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

You might look at the betting and gambling industry and think there’s a lot of healthy competition, with countless brands currently vying for our pennies. Many businesses however, though they may seem independent, are in reality part of the same group, and you may not ever know it. As with many markets, there are actually a few large players and the rest are left to scramble for the remainder of the custom.
It is not just the old high street bookies like William Hill and Betfred that occupy the top places from the largest gaming business leagues. Many early online just 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 large companies like Ladbrokes and Coral and Betfair and Paddy Power has generated behemoth bookies. The near future of bookmaking in the UK is in the equilibrium as it risks getting a monopoly of a very few massive businesses, very much like the energy markets.
In this article we also look at the progression of the UK gambling industry, the size of the profits made along with the progressive change to online betting and gaming.
Largest CompaniesUK Market ShareUK Market SizeEvolution of 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 around #4 billion, including further power to the brand on an international scale. GVC also own and run sites like 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 at the 1926, have over 200 years experience of being a bookmaker between them. The group own almost 4000 betting shops, although were made to market over 300 in the merger, and are just two of the most recognisable brands on the high street.
Coral, began by Joe Coral an on track bookmaker in the 1920’s, grew rapidly following 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 group was acquired by Bass in 1981. In 1997 Ladbrokes made their first attempt to purchase Coral from Bass however that was blocked by the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission in the time. Coral was sold to Morgan Grenfell, a private equity company in 1999 and also merged with Eurobet, among the very first online betting sites, in the exact same calendar year. Gala bingo, founded in 1991 and operating over 150 halls using an additional online presence, united with ghostly 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). After a move to London from the early 20th century the firm became a bookmaker for rich customers. 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 rise in 1961 nonetheless reversed the fortunes of Ladbrokes too, who were later floated on the stock exchange for #1M in 1966. With forays into the hotel (Hilton Group) and residence advantage industry the Ladbrokes team grew to second largest UK bookmaker. Prior to their Coral merger Ladbrokes also acquired BETDAQ, the 2nd biggest betting market, 2013.
The team now generate more than a third of their profits from electronic sources and involving them have more internet customers than any other business. For much more about every brand see our complete 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 largest betting company in the UK with over 2300 stores and only under #2 billion in yearly earnings. The operator, that currently generates around 200 million in yearly 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 ventures found he could make money by means of a loophole that allowed off-course gambling using credit or post. Hill’s entered into the gaming store industry, starting their first 5 years following the change in law in 1966, as a result of creators belief that they were a cancer . He relented when he noticed how quickly his opponents were getting ahead.
The company changed ownership many times down the years. Bought for #700 million in 1997, the brand was sold a couple of years later for 825 million and recorded on the London Stock Exchange in 2002.
The William Hill team have had some corporate failures through the years but their aggressive approach, particularly online, has allowed them to control the market landscape. Probably the most well-known bookmaker in the world, largely to the fact Hill’s have spread outside 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
#1.75 Billion
Workers 8000
High Street Shops
600 (UK + I)
Established 2016 (Merger)
Many mergers are merely about money. Coral didn’t really bring anything new to Ladbrokes for instance, however, also the merger between Betfair and Paddy Power from 2016 to make the third biggest gambling brand was surely 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 brand come to life via its often controversial advertising strategies. Holding over 600 shops across the united kingdom and Ireland and boasting retail revenues of nearly #1 billion Paddy Power brought the real world locations, advertising strategy and money to the merger.
Betfair on the other hand had a very distinct history in the gambling industry. Launching as a peer-peer gaming market as opposed to a traditional bookie at 2000, Betfair became the biggest of its type in virtually no time in any way. Despite better chances on offer from the exchange, the industry still remains fairly modest (see later) and so to be able to compete Betfair launched a fixed odds sports publication in 2011. Betfair would be the smaller party in the merger, generating less than 500 million in earnings. For this reason PP shareholders received 52% and Betfair 48 percent of the new firm.
Paddy Power Review Betfair Review
Bet365 Group Ltd
Position 4
#2.3 Billion
Workers 3500
High Street Shops
Established 2000
Bet365 meteoric rise has all come form the digital industry, and believing that just today is the online gaming market bigger than the high street (excluding national lottery) which is a fairly remarkable performance. When they state in their advents that Bet365 is the worlds favorite online gambling company they really are not lying.
Launched in 2000 from a tiny temporary building in Stoke by today multi-billionaire Denise Coates, Bet365 currently produces enormous online earnings and is the biggest private employer in Stoke. They even own the soccer stadium.
Denise started the business by borrowing from her fathers mortar and brick bookmaking business, established in 1974 from Stoke City chairman Peter Coates. Selling the shops to Coral at 2005 Bet365 became an internet only operator where they have gained a huge customer base of over 20+ million people from 200 nations. The manufacturer has the best reputation inside the gambling and gaming sector from both punters and insiders and boasts one of their most loyal customer bases of any business.
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 biggest. Multi-award winnings and continuously developing new technologies and ideas that the only way this company is moving in the long run is up.
Bet365 Review
Position 5
#800 Million
Workers 1000
High Street Shops
Established 1967
The Betfred travel to getting one of the biggest independent betting companies in the united kingdom is much more heart-warming than others. Established from one shop in Salford by Fred that 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 hasn’t been sold or merged and stays in the very same hands as it started in.
Fred Done is known specifically for paying our ancient on Manchester United to win the league double just for them shed on both occasions (1998 and 2012). He also dropped #1,000,000 in a personal bet with Victor Chandler (owner of BetVictor) gambling again on Man United, this opportunity to complete 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 company has a large gaming store operation, and since purchasing around 300 stores that Ladbrokes-Coral have been made to sell now own in the area of 1650 shops in the united kingdom. Famous for being among the best racing bookmakers Betfred increased their vulnerability in this market by buying the tote at 2011 for #265. This permits them to licence totepool bets to other operators in addition to supplying bespoke tote bets others don’t have. Regardless of this Betfred’s future seems mixed and will probably hinge on how well they grow online in the coming years.
Betfred Review
888 Holdings Plc
Ranking 6
#600 Million
Employees 1600
High Street Shops
Established 1997
888 is a completely modern betting company, there is no romantic back story here. Currently part of a somewhat convoluted company structure, 888 Holdings is your gambling arm of parent company Cassava Enterprises. Originally founded as Virtual Holdings conducting an early casino site, casino-on-net, by two Israeli company guys, the business grew in step with the rise of the internet.
The brand was renamed 888 in 2002 and despite having a hard hit when online gambling became illegal in several US territories in 2006 has continued to rise in every area of online gaming. The team run a sports (888 Sport) and poker website (888 Poker) and several casino (e.g. 888 casino, 777 casino)) and bingo brands (e.g. 888 bingo, 888 girls, Wink Bingo) with a distribution of 61 percent casino, 18% poker, 11% game and 9% bingo.
888 are a global online specialist which will only grow in the future. The business was fined almost #8M by the gaming commission in 2017 for failure to correctly protect vulnerable gamblers in the UK. This may 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
Workers 1400
High Steet Shops
100 (Stan James)
Established 1997
Kindred is a title you will likely not have heard of, it is in reality the rebranding of the old Unibet Group Plc after the purchase of over a dozen other manufacturers.
Quickly becoming one of the biggest betting businesses in Britain and Europe 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 among the largest online betting sites with over 15 million clients.
The future intention of this brand is clear from their recent 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 a general representation of the supply of gaming revenue in the UK. Offline gambling remains the biggest sector as this include the national lottery (28 percent ), compared to high street bookies (27%) and land-based casinos (5 percent ) only online gambling is bigger (40%). The tendency in offline to online is predicted to remain in the long run.
Within the online market casino is the largest (slots 37% and other games 15 percent ), followed closely with sports betting (40%). Exchange gambling (3%), online poker (2%) and online bingo (2%).
The Size Of The UK Gambling Industry
The UK gambling sector currently generates around #15 billion in annual revenues and is growing quickly at up to 8% per year. Of this total on a third (Number 5 billion +) is created from online gambling, using a rough split of 60% casino and 40% sports gambling.
The industry as a whole is to blame for contributing around #8 billion to the UK treasury each 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 constant shift towards online gambling since the turn of this century there are still around 9000 betting 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 possessed by the Rank Group and 41 by Genting). There are in the area of 200,000 gaming machines operated in the UK also, of which around 40,000 will be the contentious fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The National Lottery (and other lottery) earnings are also included in the general gambling revenue figure. This constitute to #3.5 billion of the total, with at the region of #250 million moving back to great causes.
High road bookmaking is responsible for a similar amount, #3.5 billion yearly, claiming over 95% of the non-remote gambling earnings in the united kingdom. Pool gambling (like the Tote) constitutes 4% with other resources, for example 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 percent ), per quarter from blackjack (25 percent ), a fifth (20%) kind slots and other digital games and the remainder from various other games and tables.
Online Betting And Casino
Sports betting distribution in the UKApproximately 57 percent of online gambling revenues comes from distant casinos. Of this three quarters derives from slots, with the rest coming from table along with other games (an opposite tendency to land based casinos). Poker, that is categorized under casino, creates less than 2% of their total earnings.
Sports betting is the second biggest industry, producing up to 37 percent of the overall revenue. Of this around 54 percent comes from soccer betting, around 32 percent from horse racing and the remainder from other sources (of which tennis makes up nearly half).
Other sources of revenue include exchange betting (~3%), on line bingo (~3%) and swimming betting (~0.5%).
In 2014 the online sector made up 29% of the entire market share, by 2016 that had grown 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 peculiar independent bookie and a number of the stalls you see at racecourses, all bookmakers now offer online gambling. Obviously, it did not utilized to be this way, and before the internet era breaking into the sector was easier said than done. For a full history of gaming see our dedicated page.
Prior to 1960 from 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’d find it really hard to put a wager from the track.
Bookies did still take bets off-course through loop-holes from the law that allowed bets to be obtained by telephone or through 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 such as started out as a gentleman’s bookmaker for high profile clients. If you were however a typical working-class lad or lass nevertheless, there were very few options open to you.
Even then most betting at the time was for horse and dog racing only. Football betting was largely outlawed, except for non stakes pool betting syndicate games, like the soccer pools (which still exists now ).
Basically before 1960 betting wasn’t very simple as you needed to attend some race-track to do it (or do it in a rear street gaming den). That is unless you’re rich once the law didn’t really apply to you personally and you could bet through discreet retailers.
1960 Betting And Gambling Act And Betting Shops
Betting shopIn 1960 the government finally 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 permitted off-course gambling and from the following year, May 1961, a whole plethora of new betting shops opened throughout the duration of the nation at a rate of 100 a week.
Betting was largely restricted to horse racing, together with rules in place such as the’trebles rule’ on soccer. This meant all footy bets necessary to be accumulators with 3 or more selections differently you could not bet. 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 becoming the largest gaming nation (per head) on earth.
Among the very first individuals to open one of these new betting shops was Joel Coral and 10,000 stores have been reported to have opened over the first 6 months. Paradoxically the UK’s now largest high street bookie, William Hill, initially refused to start gambling shops, saying they were a cancer on society. He reneged in 1966.
1970s And 1980s
The bookmaker sector grew exponentially in the decades after legalisation of high street gambling. By the 1970’s there were 15,000 shops in the uk.
Here is the time when many of the largest names we know today made and solidified their standing. Britain’s oldest bookmakers, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral were earning so much that they also began to invest in other leisure sectors.
Despite the huge success of high street bookies in the previous 3 decades the industry had a restricted clientele. The vast majority of punters utilizing betting shops were working class guys and the reputation of stores as being dark dens filled with smoke and foul language did not help to 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 encourage more diverse customers and bets. The removal of the’trebles rule’ on soccer in 1990’s went a fantastic way towards supporting the bookies branch out, with punters now able to back singles on a range of sports.
A progressively superior image, wider range of bets and markets, more televised sports (particularly Premier League soccer ) and an ever-increasing disposable income, saw the bundles of bookmakers rise again.
By the mid-1990’s the sector seemed locked down with five enormous companies dominating the landscape, along with a couple of independents across the country. Many believed betting and gaming will be like this forever. That was before the internet came along.
New Millennium And The World Wide Web Online betting 2As that the 1990’s brought to a close a brand new threat started to emerge to the older established order, online gambling. This was more dangerous to the established high street bookies than you might imagine.
High street bookmaking was controlled by different betting and gambling acts and more importantly stakes were taxed (9p/#1 staked). Online gambling nevertheless was a little bit like the wild west, so you can basically set up in which you wanted, launch a site and begin accepting bets from customers — 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 began to set up new sites, largely based off shore in Gibraltar or Malta, to make the most of the tax free commerce (most are still located there today).
From the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the industry share online was still very low and although the new unregulated online commerce was a concern that it wasn’t prevalent enough to cause changes yet. The bookies were still making enough from the high street though taxation averting new manufacturers were taking a slice of their profits.
Victor Chandler And Tax
In 1999 Victor Chandler (now BetVictor) moved his bookmaking company off coast to Gibraltar in protest at the gambling tax prices in the UK, selling his 41 stores to Coral. This enabled Victor to provide gaming chances to global customers, particularly from Asia, without paying UK tax. Additionally, it enabled UK punters to bet without even paying the 9p/# bet taxation.
It is believed it was this decision that directed the then UK chancellor, Gordon Brown, to eliminate the gambling tax in 2001. Saying that though he eliminated the tax paid directly by the punter new taxes were levied on the bookies profits left in the UK and by this point the boat had largely sailed and many traditional bookies were conducting their online operation from overseas.
2005 Gambling Act
gambling act 2005
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