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


You might examine the betting and gaming industry and think there’s a lot of healthy rivalry, with countless brands currently vying for our pennies. Many companies however, although they may seem impartial, are in reality part of the same group, and you’ll likely never know it. Like many markets, there are in fact a couple of big players and the rest are left to scramble for the rest of the habit.
It is not just the old high street bookies such as William Hill and Betfred that occupy the best places from the biggest betting company leagues. Many early online only bookmakers have already beaten the older land based operators, such as Bet365, and the world’s largest and first online exchange, Betfair. Mergers between already huge companies such as Ladbrokes and Coral and Betfair and Paddy Power has created behemoth bookies. The near future of bookmaking in the UK is in the equilibrium as it risks becoming a monopoly of some very few massive companies, very much enjoy the energy markets.
Within this article we also examine the progression of the UK gaming industry, the dimensions of the gains made together with the progressive switch to online betting and gaming.
Largest CompaniesUK Market ShareUK Market SizeEvolution of all GamblingMergers
Largest Betting Companies Ladbrokes-Coral Group Plc (owned by GVC Holdings)
Position 1
#2.5 Billion
Employees 30000
High Street Shops
Launched 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 company, imaginatively named Ladbrokes-Coral Plc, generates 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, including additional capability to the newest on an international scale. GVC also own and operate sites such as sportingbet (though we would not recommend them to bet with), partypoker and Bwin.
Ladbrokes, Britain’s oldest gambling company founded in 1886, and Coral, based at the 1926, have over 200 years experience of being a bookmaker between them. The group own nearly 4000 betting shops, although were forced to sell over 300 in the merger, and so are two of the most recognisable brands in the high street.
Coral, started by Joe Coral an online bookmaker from the 1920’s, grew immediately after legalisation of off-course betting shops in 1961, becoming one of the very first bookies to take advantage. Merging with another company in 1971 to become Coral Leisure the team was obtained by Bass in 1981. In 1997 Ladbrokes chose their first attempt to buy Coral from Bass but that was blocked by the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission in the time. Coral was offered to Morgan Grenfell, a private equity firm in 1999 and also merged with Eurobet, one of the very first online betting sites, in the same calendar year. Gala bingo, founded in 1991 and functioning over 150 halls with an additional internet presence, merged with Coral in 2005 to form the Gala Coral Group.
Ladbrokes was started by two guys who acted as a commission agents for horses (trained at Ladbroke Hill). Following a move to London in the early 20th century the firm became a bookmaker for wealthy clients. Falling on harder times after WWII that the business was sold for only #100,000. The identical legalisation of gambling shops that drove Coral’s increase in 1961 however reversed the fortunes of Ladbrokes too, who were afterwards floated on the stock exchange for #1M in 1966. With forays into the hotel (Hilton Group) and home convenience industry the Ladbrokes group grew to next biggest UK bookmaker. Prior to the Coral merger Ladbrokes also acquired BETDAQ, the second biggest betting market, 2013.
The group now generate over a third of their profits from digital sources and between them have more online customers than any other company. For more about every brand visit our full reviews.
Ladbrokes Review Coral Review
William Hill Plc
Ranking 2
#1.7 Billion
Employees 16000
High Street Shops
Established 1934
For a long time William Hill were the largest betting company in the UK with over 2300 shops and only under #2 billion in annual earnings. The operator, which currently generates up to #200 million in annual profits and is listed on the FTSE 250, comes from humble beginnings.
In 1934 the company was established by Mr William Hill, who following some early failures and illegal ventures found he could make money by means of a loophole that permitted off-course gambling using post or credit. Hill’s entered late into the gaming store business, opening their first 5 years after the change in law in 1966, as a result of creators belief that they were a cancer to society. He relented when he noticed how fast his competitors were getting ahead.
The business changed ownership many times down the years. Bought for #700 million in 1997, the newest was again sold a couple of decades later for 825 million and recorded on the London Stock Exchange in 2002.
The William Hill group have had some corporate failures over the years but their competitive strategy, especially online, has enabled them to control the market landscape. Probably the most well-known bookmaker in the world, mainly to the fact Hill’s have spread out the UK over any other bookie, and also due to their huge amount they spend on sponsorship and advertising.
William Hill Review William Hill Casino Review
Paddy Power Betfair Plc
Ranking 3
#1.75 Billion
Employees 8000
High Street Shops
600 (UK + I)
Launched 2016 (Merger)
Many mergers are merely about money. Coral did not really bring anything fresh to Ladbrokes for instance, but also the merger between Betfair and Paddy Power from 2016 to create the third largest betting brand was surely mutually beneficial to both parties.
Paddy Power, among Ireland’s biggest bookmakers, was set in 1988 but it was the online age that really watched the brand come to life via its often controversial advertising strategies. Holding over 600 shops across the UK and Ireland and boasting retail revenues of almost #1 billion Paddy Power attracted the real world locations, marketing strategy and cash to the merger.
Betfair on the other hand had a very distinct history in the betting industry. Located as a peer-peer betting exchange as opposed to a traditional bookie in 2000, Betfair became the largest of its kind in no time in any way. Despite better odds on offer in the exchange, the market still remains fairly small (see later) and so in order to compete Betfair established a fixed odds sports book in 2011. Betfair are the smaller party in the merger, making less than 500 million in revenue. For this reason PP shareholders received 52 percent and Betfair 48 percent of the new firm.
Paddy Power Review Betfair Review
Bet365 Group Ltd
Ranking 4
#2.3 Billion
Employees 3500
High Street Shops
Launched 2000
Bet365 meteoric increase has come form the electronic industry, and considering that only now is the internet gaming market bigger than the high road (excluding national lottery) which is a pretty impressive performance. When they state in their advents that Bet365 is the worlds favorite online betting company they really are not lying.
Established in 2000 from a small temporary building in Stoke by today multi-billionaire Denise Coates, Bet365 now produces enormous online earnings and is the largest private company in Stoke. They even own the football arena.
Denise started the business by borrowing against her fathers brick and mortar bookmaking business, established in 1974 by Stoke City chairman Peter Coates. Selling off the shops to Coral at 2005 Bet365 became an increasingly internet only operator in the place where they’ve gained a huge customer base of more than 20+ million people from 200 nations. The brand has the best reputation within the gambling and gaming sector from the punters and insiders and boasts among their most loyal customer bases of any business.
Often mentioned as a success story of British internet business, if you were to rule out the offline gaming sector then these guys would be the biggest. Multi-award winnings and constantly developing new technologies and ideas the only way this organization is going in the future is up.
Bet365 Review
Position 5
#800 Million
Employees 1000
High Street Shops
Launched 1967
The Betfred travel to becoming one of the largest independent betting companies in the UK is much more heart-warming than most others. Established from a single store in Salford by Fred that an Peter Done in 1967, the group 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 stays in the same hands as it started in.
Fred Done is known in particular for paying our ancient on Manchester United to win the league double just for them lose on both events (1998 and 2012). He also lost #1,000,000 in a personal bet with Victor Chandler (owner of BetVictor) gambling again on Man United, this opportunity to finish higher than Chelsea in 2005 — they didn’t. Despite these misjudgements Fred is also famous for inventing the Lucky 15 along with other complete cover stakes.
The business has a sizable betting shop operation, and since buying around 300 shops that Ladbrokes-Coral were forced to sell now own at the region of 1650 stores in the UK. Famed for being one of the best racing bookmakers Betfred increased their vulnerability in this market by buying the bag in 2011 for #265. This allows them to licence totepool bets to other operators in addition to providing bespoke bag bets others do not have. Regardless of this Betfred’s future looks blended and will probably hinge on how well they grow online in the coming years.
Betfred Review
888 Holdings Plc
Position 6
#600 Million
Workers 1600
High Street Shops
Established 1997
888 is a thoroughly modern betting company, there’s absolutely no amorous rear story here. Currently part of a rather convoluted company structure, 888 Holdings is the gaming arm of parent firm Cassava Enterprises. Initially founded as Virtual Holdings running an early casino site, casino-on-net, by 2 Israeli business guys, the company 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 lands in 2006 has continued to grow in every area of online gaming. The group run a sport (888 Sport) and poker site (888 Poker) and many casino (e.g. 888 casino, 777 casino)) and bingo brands (e.g. 888 bingo, 888 girls, Wink Bingo) with a distribution of 61% casino, 18 percent poker, 11% game and 9 percent bingo.
888 really are a international online specialist which will only increase in the long run. The business was fined almost #8M by the gaming commission in 2017 for failure to properly protect vulnerable gamblers in the UK. This will slow down the aggressive development strategy of the business, although only slightly.
888 Sport Review 888 Casino Review
Kindred Group (Unibet, 32Red, Stan James, et al)
Position 7
#800 Million
Workers 1400
High Steet Shops
100 (Stan James)
Established 1997
Kindred is a title that you will likely haven’t heard of, it is in fact the rebranding of the older Unibet Group Plc after the purchase of more than a dozen other manufacturers.
Fast becoming one of the biggest betting companies in Britain and Europe that 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 one of the biggest online gaming websites with over 15 million customers.
The future intention of the brand is apparent in their recent history of takeovers, paying #19 million to Stan James (which contains a brand 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 gaming market share
The pie charts above show a general representation of the distribution of gaming revenue in the UK. Offline gambling remains the largest sector as this comprise the federal lottery (28%), in contrast to high street bookies (27%) and land-based casinos (5%) only online betting is bigger (40%). The trend in offline to online is predicted to remain in the future.
Within the internet market casino is the largest (slots 37% and other games 15%), followed by with sports betting (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 roughly #15 billion in annual revenues and is increasing rapidly at up to 8 percent per year. Of this total over a third (Number 5 billion +) is made from online gambling, with a rough split of 60 percent casino and 40% sports betting.
The sector as a whole is responsible for contributing around #8 billion into the UK treasury every year and directly employs over 100,000 individuals (perhaps up to 500,000 if you include indirect workers ).
High Street Bookmakers And Land Bases Casinos
Supply of high street gaming venuesDespite the constant shift towards online gambling because the turn of this century there are still around 9000 betting shops in the UK (90 percent 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 area of 200,000 gaming machines operated in the UK too, of which around 40,000 will be the contentious fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The National Lottery (along with other lottery) earnings are also contained in the general gambling earnings figure. This constitute to #3.5 billion of this total, with in the region of #250 million going back to good causes.
High road bookmaking is responsible for a similar amount, #3.5 billion annually, claiming over 95% of the non-remote gambling revenue in the UK. Pool gambling (such as the Tote) constitutes 4% with different resources, for example on-track bookies, making up only 1%.
Land-based casinos generate #1 billion in annual profits. Just under half of this stems from roulette (44 percent ), per quarter from blackjack (25%), a fifth (20%) form slots and other electronic games and the rest from various other games and tables.
Online Betting And Casino
Sports betting supply in the UKApproximately 57 percent of internet gambling revenues 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, that can be classified under casino, generates less than 2% of the entire earnings.
Sports betting is the second most significant industry, producing up to 37 percent of the general earnings. Of this around 54% comes from soccer betting, around 32% from horse racing and the remainder from different sources (of that tennis constitutes almost half).
Other sources of revenue include exchange gambling (~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 risen to 32%. By 2020 the industry could approach 50 percent of annual revenues generated from gambling related activities in the UK.
Evolution Of High Street To Internet Betting
Aside from the odd independent bookie and a number of the stalls you visit at racecourses, all bookmakers today provide online betting. Of course, it did not utilized to be this way, and before the internet age breaking into the industry was easier said than done. For a full history of gaming see our dedicated page.
Prior to 1960 in the UK it had been illegal to take bets from horse and greyhound tracks. Gambling was heavily regulated by the government and although prohibited operators didn’t exist, overall you would find it really hard to put a bet from the monitor.
Bookies did still take bets off-course through loop-holes from the law that enabled bets to be taken by telephone or via postal order. This is the way William Hill started out. If you were wealthy enough needless to say there were always options open for you, Ladbrokes for example started out as a gentleman’s bookmaker for high profile customers. In the event that you were nevertheless a typical working-class lad or lass nevertheless, there were quite a few options open to you.
Even then most betting at the time was for dog and horse racing only. Football betting was mostly outlawed, except for low stakes pool betting syndicate games, such as the football pools (which still exists now ).
Basically before 1960 betting wasn’t very easy as you needed to attend a race-track to do it (or do it in a rear street gambling den). That is unless you’re rich once the law didn’t really apply to you personally and you may bet through discreet retailers.
1960 Betting And Gaming Act And Betting Shops
Gambling shopIn 1960 the government eventually embraced the new age. Normal folks had more disposable income in their pockets and they wanted more freedom with how to invest their money. The gambling act for the first time allowed off-course gaming and from the next year, May 1961, a whole host of new gambling shops opened throughout the duration of the country at a rate of 100 per week.
Betting was still largely restricted to horse racing, together with principles in place such as the’trebles principle’ on football. This meant all footy bets necessary to be accumulators with at least 3 or more choices otherwise you could not bet. The only sport you could put singles was racing.
Nevertheless this new industry was adopted by the people of Britain, sowing the seed which eventually resulted in the UK becoming the largest gaming state (per head) on earth.
One of the first people to open these new betting shops was Joel Coral and 10,000 stores are reported to have started within the initial 6 months. Ironically the UK’s now biggest high street bookie, William Hill, originally refused to start betting shops, stating they had been a cancer on society. He also reneged at 1966.
1970s And 1980s
The bookmaker sector grew exponentially over the decades following legalisation of high street gambling. By the 1970’s there have been 15,000 shops in the United Kingdom.
Here is the time when a lot of the largest names we know today made and solidified their standing. Britain’s earliest bookmakers, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral were earning so much that they also began to spend money on additional leisure businesses.
Regardless of the huge success of high street bookies in the past 3 decades the sector had a restricted clientele. The huge majority of punters utilizing gaming stores were working class guys and the standing of stores as being seedy dark dens full of smoke and filthy language didn’t help change this.
Bookies sought to create a larger customer base by introducing new features, such as live sport in stores and new soccer coupons to encourage more diverse clients and bets. The elimination of the’trebles rule’ on football in 1990’s went a fantastic way towards helping the bookies branch out, together with punters now able to back singles on a selection of sports.
A progressively better picture, wider range of stakes and markets, even more televised sports (particularly Premier League soccer ) and an ever-increasing disposable earnings, saw the fortunes of bookmakers rise again.
From the mid-1990’s the industry seemed locked down with five massive companies dominating the landscape, together with a few independents throughout the nation. Many thought gambling and gaming will be like this forever. That was until the internet came together.
New Millennium And The World Wide Web Online betting 2As that the 1990’s drew to a close a brand new threat began to emerge into the older established order, online gambling. This was more dangerous to the established high street bookies than you may imagine.
High street bookmaking was controlled by different betting and gaming functions and more importantly bets were taxed (9p/#1 staked). Online gambling however was a little bit like the wild west, you could basically set up in which you desired, launch a website and begin accepting bets from clients — tax free.
Although avoiding tax on gambling bets and winnings was at the time technically illegal it was nearly impossible to police. New firms together with the old high street bookies started to set up new websites, largely based off coast in Gibraltar or Malta, to make the most of this tax free commerce (many are still based there today).
From the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the market share online was still very low and even though the new unregulated online trade was a concern that it wasn’t prevalent enough to induce changes yet. The bookies were still making enough from the high street though taxation averting new manufacturers were now taking a percentage of their profits.
Victor Chandler And Tax
In 1999 Victor Chandler (now BetVictor) moved his bookmaking company off shore to Gibraltar in protest at the gambling tax rates in the UK, selling his 41 shops to Coral. This enabled Victor to provide betting opportunities to global customers, especially from Asia, without paying UK tax. It also allowed UK punters to bet without paying the 9p/# bet taxation.
It is believed it was this decision that directed the then UK chancellor, Gordon Brown, to eliminate the betting tax in 2001. Saying that although he removed the tax paid directly by the punter new taxes were imposed on the bookies profits left in the united kingdom and by this stage the ship had largely sailed and many traditional bookies were running their online operation from overseas.
2005 Gambling Act
gambling act 2005
Eventually the authorities realised that the status quo couldn’t continue forever. This {wasn’t|was not

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