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

You might look at the gambling and gambling industry and think there is a lot of healthy rivalry, with countless brands currently vying for our pennies. Many companies however, though they may appear independent, are in fact part of the same group, and you’ll likely not ever know it. As with many markets, there are in fact a few big players and the rest are left to scramble for the rest 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 ancient online only bookmakers have beaten the older land based operators, such as Bet365, and the planet’s largest 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 future of bookmaking in the united kingdom is in the equilibrium as it risks getting a monopoly of some very few massive companies, very much enjoy the energy markets.
In this report we also examine the development of the UK gambling industry, the size of the profits 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 (possessed by GVC Holdings)
Position 1
#2.5 Billion
Workers 30000
High Street Shops
Launched 2016 (Merger)
William Hill were ousted from top spot following the merger at 2016 of Britain’s second and third largest bookmakers in 2015, finished 2016. The new company, imaginatively named Ladbrokes-Coral Plc, generates almost #2.5 billion in revenue every year and employees over 30,000 people and is listed on the FTSE 250.
In 2018 the new group was further purchased by GVC in a deal worth roughly #4 billion, including further power to the brand on an global scale. GVC also own and run websites such as sportingbet (although we wouldn’t recommend them to bet 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 involving them. The group own nearly 4000 betting shops, although were made to market over 300 from the merger, and are just two of the most recognisable brands in the high street.
Coral, started by Joe Coral an online bookmaker in the 1920’s, grew rapidly following legalisation of off-course betting shops in 1961, becoming one of the first bookies to make the most. Merging with another firm in 1971 to become Coral Leisure the team was acquired by Bass in 1981. In 1997 Ladbrokes chose their very first attempt to purchase Coral from Bass but this was blocked by the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission at the moment. Coral was offered to Morgan Grenfell, a private equity company in 1999 and merged with Eurobet, among the first online betting sites, in precisely the same year. Gala bingo, founded in 1991 and operating over 150 halls using 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 at Ladbroke Hill). Following a move to London in the early 20th century the firm became a bookmaker for wealthy customers. Falling on more difficult times following WWII the business was sold for only #100,000. The same legalisation of gambling shops that drove Coral’s rise in 1961 nonetheless reversed the fortunes of Ladbrokes also, who were later floated on the stock market for #1M in 1966. With forays to the resort (Hilton Group) and home advantage industry the Ladbrokes team grew to next biggest UK bookmaker. Prior to the Coral merger Ladbrokes also obtained BETDAQ, the second biggest betting market, 2013.
The team now generate more than a third of the profits from electronic sources and involving them have more internet clients than any other company. For more about each brand see our full reviews.
Ladbrokes Review Coral Review
William Hill Plc
Position 2
#1.7 Billion
Employees 16000
High Street Shops
Launched 1934
For a long time William Hill would be the biggest betting business in the UK with over 2300 shops and only under #2 billion in annual earnings. The operator, that currently generates around #200 million in yearly earnings and can be 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 prohibited enterprises found he could make money using a loophole that allowed off-course gambling using post or credit. Hill’s entered late into the gaming store business, opening their first five years after the change in legislation in 1966, due to the founders belief that they were a cancer . He relented when he noticed how fast his competitors were getting forward.
The company changed ownership many times down the years. Bought for #700 million in 1997, the brand has been sold a couple of years later for 825 million and listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2002.
The William Hill group have had some corporate failures over the years but their aggressive approach, especially online, has enabled them to dominate the market landscape. Probably the most well known bookmaker in the world, largely to the fact Hill’s have spread outside the UK more than any other bookie, and also due to their vast amount they spend on sponsorship and advertising.
William Hill Review William Hill Casino Review
Paddy Power Betfair Plc
Position 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 example, but also the merger between Betfair and Paddy Power in 2016 to create the third biggest betting brand was certainly mutually beneficial to both parties.
Paddy Power, among Ireland’s largest bookmakers, was set in 1988 but it was the online age that actually saw the newest come to life via its frequently controversial advertising approaches. Holding over 600 shops across the united kingdom and Ireland and boasting retail revenues of nearly #1 billion Paddy Power brought the real world places, advertising strategy and money to the merger.
Betfair on the other hand had a very different history in the gambling industry. Located as a peer-peer betting exchange rather than a traditional bookie at 2000, Betfair became the largest of its kind in no time in any way. Despite better odds on offer in the market, the industry 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, making less than #500 million in revenue. Because of this PP shareholders received 52% and Betfair 48% of the new company.
Paddy Power Review Betfair Review
Bet365 Group Ltd
Ranking 4
#2.3 Billion
Employees 3500
High Street Shops
Established 2000
Bet365 meteoric increase has come form the electronic industry, and considering that just today is the internet gaming market bigger than the high street (excluding national lottery) that is a fairly remarkable 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 revenues and is the largest private employer 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 the stores to Coral at 2005 Bet365 became an internet only operator where they have gained a massive 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 enterprise.
Frequently cited as a success story of British internet business, if you should rule out the offline gambling sector then these guys are the greatest. Multi-award winnings and constantly developing new technologies and ideas that the only way this organization is going in the future is up.
Bet365 Review
Ranking 5
#800 Million
Employees 1000
High Street Shops
Launched 1967
The Betfred travel to getting one of the largest independent betting companies in the UK is much more heart-warming than most others. Launched from a single store in Salford by Fred that an Peter Done in 1967, the team now have a multi-billion turnover and up to #1 billion in revenues annually. According to Warrington the company hasn’t been sold or merged and stays in the same hands as it began in.
Fred Done is known in particular for paying our ancient on Manchester United to win the league twice only for them shed on both occasions (1998 and 2012). In addition, he dropped #1,000,000 at a private bet with Victor Chandler (owner of BetVictor) betting again on Man United, this time to complete higher than Chelsea in 2005 – which they did not. Despite these misjudgements Fred is also famous for inventing the Lucky 15 along with other complete cover stakes.
The business has a large gaming store performance, and since purchasing around 300 shops that Ladbrokes-Coral have been made to sell now own at the region of 1650 stores in the united kingdom. Famed for being among the best racing bookmakers Betfred improved their exposure in this market by purchasing the tote in 2011 for #265. This permits them to licence totepool bets to other operators as well as providing bespoke bag bets others don’t have. Despite this Betfred’s future looks blended 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
Established 1997
888 is a thoroughly modern betting company, there’s absolutely no romantic back story here. Now part of a somewhat convoluted corporate arrangement, 888 Holdings is the gaming arm of parent company Cassava Enterprises. Initially 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 lands in 2006 has continued to rise in all areas of online gaming. The group run 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 girls, Wink Bingo) using a distribution of 61 percent casino, 18% poker, 11% sport and 9% bingo.
888 really are a global online specialist which will only increase in the future. The company was fined nearly #8M from the gambling commission in 2017 for failure to correctly shield vulnerable gamblers in the united kingdom. This will slow down the aggressive development plan of the company, although only marginally.
888 Sport Review 888 Casino Review
Kindred Group (Unibet, 32Red, Stan James, et al)
Position 7
#800 Million
Employees 1400
High Steet Shops
100 (Stan James)
Launched 1997
Kindred is a title you will likely haven’t heard of, it’s in reality the rebranding of the older Unibet Group Plc following the purchase of over a dozen other manufacturers.
Quickly becoming one of the biggest betting businesses in Britain and Europe that the Kindred group comprises Stan James, 32Red, and Maria. Unibet is of course the jewel in the crown, the brand has grown to become among the biggest online gaming websites with over 15 million customers.
The future goal of the brand is clear from their recent history of takeovers, paying #19 million for Stan James (which contains a new real world existence ) and #175 million to 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 supply 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 gambling is bigger (40%). The trend in offline to online is expected to continue in the long run.
Within the online market casino is the biggest (slots 37% and other games 15%), followed by with sports betting (40 percent ). Exchange gambling (3%), online poker (2%) and online bingo (2%).
The Size Of The UK Gambling Industry
The UK gambling industry currently generates around #15 billion in annual revenues and is growing quickly at around 8% per year. Of this total on a third (#5 billion ) is made from online gaming, with a rough 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 every year and directly employs over 100,000 individuals (possibly up to 500,000 if you include indirect workers ).
High Street Bookmakers And Land Bases Casinos
Distribution of high street gaming venuesDespite the continuous change towards online betting because the turn of this century 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, 1800 arcades and 150 land-based casinos (63 possessed by the Rank Group and 41 by Genting). There are currently in the region of 200,000 gambling machines operated in the UK too, of which around 40,000 are the controversial fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The National Lottery (along with other lottery) revenues are also contained in the overall gambling revenue figure. This constitute to #3.5 billion of this total, with in the region of #250 million moving back to great causes.
High road bookmaking is liable for a similar figure, #3.5 billion yearly, claiming over 95 percent of their non-remote gambling earnings in the UK. Pool gambling (such as the Tote) constitutes 4% with other sources, such as on-track bookies, making up only 1%.
Land-based casinos generate #1 billion in annual profits. Just under half of this comes from roulette (44%), per quarter from blackjack (25%), a fifth (20%) kind slots and other electronic games and the remainder from 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, with the remainder coming from table and other games (an opposite trend to land based casinos). Poker, that is categorized under casino, generates less than 2% of their entire earnings.
Sports betting is the second biggest sector, producing around 37 percent of the overall earnings. Of this around 54% stems from football gambling, around 32 percent from horse racing and the rest from other resources (of that tennis makes up almost 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 entire market share, by 2016 that had grown to 32%. By 2020 the industry could approach 50% of annual revenues generated from gambling related activities in the united kingdom.
Evolution Of High Street To Online Betting
Apart from the peculiar independent bookie and some of the stalls you visit at racecourses, all bookmakers today offer online gambling. Of course, it didn’t used to be this way, and before the internet age breaking into the industry was easier said than done. For a full history of gambling see our dedicated page.
Prior to 1960 in the UK it had been illegal to take bets from horse and greyhound tracks. Betting was heavily regulated by the government and although prohibited operators did exist, overall you would find it really hard to place a wager from the monitor.
Bookies did take bets off-course through loop-holes from the law that allowed bets to be taken by phone or via postal order. This is the way William Hill started 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 customers. If you were nevertheless a normal working-class lad or lass nevertheless, there were quite a 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 low stakes pool gambling syndicate games, such as the football pools (which still exists now ).
Fundamentally before 1960 betting wasn’t very simple as you had to go to a 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 really apply to you personally and you could bet through discreet merchants.
1960 Betting And Gambling Act And Betting Shops
Betting shopIn 1960 the authorities finally embraced the new era. Normal people had more disposable income in their pockets and they wanted more freedom with how to invest their cash. The betting action for the first time permitted off-course gambling and from the following year, May 1961, a whole host of new betting shops opened across the duration of the nation in a rate of 100 per week.
Betting was still largely restricted to horse racing, with principles set up like the’trebles principle’ on football. This meant all footy bets necessary to be accumulators with at least 3 or more choices differently you couldn’t bet. The only sport you could put singles was rushing.
Still this new sector was adopted by the people of Britain, sowing the seed that eventually resulted in the UK becoming the biggest gaming state (per head) in the world.
Among the very first people to open one of these new betting shops was Joel Coral and 10,000 shops are reported to have opened within the first 6 months. Ironically the UK’s now biggest high street bookie, William Hill, originally refused to open gambling shops, saying they were a cancer on society. He reneged in 1966.
1970s And 1980s
The bookmaker sector grew exponentially over the years after legalisation of high street gambling. By the 1970’s there were 15,000 stores in the United Kingdom.
Here is the time when many of the largest names we know now made and solidified their reputation. Britain’s oldest bookmakers, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral were earning so much they also started to invest in additional leisure sectors.
Despite the enormous success of high street bookies from the previous three decades the industry had a restricted clientele. The huge majority of punters using gaming stores were working class men and the standing of shops as being seedy dark dens full of smoke and filthy language didn’t help to change this.
Bookies sought to create a bigger customer base by introducing new features, such as live game in stores and new football coupons to encourage more diverse customers and bets. The elimination of the’trebles rule’ on soccer in 1990’s moved a fantastic way towards supporting the bookies branch outside, with punters now able to back singles on a selection of sports.
A progressively better image, wider array of bets and markets, even more televised sports (especially Premier League soccer ) and also an ever-increasing disposable income, saw the bundles of bookmakers rise again.
By the mid-1990’s the sector seemed locked down with five massive companies dominating the landscape, together with a few independents throughout the country. Many thought gambling and gaming will be like this forever. That was until the internet came along.
New Millennium And The World Wide Web Online betting 2As the 1990’s brought to a close a new threat started to emerge into the older established order, online betting. This was more dangerous to the established high street bookies than you might imagine.
High road bookmaking was regulated by various betting and gambling functions and more importantly bets were taxed (9p/#1 staked). Online gambling nevertheless was a little bit like the wild west, so you can essentially set up in which you desired, launch a site and start taking bets from customers — tax free.
Although preventing tax on gambling bets and winnings was at the time technically illegal it was nearly impossible to police. New companies along with the old high street bookies started to set up new websites, mainly based off coast in Gibraltar or Malta, to take advantage of this tax free trade (most are still located there today).
From the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the industry share online was very low and even though the new unregulated online trade was a concern it was not widespread enough to cause changes yet. The bookies were making enough from the high street though taxation averting new manufacturers were taking a slice 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 gambling tax rates in the united kingdom, selling his 41 stores to Coral. This allowed Victor to provide betting opportunities to world-wide customers, especially from Asia, without paying UK tax. Additionally, it enabled UK punters to bet with no even paying the 9p/# stake tax.
It’s 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 levied on the bookies profits earned in the united kingdom and by this point the ship had largely sailed and many conventional bookies were running their online operation from overseas.
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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