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

You may examine the gambling and gambling industry and believe there’s a whole lot of healthy rivalry, with countless brands now vying for our pennies. Many businesses however, although they may seem independent, are in reality part of the same group, and you’ll likely not ever 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 custom.
It isn’t only the old high street bookies like William Hill and Betfred that occupy the best places in the biggest betting company leagues. Many ancient online only bookmakers have already beaten the older land based operators, such as Bet365, and also the world’s biggest and earliest online exchange, Betfair. Mergers between already large companies such as Ladbrokes and Coral and Betfair and Paddy Power has created behemoth bookies. The near future of bookmaking in the united kingdom is in the balance as it risks getting a monopoly of some very few massive businesses, very much enjoy the energy markets.
In this article we also examine the progression of the UK gambling industry, the size of the profits made along with the progressive switch to online gaming and gaming.
Largest CompaniesUK Market ShareUK Market SizeEvolution of all GamblingMergers
Largest Betting Firms Ladbrokes-Coral Group Plc (owned by GVC Holdings)
Position 1
Headquarters
London
Revenue
#2.5 Billion
Workers 30000
High Street Shops
4000
Launched 2016 (Merger)
ladbrokes-coral
William Hill were ousted from top spot following the merger at 2016 of Britain’s second and third largest bookmakers in 2015, completed 2016. The new firm, 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 further bought by GVC at a deal worth around #4 billion, adding additional power to the brand on an global scale. GVC also own and operate sites like sportingbet (though we wouldn’t recommend them to bet 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 gambling stores, although were made to sell over 300 from the merger, and are just two of the most recognisable brands on the high street.
Coral, began by Joe Coral an online bookmaker from the 1920’s, grew rapidly following legalisation of off-course gaming stores in 1961, becoming one of the first bookies to make the most. Merging with another company in 1971 to become Coral Leisure the team was acquired by Bass in 1981. In 1997 Ladbrokes chose their first effort to purchase Coral from Bass however this was blocked by the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission at the time. Coral was offered to Morgan Grenfell, a private equity firm in 1999 and also 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 with an additional online presence, united with ghostly 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). After a move to London in the early 20th century the company became a bookmaker for wealthy clients. Falling on harder times following WWII that the business was sold for only #100,000. The identical legalisation of betting shops that drove Coral’s increase in 1961 nonetheless reversed the fortunes of Ladbrokes also, who were later floated on the stock exchange for #1M in 1966. With forays into the hotel (Hilton Group) and residence advantage sector the Ladbrokes team grew to next biggest UK bookmaker. Prior to the Coral merger Ladbrokes also acquired BETDAQ, the second largest betting market, 2013.
The team now generate more than a third of the profits from digital sources and between them have more internet customers than any other company. For more about every brand see our complete reviews.
Ladbrokes Review Coral Review
William Hill Plc
Ranking 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 largest betting company in the UK with over 2300 stores and only under #2 billion in annual earnings. The operator, which now 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 following 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 late into the gaming store industry, starting their first five years after the change in legislation in 1966, as a result of creators belief they were a cancer . He relented when he saw how quickly his opponents were getting forward.
The company changed ownership several times down the years. Bought for 700 million in 1997, the newest has been again sold a couple of decades after 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, particularly online, has allowed them to dominate the market landscape. Probably the most well known bookmaker in the world, mainly to the fact Hill’s have spread outside the UK over 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
Employees 8000
High Street Shops
600 (UK + I)
Established 2016 (Merger)
paddy-power-betfair
Many mergers are just about money. Coral didn’t really bring anything fresh to Ladbrokes for instance, but the merger between Betfair and Paddy Power in 2016 to create the third biggest gambling brand was certainly mutually beneficial to both parties.
Paddy Power, among Ireland’s largest bookmakers, was founded in 1988 but it was the online age that really watched the newest come to life via its often controversial advertising approaches. Holding over 600 stores across the united kingdom and Ireland and boasting retail earnings of nearly #1 billion Paddy Power brought the real world places, advertising strategy and cash to the merger.
Betfair on the other hand had a very different history in the betting industry. Located as a peer-peer betting exchange as opposed to a traditional bookie in 2000, Betfair became the biggest of its type in virtually no time in any way. Despite better chances on offer in the market, the industry still remains fairly small (see later) and so to be able 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. 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
Employees 3500
High Street Shops
None
Established 2000
Bet365
Bet365 meteoric increase has all come form the digital industry, and believing that just now is the internet gambling market bigger than the high street (excluding national lottery) which is a pretty remarkable performance. When they say in their advents that Bet365 is the worlds favourite online betting company they really are not lying.
Launched in 2000 from a small temporary building in Stoke by now multi-billionaire Denise Coates, Bet365 currently produces enormous online revenues and is the biggest private company in Stoke. They own the soccer arena.
Denise began the business by borrowing from her fathers mortar and brick bookmaking business, established in 1974 from Stoke City chairman Peter Coates. Selling off the shops to Coral in 2005 Bet365 became an internet only operator where they’ve gained a huge customer base of over 20+ million people from 200 nations. The manufacturer has the best reputation inside the gambling and gaming industry from the punters and insiders and boasts among the most loyal customer bases of any business.
Often mentioned as a success story of British online business, if you should rule out the offline gaming sector then these men would be the biggest. Multi-award winnings and constantly developing new technology and ideas the only way this organization is going in the long run is up.
Bet365 Review
Betfred
Ranking 5
Headquarters
Warrington
Revenue
#800 Million
Employees 1000
High Street Shops
1650
Launched 1967
Betfred
The Betfred travel to becoming one of the largest independent gambling companies in the united kingdom is more heart-warming than most others. Launched from a single shop 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. According to Warrington the company has never been sold or merged and stays in the same hands as it began in.
Fred Done is famous specifically for paying our ancient on Manchester United to win the league double just for them lose on both occasions (1998 and 2012). In addition, he lost #1,000,000 at a private bet with Victor Chandler (proprietor of BetVictor) betting again on Man United, this opportunity to complete higher than Chelsea in 2005 – which they didn’t. Despite these misjudgements Fred is also known for inventing the Lucky 15 along with other full cover bets.
The business has a large betting shop operation, and since purchasing 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 among the best racing bookmakers Betfred increased their vulnerability in this market by buying the tote in 2011 for #265. This permits them to enable totepool bets to other operators as well as providing bespoke bag bets others do not have. Despite this Betfred’s future seems mixed and will likely 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 thoroughly modern gambling company, there is no romantic back story here. Now part of a somewhat convoluted corporate structure, 888 Holdings is the gaming arm of parent company 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 internet.
The brand was renamed 888 at 2002 and despite taking a hard hit when online gambling became illegal in many US territories in 2006 has continued to grow in every area of online gambling. The group operate a sport (888 Sport) and poker website (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% poker, 11% sport and 9 percent bingo.
888 really are a global online specialist which will only grow in the long run. The business was fined almost #8M from the gaming commission in 2017 for failure to properly protect vulnerable gamblers in the united kingdom. This may slow down the aggressive development strategy of the company, although only slightly.
888 Sport Review 888 Casino Review
Kindred Group (Unibet, 32Red, Stan James, et al)
Position 7
Headquarters
Malta
Revenue
#800 Million
Workers 1400
Top Steet Shops
100 (Stan James)
Established 1997
Kindred
Kindred is a title you will likely haven’t heard of, it’s in fact the rebranding of the old Unibet Group Plc following the acquisition of over a dozen other brands.
Quickly becoming one of the biggest betting companies in Britain and Europe the Kindred group comprises Stan James, 32Red, Bingo.com 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 recent history of takeovers, paying #19 million to Stan James (which includes a brand new real world existence ) 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 distribution of gambling revenue in the UK. Offline gambling is still the largest sector as this include the federal lottery (28 percent ), compared to high street bookies (27 percent ) and land-based casinos (5%) only online betting is bigger (40%). The tendency from offline to online is predicted to continue in the long run.
Within the internet marketplace casino is the largest (slots 37% and other games 15%), followed by with sports (40 percent ). Exchange betting (3 percent ), online poker (2 percent ) and online bingo (2%).
The Size Of The UK Gambling Industry
The united kingdom gambling industry currently generates around #15 billion in annual revenues and is growing quickly at around 8% a year. Of this total over a third (#5 billion +) is created from online gambling, using a rough split of 60% casino and 40% sports gambling.
The sector as a whole is to blame for contributing around #8 billion to the UK treasury every 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
Distribution of high street gambling venuesDespite the constant shift towards online betting since the turn of this millennium there are still about 9000 betting shops in the UK (90% of which are 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 currently in the area of 200,000 gambling machines operated in the united kingdom also, of which around 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 earnings figure. This make up to #3.5 billion of the total, with in 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 (such as the Tote) makes up 4 percent with other sources, for example on-track bookies, making up just 1 percent.
Land-based casinos create #1 billion in yearly profits. Just under half of this stems from roulette (44%), a quarter from blackjack (25%), a fifth (20 percent ) kind slots and other electronic games and the rest from other tables and games.
Online Betting And Casino
Sports betting supply in the UKApproximately 57 percent of online gambling earnings comes from distant casinos. Of this three quarters derives in slots, with the remainder coming from table and other games (an opposite trend to land based casinos). Poker, which is classified under casino, creates less than 2 percent of their total earnings.
Sports gambling is the next biggest sector, producing around 37 percent of the overall revenue. 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 gambling (~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% of annual earnings generated from gaming related actions 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 provide online gambling. Of course, it didn’t utilized to be this way, and prior to the online age breaking into the industry was easier said than done. For a complete history of gambling 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. Gambling was heavily regulated by the government and although prohibited operators didn’t exist, overall you’d find it really hard to put a wager away from the monitor.
Bookies did take bets off-course through loop-holes in the law that enabled bets to be taken by phone or through postal order. This is how William Hill began out. In the event that you were wealthy enough of course 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 however, there were very few choices open to you.
Even then most betting at the time was for horse and dog racing only. Football gambling was largely outlawed, except for non stakes pool gambling syndicate games, like the soccer pools (which still exists today).
Basically before 1960 betting was not very easy as you had to go to some race-track to do it (or do it illegally in a back street gambling den). That is unless you were rich when the law didn’t actually apply to you and you could bet through discreet retailers.
1960 Betting And Gambling Act And Betting Shops
Betting 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 gambling act for the first time allowed off-course gaming and by the following year, May 1961, a whole plethora of new gambling shops opened across the length of the country at a rate of 100 per week.
Betting was largely restricted to horse racing, together with principles set up like the’trebles rule’ on soccer. This meant all footy bets needed to be accumulators with at least 3 or more selections otherwise you couldn’t wager. The only sports you could put singles on was racing.
Still this new sector was adopted by the people of Britain, sowing the seed which eventually led to the UK getting the biggest gaming nation (per head) in the world.
One of the first individuals to open one of these new gaming stores was Joel Coral and 10,000 stores are reported to have started within the first 6 months. Ironically the UK’s now biggest high street bookie, William Hill, originally refused to start gambling shops, stating they were a cancer on society. He also reneged in 1966.
1970s And 1980s
The bookmaker industry grew exponentially in the years following legalisation of high street gambling. 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 now made and solidified their reputation. Britain’s earliest bookmakers, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral were making so much they even began to invest in other leisure businesses.
1990’S
Regardless of the huge achievement of high street bookies in the previous three decades the industry had a restricted clientele. The vast majority of punters utilizing betting shops were working class guys and the reputation of shops as being seedy dark dens filled with smoke and filthy language didn’t help to change this.
Bookies sought to create a larger customer base by introducing new features, such as live sport in stores and fresh football coupons to promote more diverse customers and bets. The elimination of this’trebles rule’ on soccer in 1990’s went a fantastic way towards supporting the bookies branch out, together with punters now able to back singles on a selection of sports.
A progressively better picture, wider array of bets and markets, even more televised sports (particularly Premier League football) and an ever-increasing disposable income, saw the fortunes of bookmakers rise again.
By the mid-1990’s the sector seemed locked down with five enormous companies dominating the landscape, together with a couple of independents throughout the nation. Many thought betting and gambling will be like this forever. That was until the internet came along.
New Millennium And The Internet Online betting 2As the 1990’s brought to a close a 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 road bookmaking was controlled by various betting and gaming acts and much more importantly bets were taxed (9p/#1 staked). Online gambling however was a little bit like the wild west, so you can basically set up in which you desired, launch a website and start accepting bets from clients — tax free.
Although avoiding tax on gambling bets and winnings was at the time illegal it was almost impossible to police. New companies along with the old high street bookies began to install new sites, mainly based off shore in Gibraltar or Malta, to make the most of this tax free commerce (most are still located there today).
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the industry share online was still very low and although the new unregulated online trade was a concern that it was not widespread enough to induce changes yet. The bookies were still making enough from the large street even though tax avoiding new brands were now taking a slice of the profits.
Victor Chandler And Tax
In 1999 Victor Chandler (now BetVictor) moved his bookmaking business off shore to Gibraltar in protest in the gambling tax rates in the UK, selling his 41 shops to Coral. This enabled Victor to provide gaming chances to world-wide customers, especially from Asia, without paying UK tax. Additionally, it allowed UK punters to bet with no paying the 9p/# bet taxation.
It is thought it was this decision that directed the then UK chancellor, Gordon Brown, to eliminate the betting tax in 2001. Saying that though he removed the tax paid directly by the punter new taxes were imposed on the bookies profits left in the UK and by this stage the ship had largely sailed and many conventional bookies were running their online operation from abroad.
2005 Gambling Act
gambling act 2005
Finally the government realised that the status quo couldn’t continue forever. This {wasn’t|was not

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