You might examine the betting and gaming industry and believe there is a lot of healthy competition, with countless brands now vying for our pennies. Many companies however, although they may seem impartial, are in fact part of the same group, and you may never know it. As with many markets, there are in fact a few big players and the remainder are left to scramble for the remainder of the custom.
It isn't just 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 also the planet's biggest and first online exchange, Betfair. Mergers between already large companies like Ladbrokes and Coral and Betfair and Paddy Power has generated behemoth bookies. The future of bookmaking in the united kingdom is in the balance as it risks getting a monopoly of some very few enormous companies, very much enjoy the energy markets.
Within this report we also examine the development of the UK gambling 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 (owned by GVC Holdings)
Ranking 1
#2.5 Billion
Employees 30000
High Street Shops
Launched 2016 (Merger)
William Hill were ousted from top spot after the merger at 2016 of Britain's second and third biggest bookmakers in 2015, finished 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 further purchased by GVC at a deal worth around #4 billion, adding further power to the newest on an global scale. GVC also own and operate sites such as sportingbet (though we would not 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 involving 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 high street.
Coral, started by Joe Coral an online bookmaker from the 1920's, grew rapidly following legalisation of off-course betting shops in 1961, becoming among the first bookies to make the most. Merging with another firm in 1971 to become Coral Leisure the team was obtained by Bass in 1981. In 1997 Ladbrokes chose their very first effort to buy Coral from Bass but 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, one of the very first online gaming websites, in the same calendar year. Gala bingo, founded in 1991 and functioning over 150 halls with an additional internet presence, merged with Coral in 2005 to form the Gala Coral Group.
Ladbrokes was started by two men who acted as a commission agents for horses (trained in Ladbroke Hill). After a move to London in the early 20th century that the company became a bookmaker for rich clients. Falling on harder times following WWII that the business was sold for just #100,000. The identical legalisation of gambling shops that drove Coral's increase in 1961 nonetheless reversed the fortunes of Ladbrokes too, who were later floated on the stock market for #1M in 1966. With forays into the resort (Hilton Group) and home advantage sector the Ladbrokes team grew to next biggest UK bookmaker. Before the Coral merger Ladbrokes also obtained BETDAQ, the second largest betting exchange, 2013.
The team now generate more than a third of their gains from digital sources and between them have more online customers than any other company. For much more about each brand visit our complete reviews.
Ladbrokes Review Coral Review
William Hill Plc
Position 2
#1.7 Billion
Employees 16000
High Street Shops
Established 1934
For a long time William Hill would be the biggest betting business in the UK with over 2300 stores and only under #2 billion in annual revenues. The operator, which now generates around #200 million in yearly earnings and is listed on the FTSE 250, comes from humble beginnings.
In 1934 the company was established by Mr William Hill, who after some early failures and illegal ventures found he could earn money using a loophole that allowed off-course betting using post or credit. Hill's entered late into the gaming store business, opening their first 5 years following the change in law in 1966, as a result of founders belief that they were a cancer to society. He relented when he noticed how quickly his opponents were getting ahead.
The company changed ownership several times down the years. Bought for #700 million in 1997, the newest has been sold a couple of years after for #825 million and recorded on the London Stock Exchange in 2002.
The William Hill team have experienced some corporate failures over the years but their competitive approach, especially online, has allowed them to dominate the industry landscape. Probably the most well-known bookmaker in the world, mainly down to the fact Hill's have spread out the UK over any other bookie, and also due to their huge amount they spend on advertising and sponsorship.
William Hill Review William Hill Casino Review
Paddy Power Betfair Plc
Ranking 3
#1.75 Billion
Employees 8000
High Street Shops
600 (UK + I)
Established 2016 (Merger)
Many mergers are merely about money. Coral didn't really bring anything fresh to Ladbrokes for instance, but also the merger between Betfair and Paddy Power from 2016 to make the third biggest gambling 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 often controversial advertising strategies. Holding over 600 shops across the UK and Ireland and boasting retail earnings of almost #1 billion Paddy Power brought the real world places, marketing 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 gaming market rather than a traditional bookie at 2000, Betfair became the largest of its kind in no time at all. Despite better chances on offer from the exchange, the industry still remains fairly modest (see later) and so to be able to compete Betfair established a fixed odds sports publication in 2011. Betfair are the smaller party in the merger, making less than #500 million in revenue. For this reason PP shareholders received 52% and Betfair 48% of the new firm.
Paddy Power Review Betfair Review
Bet365 Group Ltd
Ranking 4
#2.3 Billion
Employees 3500
High Street Shops
Launched 2000
Bet365 meteoric increase has come form the electronic industry, and believing that only today is the internet gambling market larger than the high street (excluding national lottery) that is a fairly remarkable performance. When they say in their advents which Bet365 is the worlds favourite online gambling company they are not lying.
Established in 2000 from a small temporary building in Stoke by today multi-billionaire Denise Coates, Bet365 now produces enormous online revenues and is the largest private employer in Stoke. They own the football arena.
Denise started the business by borrowing from her fathers brick and mortar bookmaking business, established in 1974 by Stoke City chairman Peter Coates. Selling off the shops 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 countries. The brand has the best reputation within the betting and gaming industry from the punters and insiders and boasts among the most loyal customer bases of any business enterprise.
Often cited as a success story of British online business, if you were to rule out the offline gambling sector then these men are the greatest. Multi-award winnings and constantly developing new technologies and ideas the only way that this organization is going in the long run is up.
Bet365 Review
Position 5
#800 Million
Employees 1000
High Street Shops
Launched 1967
The Betfred travel to getting one of the biggest independent betting companies in the UK is more heart-warming than most 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. Based in Warrington the company hasn't been sold or merged and remains in the very same hands as it began in.
Fred Done is known specifically for paying our early 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 in a private bet with Victor Chandler (proprietor of BetVictor) betting again on Man United, this time to finish greater than Chelsea in 2005 - which they did not. Despite these misjudgements Fred is also famous for inventing the Lucky 15 along with other full cover stakes.
The business has a sizable gaming store performance, and since buying around 300 shops 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 improved their exposure in this market by purchasing the bag in 2011 for #265. This permits them to enable totepool bets to other operators in addition to supplying bespoke bag bets others do not have. Despite this Betfred's future seems mixed and will likely hinge on how well they grow on the internet in the coming years.
Betfred Review
888 Holdings Plc
Position 6
#600 Million
Employees 1600
High Street Shops
Launched 1997
888 is a completely modern betting company, there is no romantic rear story here. Currently part of a rather convoluted company structure, 888 Holdings is the gaming arm of parent company Cassava Enterprises. Initially founded as Virtual Holdings conducting an early casino website, casino-on-net, by two Israeli company guys, the company 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 many US lands in 2006 has continued to rise in every area of online gaming. The team operate a sports (888 Sport) and poker site (888 Poker) along with many 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 percent bingo.
888 are a global online specialist which will only increase in the long run. The business was fined nearly #8M by the gaming commission in 2017 for failure to correctly shield vulnerable gamblers in the united kingdom. This will slow down the aggressive development strategy 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
Top Steet Shops
100 (Stan James)
Launched 1997
Kindred is a name you may likely haven't heard of, it's in reality the rebranding of this old Unibet Group Plc following the acquisition of over a dozen other manufacturers.
Quickly becoming one of the largest betting companies 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 betting sites with over 15 million clients.
The future goal of the brand is clear in their current history of takeovers, paying #19 million to Stan James (which contains 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 UK. Offline gambling remains the biggest sector as this include the federal lottery (28 percent ), compared to high street bookies (27%) and land-based casinos (5 percent ) only online gambling 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 percent ), followed by with sports (40 percent ). Exchange betting (3%), online poker (2 percent ) 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% a year. Of this total over a third (Number 5 billion +) is made from online gaming, using a rough split of 60 percent 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 if you include indirect employees).
High Street Bookmakers And Land Bases Casinos
Distribution of high street gambling venuesDespite the constant change towards online betting because the turn of the millennium there are still about 9000 gambling shops in the UK (90% of which can be regulated 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 region of 200,000 gambling machines worked in the united kingdom also, of which around 40,000 are the controversial fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The National Lottery (and other lottery) earnings are also contained in the general gambling revenue figure. This constitute to #3.5 billion of the total, with in the region of #250 million moving back to good causes.
High street bookmaking is responsible for a similar figure, #3.5 billion yearly, claiming over 95 percent of the non-remote gambling revenue in the united kingdom. Pool betting (such as the Tote) constitutes 4% with other sources, such as on-track bookies, making up only 1 percent.
Land-based casinos create #1 billion in annual profits. Just under half of this comes from roulette (44 percent ), a quarter from blackjack (25 percent ), a fifth (20 percent ) form slots and other electronic games and the rest from various other games and tables.
Online Betting And Casino
Sports betting supply in the UKApproximately 57 percent of internet gambling revenues comes from remote casinos. Of this three quarters derives in slots, with the rest coming from table along with other games (an opposite tendency to land based casinos). Poker, that can be classified under casino, generates less than 2 percent of the entire earnings.
Sports gambling is the next most significant industry, producing up to 37% of the general earnings. Of this around 54 percent stems from football betting, around 32% from horse racing and the remainder from other sources (of which tennis constitutes almost half).
Other sources of revenue include exchange gambling (~3%), on line bingo (~3%) and pool gambling (~0.5%).
In 2014 the online sector made up 29% of the entire market share, by 2016 this had grown to 32 percent. By 2020 the industry could approach 50% of annual earnings generated from gambling related actions in the united kingdom.
Evolution Of High Street To Internet Betting
Apart from the peculiar independent bookie and some of the stalls you visit at racecourses, all bookmakers today offer online betting. Of course, it did not used to be this way, and prior to the internet age breaking into the sector was easier said than done. For a complete history of gaming see our dedicated page.
Prior to 1960 in the UK it was illegal to take bets from horse and greyhound tracks. Gambling was heavily regulated by the government and although prohibited operators didn't exist, overall you would find it really hard to place a bet from the monitor.
Bookies did take bets off-course through loop-holes from the law that enabled bets to be taken by telephone or via postal order. This is the way William Hill started out. In the event that you were rich enough needless to say there were always options open to you, Ladbrokes for example started out as a gentleman's bookmaker for high profile clients. In the event that 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 dog and horse racing only. Football betting was largely outlawed, except for low stakes pool betting syndicate games, such as the soccer pools (which still exists today).
Fundamentally before 1960 betting was not very simple as you needed to attend a race-track to do it (or do it in a rear street gambling den). That's unless you're rich when the law didn't actually apply to you and you may bet through discreet retailers.
1960 Betting And Gaming Act And Betting Shops
Gambling shopIn 1960 the government eventually 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 gambling act for the first time allowed off-course gaming and by the following year, May 1961, a whole host of new betting shops opened throughout the duration of the country at a rate of 100 per week.
Betting was still largely restricted to horse racing, together with rules 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 differently you could not wager. The only sport you could put singles on was rushing.
Nevertheless this new industry was embraced by the people of Britain, sowing the seed that eventually resulted in the UK getting the biggest gambling nation (per head) in the world.
Among the very first people to open one of these new betting shops was Joel Coral and 10,000 stores have been reported to have started over the first 6 months. Paradoxically the UK's now biggest high street bookie, William Hill, originally refused to open betting shops, stating they were a cancer on society. He reneged at 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 United Kingdom.
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 began to invest in additional leisure sectors.
Regardless of the enormous success of high street bookies in the previous 3 decades the industry had a limited clientele. The huge majority of punters utilizing betting shops were working class men and the reputation of shops as being seedy dark dens full of 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 game in shops and fresh football coupons to encourage more diverse clients and bets. The removal of this'trebles rule' on soccer in 1990's went a fantastic way towards supporting the bookies branch outside, with punters now able to back singles on a range of sports.
A progressively superior picture, wider range of stakes and markets, even more televised sports (particularly Premier League football) and an ever-increasing disposable income, saw the fortunes of bookmakers rise again.
From the mid-1990's the industry seemed locked down with five enormous companies dominating the landscape, along with a couple of independents throughout the nation. Many believed betting and gaming would be like this forever. This was before 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 started to emerge to the old established order, online betting. This was more dangerous to the established high street bookies than you might imagine.
High road bookmaking was controlled by different betting and gambling acts and more importantly stakes were taxed (9p/#1 staked). Online gambling however was a little bit like the wild west, so you can basically set up wherever you desired, launch a website and start 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 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 commerce (many are still located there now ).
In the late 1990's and early 2000's the market share online was 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 making enough from the high street even though tax avoiding new manufacturers were taking a percentage of the profits.
Victor Chandler And Tax
In 1999 Victor Chandler (currently BetVictor) moved his bookmaking business off coast to Gibraltar in protest in the betting tax rates in the united kingdom, selling his 41 stores to Coral. This enabled Victor to supply betting opportunities to world-wide customers, especially from Asia, without paying UK tax. It also allowed UK punters to bet without paying the 9p/# stake tax.
It is believed it was this decision that led the then UK chancellor, Gordon Brown, to remove the betting tax in 2001. Saying that although he eliminated the tax paid directly by the punter new taxes were imposed on the bookies profits earned in the united kingdom and by this point the ship had largely sailed and most traditional bookies were running their online performance from abroad.
2005 Gambling Act
gambling act 2005
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