revenue
#1.75 Billion
Workers 8000
High Street Shops
600 (UK + I)
Established 2016 (Merger)
paddy-power-betfair
Many mergers are just about money. Coral did not really bring anything new to Ladbrokes for instance, however, the merger between Betfair and Paddy Power from 2016 to create the third biggest betting brand was certainly mutually beneficial to both parties.
Paddy Power, one of Ireland’s biggest bookmakers, was founded in 1988 but it was the online age that actually saw the brand come to life through its frequently controversial advertising approaches. Holding over 600 shops across the united kingdom and Ireland and boasting retail earnings of nearly #1 billion Paddy Power brought the real world places, marketing strategy and money to the merger.
Betfair on the other hand had a very distinct history in the betting industry. Located as a peer-peer betting exchange rather than a traditional bookie at 2000, Betfair became the largest of its type in no time in any way. Despite better odds on offer from the market, the industry still remains fairly modest (see later) and so in order to compete Betfair launched a fixed odds sports publication in 2011. Betfair are the smaller party in the merger, making less than 500 million in earnings. For this reason PP shareholders received 52 percent and Betfair 48 percent of the new company.
Paddy Power Review Betfair Review
Bet365 Group Ltd
Position 4
Headquarters
Stoke-on-Trent
Revenue
#2.3 Billion
Workers 3500
High Street Shops
None
Established 2000
Bet365
Bet365 meteoric increase has come form the digital industry, and considering that only today is the internet gambling market larger than the high road (excluding national lottery) which is a fairly impressive performance. When they state in their advents that Bet365 is the worlds favourite online betting company they are not lying.
Launched in 2000 from a tiny temporary building in Stoke by now multi-billionaire Denise Coates, Bet365 now generates massive online earnings and is the biggest private company in Stoke. They own the football stadium.
Denise started the business 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 increasingly online only operator in the place where they have gained a huge customer base of over 20+ million people from 200 countries. The brand has the best reputation within the betting and gaming sector from both punters and insiders and boasts among the most loyal customer bases of any business enterprise.
Frequently mentioned as a success story of British online business, if you were to rule out the offline gaming sector then these guys would be the greatest. Multi-award winnings and continuously developing new technologies and ideas the only way this organization is moving in the long run is up.
Bet365 Review
Betfred
Position 5
Headquarters
Warrington
Revenue
#800 Million
Employees 1000
High Street Shops
1650
Established 1967
Betfred
The Betfred journey to becoming one of the biggest independent betting companies in the UK is more heart-warming than others. Established from one store in Salford by Fred an Peter Done in 1967, the team finally have a multi-billion turnover as well as #1 billion in revenues annually. Based in Warrington the company has never been sold or merged and remains in the same hands as it started in.
Fred Done is famous in particular for paying our early on Manchester United to win the league twice only for them shed on both occasions (1998 and 2012). In addition, he lost #1,000,000 at a private bet with Victor Chandler (owner of BetVictor) gambling again on Man United, this opportunity to finish higher than Chelsea in 2005 – they did not. Despite these misjudgements Fred is also famous for inventing the Lucky 15 and other complete cover bets.
The business has a sizable gaming store operation, and since purchasing around 300 stores that Ladbrokes-Coral have been forced to sell now own at the area of 1650 shops in the UK. Famous for being one of the very best racing bookmakers Betfred improved their exposure in this market by purchasing the tote at 2011 for #265. This allows them to licence totepool bets to other operators as well as supplying bespoke bag bets others do not have. Regardless of this Betfred’s future looks mixed and will probably hinge on how well they develop on the internet in the coming years.
Betfred Review
888 Holdings Plc
Ranking 6
Headquarters
Gibraltar
Revenue
#600 Million
Employees 1600
High Street Shops
None
Launched 1997
888-holdings
888 is a completely modern gambling company, there’s absolutely no romantic back story here. Currently part of a somewhat convoluted company arrangement, 888 Holdings is your gaming arm of parent company Cassava Enterprises. Initially founded as Virtual Holdings conducting an early casino website, casino-on-net, by two Israeli business men, the company grew in step with the rise of the internet.
The newest was renamed 888 in 2002 and despite taking a hard hit when online gaming became illegal in several US lands in 2006 has continued to rise in every area of online gaming. The team operate a sport (888 Sport) and poker site (888 Poker) along with many casino (e.g. 888 casino, 777 casino)) and bingo brands (e.g. 888 bingo, 888 ladies, Wink Bingo) using a distribution of 61% casino, 18 percent poker, 11% game and 9% bingo.
888 really are a global online specialist which will only increase in the future. The company was fined almost #8M from the gaming commission in 2017 for failure to correctly protect vulnerable gamblers in the united kingdom. This may slow down the aggressive growth plan of the business, although only slightly.
888 Sport Review 888 Casino Review
Kindred Group (Unibet, 32Red, Stan James, et al)
Ranking 7
Headquarters
Malta
Revenue
#800 Million
Workers 1400
Top Steet Shops
100 (Stan James)
Launched 1997
Kindred
Kindred is a title you may likely not have heard of, it’s in reality the rebranding of this old Unibet Group Plc following the acquisition of more than a dozen other brands.
Quickly becoming one of the largest betting companies in Britain and Europe that the Kindred group includes Stan James, 32Red, Bingo.com and Maria. Unibet is of course the jewel in the crown, the brand has grown to become one of the biggest online betting sites with over 15 million customers.
The future intention of the brand is clear from their recent history of takeovers, paying #19 million for Stan James (which includes a brand new real world presence) and #175 million to the top 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 an overall representation of the supply of gaming revenue in the united kingdom. Offline gambling remains the biggest sector as this comprise the federal lottery (28%), compared to high street bookies (27 percent ) and land-based casinos (5%) only online betting is bigger (40 percent ). The trend in offline to online is expected to continue in the long run.
Within the internet marketplace casino is the largest (slots 37% and other games 15 percent ), followed by with sports (40 percent ). Exchange gambling (3%), online poker (2 percent ) and online bingo (2%).
The Size Of The UK Gambling Industry
The UK gambling sector currently generates around #15 billion in annual revenues and is increasing quickly at up to 8 percent a year. Of this total on a third (#5 billion +) is created from online gambling, with a demanding split of 60% casino and 40% sports gambling.
The sector as a whole is to blame for contributing approximately #8 billion into the UK treasury each year and directly employs over 100,000 individuals (perhaps up to 500,000 in the event that you include indirect workers ).
High Street Bookmakers And Land Bases Casinos
Distribution of high street gaming venuesDespite the constant shift towards online betting because the turn of the millennium there are still around 9000 betting shops in the UK (90% of which can be regulated by Coral, William Hill, Ladbrokes and Betfred), 600 bingo halls, 1800 arcades and 150 land-based casinos (63 owned by the Rank Group and 41 by Genting). There are in the area of 200,000 gaming machines operated in the united kingdom also, of which approximately 40,000 will be the contentious fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The National Lottery (and other lottery) revenues are also included in the general gambling revenue figure. This constitute to #3.5 billion of this total, with at the region of #250 million moving back to good causes.
High road bookmaking is liable for a similar amount, #3.5 billion yearly, claiming over 95% of their non-remote gambling earnings in the united kingdom. Pool gambling (like the Tote) makes up 4% with different sources, such as on-track bookies, making up just 1 percent.
Land-based casinos generate #1 billion in yearly profits. Just under half of this stems from roulette (44 percent ), a quarter from blackjack (25 percent ), a fifth (20%) kind slots and other electronic games and the remainder from various other tables and games.
Online Betting And Casino
Sports betting distribution in the UKApproximately 57 percent of online gambling earnings comes from distant casinos. Of this three quarters derives from slots, together with the rest coming from table along with other games (an opposite tendency to land based casinos). Poker, which is classified under casino, generates less than 2 percent of the total earnings.
Sports betting is the second biggest sector, producing up to 37 percent of the overall revenue. Of this around 54% stems from soccer betting, around 32% from horse racing and the remainder from different resources (of which tennis makes up nearly half).
Other sources of revenue include exchange betting (~3%), online bingo (~3%) and swimming betting (~0.5%).
In 2014 the online sector made up 29 percent of the entire market share, by 2016 this had grown to 32 percent. By 2020 the industry could approach 50 percent of annual revenues generated from gaming related actions in the united kingdom.
Evolution Of High Street To Online Betting
Aside from the odd independent bookie and some of the stalls you see at racecourses, all bookmakers today provide online gambling. Of course, it didn’t used to be this way, and prior to the internet age breaking into the industry was easier said than done. For a full history of gaming see our dedicated page.
Pre-1960’S
Prior to 1960 from the UK it had been illegal to take bets away from horse and greyhound tracks. Gambling was heavily regulated by the government and although illegal operators didn’t exist, overall you would find it really hard to put a wager away from the track.
Bookies did still take bets off-course through loop-holes in the law that enabled bets to be taken by telephone or via postal order. This is how William Hill began out. If you were wealthy enough needless to say there were always choices open for you, Ladbrokes such as started out as a gentleman’s bookmaker for high profile customers. If you were nevertheless a normal working-class lad or lass nevertheless, there were quite a few choices open for 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 betting syndicate games, such as the football pools (which still exists today).
Fundamentally before 1960 betting wasn’t very easy as you needed to attend some race-track to do it (or do it in a rear street gambling den). That is unless you’re rich when the law didn’t actually apply to you personally and you could bet through discreet merchants.
1960 Betting And Gambling Act And Betting Shops
Gambling shopIn 1960 the authorities eventually embraced the new age. Normal folks had more disposable income in their pockets and they wanted more freedom with how to spend their money. The gambling act for the first time permitted off-course gaming and from the following year, May 1961, a whole plethora of new betting shops opened throughout the duration of the country at a rate of 100 a week.
Betting was largely restricted to horse racing, with rules set up like the’trebles rule’ on football. This meant all of footy bets necessary to be accumulators with at least 3 or more selections differently you couldn’t wager. The only sports you could put singles on was rushing.
Nevertheless this new industry was adopted by the people of Britain, sowing the seed that eventually resulted in the UK becoming the biggest gambling state (per head) on earth.
Among the very first people to open one of these new gaming stores was Joel Coral and 10,000 shops have been reported to have started over the first 6 months. Ironically the UK’s now biggest high street bookie, William Hill, initially refused to open betting shops, saying they were a cancer on society. He reneged in 1966.
1970s And 1980s
The bookmaker sector grew exponentially in the years following legalisation of high street betting. From the 1970’s there were 15,000 stores in the uk.
This is the time when a lot of the largest names we know today made and solidified their standing. Britain’s oldest bookmakers, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral were earning so much they even started to spend money on other leisure sectors.
1990’S
Regardless of the huge success of high street bookies in the previous 3 decades the industry had a limited clientele. The vast majority of punters using betting shops were working class guys and the reputation of stores as being seedy dark dens full of smoke and filthy language didn’t help 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 customers and bets. The removal of the’trebles rule’ on soccer in 1990’s moved a great way towards helping the bookies branch outside, together with punters now able to back singles on a range of sports.
A progressively better picture, wider range of bets and markets, more televised sports (particularly Premier League football) and an ever-increasing disposable income, saw the bundles of bookmakers rise again.
From the mid-1990’s the sector seemed locked down with five massive companies dominating the landscape, together with a few independents across the country. Many believed betting and gaming would be like this forever. This was until the internet came along.
New Millennium And The World Wide Web Online betting 2As that the 1990’s brought to a close a brand new threat started to emerge into the older established order, online gambling. This was dangerous to the established high street bookies than you may imagine.
High road bookmaking was regulated by different betting and gaming acts and more importantly bets were taxed (9p/#1 staked). Online gambling nevertheless was a little bit like the wild west, you can basically set up wherever you desired, launch a website and start taking bets from customers — tax free.
Although avoiding tax on gambling stakes and winnings was in the time illegal it was almost impossible to police. New firms together with the old high street bookies began to install new sites, largely based off coast in Gibraltar or Malta, to make the most of the tax free trade (many are still based there today).
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the industry share online was very low and although the new unregulated online commerce was a concern it was not prevalent enough to induce changes yet. The bookies were making enough from the large street even though tax averting new brands were now taking a percentage of the profits.
Victor Chandler And Tax
In 1999 Victor Chandler (now BetVictor) moved his bookmaking company off shore to Gibraltar in protest in the gambling tax prices in the united kingdom, selling his 41 shops to Coral. This enabled Victor to supply betting opportunities to global customers, especially from Asia, without paying UK tax. Additionally, it allowed UK punters to bet with no paying the 9p/# stake tax.
It’s believed it was this decision that directed the then UK chancellor, Gordon Brown, to remove the betting tax in 2001. Saying that though he removed the tax paid directly by the punter new taxes were levied on the bookies profits left in the UK and by this stage the boat had largely sailed and most conventional bookies were conducting their online performance from overseas.
2005 Gambling Act
gambling act 2005
Eventually the government realised that the status quo couldn’t continue forever. This {wasn’t|was not

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