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

You might look at the gambling and gaming industry and believe there’s a lot of healthy rivalry, with countless brands now vying for our pennies. Many businesses however, although they might appear independent, are in reality part of the same group, and you may never know it. As with many markets, there are actually a couple of large players and the rest are left to scramble for the remainder of the habit.
It isn’t only the old high street bookies such as William Hill and Betfred that occupy the top places in the biggest gaming business leagues. Many early online just bookmakers have already beaten the old land based operators, such as Bet365, and also the planet’s biggest and first online exchange, Betfair. Mergers between already huge companies like Ladbrokes and Coral and Betfair and Paddy Power has created behemoth bookies. The future of bookmaking in the UK is in the equilibrium as it risks becoming a monopoly of a very few enormous companies, very much enjoy the energy markets.
In this article we also examine the development of the UK gaming industry, the dimensions of the gains made together with the progressive switch to online betting and gambling.
Largest CompaniesUK Market ShareUK Market SizeEvolution of GamblingMergers
Largest Betting Firms Ladbrokes-Coral Group Plc (possessed 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 after the merger in 2016 of Britain’s second and third largest bookmakers in 2015, completed 2016. The new company, imaginatively named Ladbrokes-Coral Plc, creates almost #2.5 billion in revenue every year and workers over 30,000 individuals and is listed on the FTSE 250.
In 2018 the new group was farther bought by GVC in a deal worth around #4 billion, adding additional capability to the newest on an global scale. GVC also own and operate websites like sportingbet (though we would not recommend them to wager with), partypoker and Bwin.
Ladbrokes, Britain’s oldest betting company founded in 1886, and Coral, based in the 1926, have over 200 years experience of being a bookmaker between them. The group own nearly 4000 betting shops, although were made to market over 300 in the merger, and are two of the most recognisable brands on the British high street.
Coral, began by Joe Coral an online 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 company in 1971 to become Coral Leisure the group was acquired by Bass in 1981. In 1997 Ladbrokes chose their first attempt to buy Coral from Bass however this was blocked by the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission at the moment. Coral was sold to Morgan Grenfell, a private equity firm in 1999 and also merged with Eurobet, among the very first online gaming websites, in precisely the same year. Gala bingo, founded in 1991 and operating over 150 halls using an additional online presence, merged with Coral in 2005 to make 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 that the firm became a bookmaker for wealthy clients. Falling on more difficult times after WWII that the company was sold for just #100,000. The same legalisation of gambling shops that drove Coral’s increase in 1961 nonetheless reversed the fortunes of Ladbrokes also, who were afterwards floated on the stock exchange for #1M in 1966. With forays to the resort (Hilton Group) and residence advantage industry the Ladbrokes group grew to next largest UK bookmaker. Prior to the Coral merger Ladbrokes also obtained BETDAQ, the second biggest betting exchange, 2013.
The team now generate more than a third of their profits from electronic sources and involving them have more internet clients than any other business. For more about each brand visit our full reviews.
Ladbrokes Review Coral Review
William Hill Plc
Position 2
Headquarters
London
Revenue
#1.7 Billion
Workers 16000
High Street Shops
2300
Launched 1934
william-hill
For a very long time William Hill would be the biggest betting business in the UK with over 2300 shops and only under #2 billion in annual revenues. The operator, that currently generates around #200 million in annual earnings and can be listed on the FTSE 250, comes from humble beginnings.
In 1934 the company was founded by Mr William Hill, who after some early failures and prohibited enterprises found he could earn money using a loophole that permitted off-course gambling using credit or post. Hill’s entered into the gaming store business, starting their first five years following the change in law in 1966, as a result of founders belief they were a cancer to society. He relented when he saw how quickly his competitors 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 later for 825 million and recorded on the London Stock Exchange in 2002.
The William Hill group have had some corporate failures through the years but their competitive strategy, especially online, has enabled them to dominate the market landscape. Possibly the most well known bookmaker in the world, largely down to the reality Hill’s have spread outside the UK more than any other bookie, and due to their huge amount they spend on advertising and sponsorship.
William Hill Review William Hill Casino Review
Paddy Power Betfair Plc
Ranking 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 fresh to Ladbrokes for instance, but also the merger between Betfair and Paddy Power from 2016 to create the third largest betting brand was certainly mutually beneficial to both parties.
Paddy Power, one of Ireland’s largest bookmakers, was founded in 1988 but it was the online age that really saw the newest come to life through its often controversial advertising approaches. Holding over 600 stores across the united kingdom and Ireland and boasting retail revenues of almost #1 billion Paddy Power brought the real world places, advertising 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 at 2000, Betfair became the largest of its kind in no time in any way. Despite better chances on offer in the market, the market still remains fairly modest (see later) and so to be able to compete Betfair established a fixed odds sports book in 2011. Betfair would be the smaller party in the merger, generating less than #500 million in revenue. Because of this PP shareholders received 52% 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
Launched 2000
Bet365
Bet365 meteoric rise has all come form the digital industry, and believing that just now is the internet gaming market larger than the high street (excluding national lottery) which is a pretty impressive performance. When they say 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 now multi-billionaire Denise Coates, Bet365 currently generates massive online earnings and is the biggest private company in Stoke. They own the football stadium.
Denise began the business by borrowing against her fathers brick and mortar bookmaking business, established in 1974 from Stoke City chairman Peter Coates. Selling the shops to Coral in 2005 Bet365 became an internet only operator in the place where they have gained a huge customer base of more than 20+ million people from 200 countries. The manufacturer has the best reputation inside the gambling and gaming industry from the punters and insiders and boasts one of their most loyal customer bases of any business enterprise.
Frequently cited as a success story of British internet business, if you were to rule out the offline gaming sector then these guys are the greatest. Multi-award winnings and continuously developing new technology and ideas the only way this company is going in the future is up.
Bet365 Review
Betfred
Position 5
Headquarters
Warrington
Revenue
#800 Million
Employees 1000
High Street Shops
1650
Established 1967
Betfred
The Betfred travel to getting one of the biggest independent betting companies in the united kingdom is much more heart-warming than most others. Launched from one shop in Salford by Fred that an Peter Done in 1967, the group now have a multi-billion turnover and up to #1 billion in revenues annually. According to Warrington the company has never been sold or merged and remains in the very same hands as it started in.
Fred Done is known specifically for paying our early on Manchester United to win the league double just for them lose on both occasions (1998 and 2012). He also dropped #1,000,000 at a private bet with Victor Chandler (proprietor of BetVictor) betting again on Man United, this opportunity to complete greater than Chelsea in 2005 – they did not. Despite all these misjudgements Fred is also known for inventing the Lucky 15 and other complete cover bets.
The company has a sizable gaming store performance, and since purchasing around 300 stores that Ladbrokes-Coral were made to sell now own at the region of 1650 shops in the united kingdom. Famed for being among the best racing bookmakers Betfred increased their vulnerability in this market by purchasing the bag at 2011 for #265. This permits 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 seems blended and will probably hinge on how well they develop online in the next several years.
Betfred Review
888 Holdings Plc
Position 6
Headquarters
Gibraltar
Revenue
#600 Million
Workers 1600
High Street Shops
None
Launched 1997
888-holdings
888 is a thoroughly modern betting company, there is no romantic back story here. Now part of a somewhat convoluted company structure, 888 Holdings is your gaming arm of parent firm Cassava Enterprises. Originally founded as Virtual Holdings running an early casino website, casino-on-net, by two Israeli company men, the company grew in step with the development of the web.
The newest was renamed 888 in 2002 and despite taking a hard hit when online gambling became illegal in many US territories in 2006 has continued to grow in all areas of online gaming. The group run a sports (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% bingo.
888 really are a international online specialist which will only increase in the long run. The company was fined nearly #8M by the gambling commission in 2017 for failure to properly shield vulnerable gamblers in the UK. This will slow down the aggressive growth plan of the company, although only slightly.
888 Sport Review 888 Casino Review
Kindred Group (Unibet, 32Red, Stan James, et al)
Ranking 7
Headquarters
Malta
Revenue
#800 Million
Employees 1400
Top Steet Shops
100 (Stan James)
Established 1997
Kindred
Kindred is a name that you will likely haven’t heard of, it’s in reality the rebranding of this old Unibet Group Plc after the acquisition of over a dozen other manufacturers.
Fast becoming one of the biggest betting companies in Britain and Europe the Kindred group includes Stan James, 32Red, Bingo.com 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 clear in their current history of takeovers, paying #19 million for Stan James (which includes 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 online and offline gaming market share
The pie charts above show an overall representation of the distribution of gaming revenue in the UK. Offline gambling is still the biggest sector as this include the national lottery (28%), in contrast to high street bookies (27%) and land-based casinos (5 percent ) only online betting is bigger (40 percent ). The trend in offline to online is predicted to remain in the long run.
Within the online market casino is the biggest (slots 37% and other games 15 percent ), followed by with sports (40%). Exchange gambling (3 percent ), online poker (2%) and online bingo (2%).
The Size Of The UK Gambling Industry
The united kingdom gambling sector currently generates roughly #15 billion in annual revenues and is growing rapidly at around 8% 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 to the UK treasury each year and directly employs over 100,000 people (possibly up to 500,000 in the event that you include indirect workers ).
High Street Bookmakers And Land Bases Casinos
Supply of high street gambling venuesDespite the constant shift towards online gambling since the turn of the millennium there are still about 9000 betting shops in the UK (90% of which can be controlled by Coral, William Hill, Ladbrokes and Betfred), 600 bingo halls, 1800 arcades and 150 land-based casinos (63 possessed by the Rank Group and 41 by Genting). There are currently in the area 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 (along with other lottery) revenues are also contained in the general gambling earnings figure. This constitute to #3.5 billion of this total, with at the region of #250 million moving back to great causes.
High street 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) constitutes 4 percent with other sources, such as on-track bookies, making up just 1 percent.
Land-based casinos create #1 billion in annual profits. Just under half of this stems from roulette (44%), 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 supply in the UKApproximately 57% of internet gambling revenues comes from distant casinos. Of this 3 quarters derives in slots, together with the remainder coming from table along with other games (an opposite tendency to land based casinos). Poker, which can be categorized under casino, creates less than 2% of the entire revenue.
Sports betting is the next most significant sector, producing up to 37 percent of the overall revenue. Of this around 54% comes from football gambling, around 32% from horse racing and the remainder from different resources (of that tennis makes up 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% of the total market share, by 2016 this had grown to 32 percent. By 2020 the industry could approach 50% of annual revenues generated from gaming 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 see at racecourses, all bookmakers today offer online gambling. Obviously, it didn’t utilized to be this way, and prior to the online era breaking into the sector 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 prohibited to take bets away from horse and greyhound tracks. Betting was heavily regulated by the government and although illegal operators didn’t exist, overall you would find it really hard to place a bet away from the monitor.
Bookies did still take bets off-course through loop-holes from the law that allowed bets to be taken by telephone or through 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 for example started out as a gentleman’s bookmaker for high profile clients. In the event that you were nevertheless a typical working-class lad or lass nevertheless, there were very few options open for you.
Even then most gambling at the time was for dog and horse racing only. Football betting was largely outlawed, except for non stakes pool gambling syndicate games, like the football pools (which still exists now ).
Basically before 1960 betting was not very easy as you needed to attend some race-track to do it (or do it in a rear street gaming den). That’s unless you’re rich when the law did not actually apply to you personally and you may bet through discreet merchants.
1960 Betting And Gambling Act And Betting Shops
Gambling shopIn 1960 the authorities finally embraced the new age. Normal people had more disposable income in their pockets and they wanted more freedom with how to invest their cash. The betting act for the first time permitted off-course gaming and from the following year, May 1961, a whole host of new betting shops opened across the length of the nation at a rate of 100 a week.
Betting was still largely restricted to horse racing, with principles set up like the’trebles principle’ on football. This meant all of footy bets needed to be accumulators with at least 3 or more selections otherwise you couldn’t wager. The only sport you could put singles on was racing.
Nevertheless this new industry was embraced by the people of Britain, sowing the seed which eventually led to the UK becoming the biggest gambling state (per head) in the world.
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 initial 6 months. Paradoxically the UK’s now largest high street bookie, William Hill, originally refused to open betting shops, saying they had been a cancer on society. He reneged in 1966.
1970s And 1980s
The bookmaker industry grew exponentially over the years after legalisation of high street betting. By the 1970’s there have been 15,000 stores in the uk.
Here is the time when a lot of the largest names we know now made and solidified their standing. Britain’s oldest bookmakers, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral were making so much they even started to spend money on other leisure sectors.
1990’S
Regardless of the enormous achievement of high street bookies in the past 3 decades the industry had a restricted clientele. The huge majority of punters utilizing gaming stores were working class guys and the reputation of shops as being seedy dark dens filled with smoke and foul language didn’t help change this.
Bookies sought to create a larger customer base by introducing new features, such as live sport in shops and fresh football coupons to promote more diverse customers and bets. The removal of the’trebles rule’ on soccer in 1990’s moved a fantastic way towards helping the bookies branch out, together with punters now able to back singles on a selection of sports.
A progressively superior picture, wider range of bets and markets, more televised sports (especially Premier League football) and an ever-increasing disposable income, saw the bundles of bookmakers rise again.
By the mid-1990’s the industry seemed locked down with five enormous companies dominating the landscape, together with a couple of independents throughout the nation. Many believed betting and gambling will be like this forever. That was until the internet came together.
New Millennium And The Internet Online betting 2As the 1990’s brought to a close a brand new threat began to emerge to the old established order, online betting. This was dangerous to the established high street bookies than you might imagine.
High road bookmaking was regulated 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 can essentially set up wherever you desired, launch a site and begin accepting bets from clients — tax free.
Although avoiding tax on gambling bets and winnings was in the time illegal it was almost impossible to police. New firms along with the old high street bookies began to set up new sites, largely based off shore in Gibraltar or Malta, to take advantage of the tax free commerce (many are still located there now ).
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the industry share online was still very low and even though the new unregulated online commerce was a concern it wasn’t prevalent enough to cause changes yet. The bookies were making enough from the high street though tax avoiding new manufacturers were now taking a percentage of the profits.
Victor Chandler And Tax
In 1999 Victor Chandler (now BetVictor) moved his bookmaking company off coast to Gibraltar in protest in the betting tax prices in the UK, selling his 41 stores to Coral. This allowed Victor to provide betting opportunities to global customers, particularly from Asia, without paying UK tax. It also allowed UK punters to bet without even paying the 9p/# stake tax.
It’s believed it was this decision that led the then UK chancellor, Gordon Brown, to eliminate the gambling 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 ship had largely sailed and most conventional bookies were running their online performance from overseas.
2005 Gambling Act
gambling act 2005
Eventually the authorities realised the status quo couldn’t last indefinitely. This {wasn’t|was not

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