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

You may look at the gambling and gaming industry and think there is a lot of healthy competition, with hundreds of brands currently vying for our pennies. Many businesses however, though they might appear impartial, are in reality part of the same group, and you may not ever know it. As with many markets, there are actually a couple of large players and the rest are left to scramble for the rest of the habit.
It is not only the old high street bookies like William Hill and Betfred that occupy the best spots in the biggest betting company leagues. Many early online only bookmakers have already beaten the older land based operators, such as Bet365, and the planet’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 future of bookmaking in the UK is in the balance as it risks becoming a monopoly of some very few massive companies, very much enjoy the energy markets.
In this report we also look at the progression of the united kingdom gaming industry, the size of the profits made along with the progressive switch to online gaming and gambling.
Largest CompaniesUK Market ShareUK Market SizeEvolution of all 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 following the merger at 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 every year and employees over 30,000 individuals and is listed on the FTSE 250.
In 2018 the new group was farther purchased by GVC at a deal worth roughly #4 billion, including further power to the brand on an international scale. GVC also own and run sites such as sportingbet (although we wouldn’t 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 involving them. The group own almost 4000 gambling stores, although were made to market over 300 in the merger, and so are two of the most recognisable brands in the high street.
Coral, started by Joe Coral an on track bookmaker from the 1920’s, grew immediately following legalisation of off-course betting shops in 1961, becoming among the very first bookies to take advantage. Merging with another firm in 1971 to become Coral Leisure the team was acquired by Bass in 1981. In 1997 Ladbrokes chose their first attempt to buy Coral from Bass however 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 merged with Eurobet, among the first online gaming websites, in the same calendar year. Gala bingo, founded in 1991 and operating over 150 halls using an additional internet presence, merged with Coral in 2005 to form the Gala Coral Group.
Ladbrokes was launched by two guys who acted as a commission representatives for horses (trained in Ladbroke Hill). Following a move to London from the early 20th century that the firm became a bookmaker for wealthy clients. Falling on harder times after WWII that the company was sold for just #100,000. The same 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 resort (Hilton Group) and residence convenience industry the Ladbrokes team grew to second biggest UK bookmaker. Prior to the Coral merger Ladbrokes also obtained BETDAQ, the second largest betting market, 2013.
The team now generate over a third of the gains from electronic sources and between them have more online clients than any other company. For more about every brand visit our complete reviews.
Ladbrokes Review Coral Review
William Hill Plc
Position 2
Headquarters
London
Revenue
#1.7 Billion
Employees 16000
High Street Shops
2300
Launched 1934
william-hill
For a long time William Hill would be the largest betting company in the UK with over 2300 shops and only under #2 billion in yearly earnings. The operator, which now generates around 200 million in annual profits and can be listed on the FTSE 250, comes from modest beginnings.
In 1934 the company was founded by Mr William Hill, who following some early failures and prohibited enterprises found he could make money by means of a loophole that allowed off-course betting using credit or post. Hill’s entered into the gaming store industry, opening their first five years following the change in legislation in 1966, as a result of founders belief that they were a cancer to society. He relented when he saw how fast his opponents were getting forward.
The company changed ownership many times down the years. Bought for 700 million in 1997, the brand has been again sold a couple of years after for #825 million and listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2002.
The William Hill team have experienced 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, largely to the reality Hill’s have spread out the UK over 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
Ranking 3
Headquarters
Dublin
Revenue
#1.75 Billion
Employees 8000
High Street Shops
600 (UK + I)
Launched 2016 (Merger)
paddy-power-betfair
Many mergers are merely about money. Coral did not really bring anything fresh to Ladbrokes for example, however, also 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 largest bookmakers, was set in 1988 but it was the online age that really watched the newest come to life through its often controversial advertising approaches. Holding over 600 shops across the united kingdom and Ireland and boasting retail revenues of almost #1 billion Paddy Power attracted 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 gaming market as opposed to a traditional bookie at 2000, Betfair became the largest of its kind in virtually no time at all. Despite better chances on offer from the market, the market still remains fairly modest (see later) and so in order to compete Betfair launched 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% of the new firm.
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 only today is the online gaming market bigger than the high street (excluding national lottery) that 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 currently generates massive online revenues and is the largest private company in Stoke. They own the football stadium.
Denise began the business by borrowing against her fathers mortar and brick bookmaking business, established in 1974 from Stoke City chairman Peter Coates. Selling off the stores to Coral at 2005 Bet365 became an online only operator where they’ve gained a massive customer base of over 20+ million people from 200 nations. The brand has the best reputation within the betting and gaming industry from both punters and insiders and boasts among their most loyal customer bases of any business enterprise.
Often cited as a success story of British online business, if you should rule out the offline gambling sector then these guys would be the biggest. Multi-award winnings and constantly developing new technology and ideas that the only way this organization is going in the long run is up.
Bet365 Review
Betfred
Position 5
Headquarters
Warrington
Revenue
#800 Million
Employees 1000
High Street Shops
1650
Launched 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. Established from a single shop in Salford by Fred that an Peter Done in 1967, the team now have a multi-billion turnover as well as #1 billion in revenues annually. Based in Warrington the company hasn’t been sold or merged and remains in the same hands as it began in.
Fred Done is known specifically for paying our early on Manchester United to win the league double only for them lose on both events (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 time to finish higher than Chelsea in 2005 – which they did not. Despite these misjudgements Fred is also famous for inventing the Lucky 15 and other full cover stakes.
The company has a large betting shop operation, and since purchasing around 300 stores that Ladbrokes-Coral were forced to sell now own in the area of 1650 stores in the united kingdom. Famed for being one of the very best racing bookmakers Betfred improved their exposure in this market by purchasing the bag in 2011 for #265. This permits 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 seems mixed and will likely hinge on how well they grow on the internet 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 completely modern gambling company, there’s absolutely no romantic rear story here. Currently part of a rather convoluted company structure, 888 Holdings is the gambling arm of parent firm Cassava Enterprises. Initially founded as Virtual Holdings conducting an early casino website, casino-on-net, by 2 Israeli business men, the company grew in step with the rise of the internet.
The brand was renamed 888 at 2002 and despite having 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 operate a sport (888 Sport) and poker site (888 Poker) and several casino (e.g. 888 casino, 777 casino)) and bingo brands (e.g. 888 bingo, 888 ladies, Wink Bingo) with a distribution of 61 percent casino, 18 percent poker, 11% game and 9% bingo.
888 are a international online specialist which will only increase in the long run. The company was fined nearly #8M by the gaming commission in 2017 for failure to properly shield vulnerable gamblers in the united kingdom. This will slow down the aggressive growth plan of the company, although only marginally.
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 you will likely haven’t heard of, it is in fact the rebranding of this older Unibet Group Plc after the acquisition of over a dozen other brands.
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 largest online gaming websites with over 15 million clients.
The future goal of this brand is apparent from 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 offline and online gaming market share
The pie charts above show an overall representation of the distribution of gaming revenue in the united kingdom. Offline gambling remains the largest sector as this comprise the federal lottery (28%), compared to high street bookies (27%) and land-based casinos (5%) only online betting is larger (40%). The tendency in offline to online is expected to continue in the future.
Within the online marketplace casino is the biggest (slots 37% and other games 15%), followed closely with sports betting (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 roughly #15 billion in annual revenues and is increasing quickly at around 8 percent a year. Of this total over a third (#5 billion +) is created from online gaming, using a demanding split of 60 percent casino and 40% sports betting.
The sector as a whole is responsible for contributing approximately #8 billion to the UK treasury each 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 gambling venuesDespite the continuous shift towards online gambling since the turn of the millennium there are still around 9000 gambling shops in the UK (90 percent of which are 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 region of 200,000 gaming machines operated in the united kingdom too, of which approximately 40,000 will be the controversial fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The National Lottery (and other lottery) earnings are also included in the overall gambling earnings figure. This constitute to #3.5 billion of the total, with in the region of #250 million going back to great causes.
High street bookmaking is responsible for a similar figure, #3.5 billion annually, claiming over 95% of their non-remote gambling earnings in the united kingdom. Pool betting (such as the Tote) makes up 4 percent with other resources, such as on-track bookies, making up only 1%.
Land-based casinos create #1 billion in annual profits. Just under half of this stems from roulette (44 percent ), per quarter from blackjack (25 percent ), a fifth (20 percent ) kind slots and other digital games and the rest from other tables and games.
Online Betting And Casino
Sports betting supply in the UKApproximately 57% of online gambling revenues comes from distant casinos. Of this three quarters derives in slots, with the remainder coming from table along with other games (an opposite trend to land based casinos). Poker, that can be categorized under casino, creates less than 2 percent of their entire earnings.
Sports gambling is the next biggest industry, producing around 37 percent of the overall revenue. Of this around 54% comes from football betting, 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 betting (~3%), online bingo (~3%) and swimming gambling (~0.5%).
In 2014 the online sector made up 29% of the entire market share, by 2016 this had risen to 32 percent. By 2020 the industry could approach 50% of annual revenues generated from gambling related activities in the UK.
Evolution Of High Street To Internet Betting
Apart from the odd independent bookie and a number of the stalls you visit at racecourses, all bookmakers now offer online gambling. Obviously, it did not used to be this way, and prior to the internet era 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 illegal to take bets away from horse and greyhound tracks. Gambling was heavily regulated by the government and although illegal operators did exist, overall you’d find it hard to place a wager away from the monitor.
Bookies did still take bets off-course through loop-holes in the law that allowed bets to be obtained by phone or via postal order. This is how William Hill began out. In the event that you were wealthy enough needless to say there were always options open for you, Ladbrokes such as began as a gentleman’s bookmaker for high profile clients. If you were nevertheless a typical working-class lad or lass however, there were very few choices open to you.
Even then most gambling at the time was for horse and dog racing only. Football gambling was mostly outlawed, except for low stakes pool gambling syndicate games, such as the football pools (which still exists today).
Basically before 1960 betting was not very simple as you needed to go to some race-track to do it (or do it illegally in a back street gaming den). That is unless you’re rich when the law did not actually apply to you and you could bet through discreet merchants.
1960 Betting And Gambling Act And Betting Shops
Betting 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 spend their cash. The betting act for the first time permitted off-course gambling and from the next year, May 1961, a whole plethora of new betting shops opened across the duration of the country at a rate of 100 per week.
Betting was largely restricted to horse racing, together with rules in place like the’trebles rule’ on soccer. This meant all footy bets needed to be accumulators with at least 3 or more choices otherwise you couldn’t bet. The only sport you could put singles was racing.
Still this new industry was embraced by the people of Britain, sowing the seed that eventually led to the UK getting the biggest gaming state (per head) in the world.
Among the first people to open one of these new betting shops was Joel Coral and 10,000 shops have been reported to have started over the first 6 months. Paradoxically the UK’s now largest high street bookie, William Hill, initially refused to start gambling shops, stating they were a cancer on society. He also reneged at 1966.
1970s And 1980s
The bookmaker industry grew exponentially over the years after legalisation of high street gambling. From the 1970’s there were 15,000 stores in the uk.
This is the time when many of the largest names we know today made and solidified their reputation. Britain’s oldest bookmakers, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral were making so much they even began to invest in additional leisure businesses.
1990’S
Regardless of the enormous success of high street bookies from the past 3 decades the industry had a restricted clientele. The vast majority of punters utilizing gaming stores were working class guys and the reputation of shops as being seedy dark dens filled with smoke and filthy language didn’t help change this.
Bookies sought to make a larger customer base by introducing new features, such as live sport in shops and new soccer coupons to encourage more diverse customers and bets. The elimination of this’trebles rule’ on football in 1990’s moved a great way towards supporting the bookies branch outside, together with punters now able to back singles on a selection of sports.
A progressively better picture, wider range of bets and markets, more televised sports (especially Premier League football) and also 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, along with a few independents throughout the country. Many thought gambling and gambling will be like this forever. This was until the internet came together.
New Millennium And The World Wide Web Online betting 2As that the 1990’s brought to a close a brand new threat began to emerge into the older established order, online betting. This was dangerous to the established high street bookies than you might imagine.
High street bookmaking was controlled by various betting and gambling acts and much 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 site and begin accepting bets from clients – tax free.
Although avoiding tax on gambling stakes and winnings was at the time illegal it was nearly impossible to police. New firms together with the old high street bookies started to set up new websites, mainly based off shore in Gibraltar or Malta, to take advantage of the tax free trade (many are still located there now ).
From the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the market share online was very low and although the new unregulated online commerce was a concern that it wasn’t widespread enough to cause changes yet. The bookies were still making enough from the high street even though tax averting new brands were taking a percentage of the profits.
Victor Chandler And Tax
In 1999 Victor Chandler (now BetVictor) transferred his bookmaking company off shore to Gibraltar in protest at the betting tax prices in the UK, selling his 41 shops to Coral. This enabled Victor to supply 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 thought 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 conducting their online performance from overseas.
2005 Gambling Act
gambling act 2005
Finally the authorities realised the status quo couldn’t continue forever. This {wasn’t|was not

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