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You may examine the gambling and gambling industry and believe there’s a lot of healthy competition, with hundreds of brands currently vying for our pennies. Many companies however, although they might appear independent, 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 isn’t only the old high street bookies such as William Hill and Betfred that occupy the top spots in the largest gaming business leagues. Many ancient online only bookmakers have already beaten the older land based operators, such as Bet365, and the world’s biggest and earliest 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 equilibrium as it risks becoming a monopoly of some very few enormous businesses, very much like the energy markets.
Within this article we also look at the progression of the united kingdom gambling industry, the size of the profits made together with the progressive change to online gaming and gaming.
Largest CompaniesUK Market ShareUK Market SizeEvolution of all GamblingMergers
Largest Betting Companies Ladbrokes-Coral Group Plc (owned by GVC Holdings)
Position 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 after the merger at 2016 of Britain’s second and third biggest bookmakers in 2015, completed 2016. The new firm, imaginatively named Ladbrokes-Coral Plc, creates 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 farther purchased by GVC in a deal worth roughly #4 billion, adding further power to the brand on an global scale. GVC also own and operate sites like sportingbet (although we would not recommend them to bet 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 between them. The group own almost 4000 betting shops, although were made to market over 300 from the merger, and so are two of the most recognisable brands in the British high street.
Coral, started by Joe Coral an on track bookmaker from the 1920’s, grew immediately after legalisation of off-course gaming stores in 1961, becoming among the first bookies to take advantage. Merging with another firm in 1971 to become Coral Leisure the group was obtained by Bass in 1981. In 1997 Ladbrokes made their very first attempt to buy Coral from Bass however this was blocked by the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission at the moment. Coral was sold to Morgan Grenfell, a private equity company in 1999 and merged with Eurobet, among the very first online gaming websites, in precisely the exact same calendar year. Gala bingo, founded in 1991 and operating over 150 halls using an additional internet presence, merged with Coral in 2005 to make the Gala Coral Group.
Ladbrokes was started by two guys who acted as a commission representatives for horses (trained at Ladbroke Hill). After a move to London in the early 20th century that the company became a bookmaker for wealthy clients. Falling on more difficult times after WWII the business was sold for only #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 hotel (Hilton Group) and home advantage industry the Ladbrokes group grew to next biggest UK bookmaker. Before their Coral merger Ladbrokes also acquired BETDAQ, the 2nd largest betting market, 2013.
The group now generate over a third of their profits from electronic sources and involving them have more internet customers than any other company. For much more about each brand see our full reviews.
Ladbrokes Review Coral Review
William Hill Plc
Position 2
Headquarters
London
Revenue
#1.7 Billion
Workers 16000
High Street Shops
2300
Established 1934
william-hill
For a long time William Hill were the biggest betting company in the UK with over 2300 shops and only under #2 billion in yearly earnings. The operator, which currently generates around #200 million in yearly earnings and is listed on the FTSE 250, comes from modest beginnings.
In 1934 the company was founded by Mr William Hill, who after some early failures and illegal enterprises found he could make money by means of a loophole that allowed off-course gambling using credit or post. Hill’s entered late into the betting shop industry, starting their first five years following the change in legislation in 1966, due to the creators belief they were a cancer . He relented when he saw how quickly his opponents were getting forward.
The business changed ownership many times down the years. Bought for 700 million in 1997, the newest has been sold two years after for #825 million and recorded on the London Stock Exchange in 2002.
The William Hill group have experienced some corporate failures over the years but their competitive strategy, especially online, has enabled them to dominate the industry landscape. Possibly the most well-known bookmaker in the world, largely down to the fact Hill’s have spread outside the UK over any other bookie, and also due to their vast amount they spend on advertising and sponsorship.
William Hill Review William Hill Casino Review
Paddy Power Betfair Plc
Position 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 did not really bring anything new to Ladbrokes for instance, but also the merger between Betfair and Paddy Power from 2016 to make the third largest gambling 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 via its often controversial advertising strategies. Holding over 600 stores across the UK and Ireland and boasting retail revenues of nearly #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. Launching as a peer-peer gaming market rather than a traditional bookie at 2000, Betfair became the biggest of its type in virtually no time at all. Despite better chances on offer in the exchange, the market still remains fairly small (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, generating less than #500 million in earnings. Because of this PP shareholders received 52 percent 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
Launched 2000
Bet365
Bet365 meteoric increase has all come form the electronic industry, and believing that just now is the internet gambling market larger than the high road (excluding national lottery) which is a fairly impressive performance. When they state in their advents that Bet365 is the worlds favorite online gambling company they are not lying.
Launched in 2000 from a small temporary building in Stoke by now multi-billionaire Denise Coates, Bet365 now produces enormous online revenues and is the largest private company in Stoke. They own the football arena.
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 shops to Coral at 2005 Bet365 became an increasingly 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 one of the most loyal customer bases of any business enterprise.
Often mentioned as a success story of British internet business, if you should rule out the offline gambling sector then these guys would be the greatest. Multi-award winnings and constantly developing new technology and ideas that the only way that this organization is moving in the future 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 becoming one of the biggest independent gambling companies in the UK is more heart-warming than others. Launched from one 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. According to Warrington the company has never been sold or merged and stays in the same hands as it started in.
Fred Done is known in particular for paying our early on Manchester United to win the league twice just for them shed on both occasions (1998 and 2012). He also lost #1,000,000 in a private bet with Victor Chandler (proprietor of BetVictor) gambling again on Man United, this opportunity to finish higher than Chelsea in 2005 – which they did not. Despite these misjudgements Fred is also known for inventing the Lucky 15 and other full cover bets.
The business has a large gaming store performance, and since purchasing around 300 shops that Ladbrokes-Coral have been forced to sell now own at the area of 1650 shops in the UK. Famed for being among the very best racing bookmakers Betfred increased their exposure in this market by purchasing the tote in 2011 for #265. This permits them to enable totepool bets to other operators as well as supplying bespoke tote bets others don’t have. Regardless of this Betfred’s future seems blended and will likely hinge on how well they develop 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
Established 1997
888-holdings
888 is a completely modern betting company, there’s absolutely no amorous rear story here. Currently part of a rather convoluted company structure, 888 Holdings is your gaming arm of parent firm Cassava Enterprises. Initially founded as Virtual Holdings running an early casino site, casino-on-net, by two Israeli business men, the business grew in step with the rise of the web.
The brand was renamed 888 at 2002 and despite having a hard hit when online gaming became illegal in several US lands in 2006 has continued to grow in every area of online gaming. The group run a sport (888 Sport) and poker site (888 Poker) and many casino (e.g. 888 casino, 777 casino)) and bingo brands (e.g. 888 bingo, 888 ladies, Wink Bingo) with a distribution of 61% casino, 18 percent poker, 11% sport and 9 percent bingo.
888 really are a global online specialist which will only increase in the future. The business was fined nearly #8M by the gaming commission in 2017 for failure to correctly shield vulnerable gamblers in the UK. This will slow down the aggressive development plan of the business, 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
High Steet Shops
100 (Stan James)
Launched 1997
Kindred
Kindred is a title you may likely not have heard of, it’s in reality the rebranding of this old Unibet Group Plc after the purchase of over a dozen other manufacturers.
Quickly becoming one of the largest 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 brand has grown to become one of the biggest online betting sites with over 15 million customers.
The future intention of this brand is clear from their recent history of takeovers, paying #19 million to Stan James (which includes a brand new real world presence) 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 distribution of gambling revenue in the UK. Offline gambling remains the biggest sector as this comprise the federal lottery (28 percent ), in contrast to high street bookies (27%) and land-based casinos (5%) only online betting is larger (40%). The tendency from offline to online is expected to remain in the long run.
Within the online market casino is the largest (slots 37% and other games 15 percent ), followed by with sports betting (40 percent ). Exchange betting (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 increasing rapidly at around 8 percent a 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 betting.
The industry as a whole is to blame for contributing around #8 billion into 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 gaming venuesDespite the constant shift towards online gambling because the turn of the century there are still around 9000 betting shops in the UK (90 percent 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 area of 200,000 gaming machines worked in the united kingdom also, of which around 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 revenue figure. This make up to #3.5 billion of this total, with in the region of #250 million going back to good causes.
High road bookmaking is responsible for a similar amount, #3.5 billion yearly, claiming over 95 percent of the non-remote gambling revenue in the united kingdom. Pool gambling (like the Tote) makes up 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 stems from roulette (44%), per quarter from blackjack (25%), a fifth (20%) kind slots and other electronic games and the rest from various other tables and games.
Online Betting And Casino
Sports betting supply in the UKApproximately 57 percent of internet gambling earnings comes from distant casinos. Of this 3 quarters derives from slots, with the rest coming from table along with other games (an opposite trend to land based casinos). Poker, which can be categorized under casino, creates less than 2 percent of the total revenue.
Sports betting is the next biggest sector, producing around 37 percent of the general revenue. Of this around 54% stems from soccer betting, around 32% from horse racing and the remainder from different resources (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 total market share, by 2016 this had grown to 32 percent. By 2020 the business could approach 50% of annual revenues generated from gaming related actions 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 provide online gambling. Of course, it did not used to be this way, and prior to the online era breaking into the sector was easier said than done. For a complete history of gaming see our dedicated page.
Pre-1960’S
Prior to 1960 in the UK it had been illegal to take bets away from horse and greyhound tracks. Gambling was heavily regulated by the government and although prohibited operators did exist, overall you’d find it hard to place a bet away from the monitor.
Bookies did take bets off-course through loop-holes from the law that allowed bets to be obtained by telephone or via postal order. This is how William Hill began out. If you were rich enough needless to say there were always options open for you, Ladbrokes for example began as a gentleman’s bookmaker for high profile customers. In the event that you were nevertheless a normal working-class lad or lass however, there were quite a few choices open to you.
Even then most gambling at the time was for dog and horse 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 wasn’t very easy as you needed to attend some race-track to do it (or do it illegally in a back street gaming den). That’s unless you were rich when the law didn’t really apply to you personally and you could bet through discreet merchants.
1960 Betting And Gaming Act And Betting Shops
Gambling shopIn 1960 the authorities eventually 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 permitted off-course gambling and from the following year, May 1961, a whole host of new betting shops opened throughout the duration of the country at a rate of 100 a week.
Betting was largely restricted to horse racing, together with rules set up such as the’trebles principle’ on soccer. This meant all footy bets needed to be accumulators with 3 or more choices otherwise you couldn’t wager. The only sport you could place singles was racing.
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) on earth.
Among the very first people to open these new gaming stores was Joel Coral and 10,000 stores are reported to have opened within the first 6 months. Paradoxically the UK’s now biggest high street bookie, William Hill, originally refused to start betting shops, stating they were a cancer on society. He also reneged in 1966.
1970s And 1980s
The bookmaker industry grew exponentially over the decades following legalisation of high street gambling. By the 1970’s there have been 15,000 shops in the uk.
Here is the time when many of the largest names we know now made and solidified their standing. Britain’s oldest bookmakers, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral were earning so much they even began to invest in additional leisure businesses.
1990’S
Regardless of the huge success of high street bookies from the past 3 decades the industry had a restricted clientele. The vast majority of punters using betting shops were working class men and the standing of stores as being 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 new football coupons to encourage more diverse clients and bets. The removal of the’trebles rule’ on football in 1990’s moved a fantastic way towards supporting the bookies branch outside, together with punters now able to back singles on a selection of sports.
A progressively superior picture, wider array of bets and markets, more televised sports (particularly Premier League football) and also an ever-increasing disposable earnings, saw the fortunes of bookmakers rise again.
By the mid-1990’s the industry seemed locked down with five enormous companies dominating the landscape, together with a few independents throughout the country. Many thought betting and gambling would be like this forever. That was before the internet came along.
New Millennium And The Internet Online betting 2As that the 1990’s brought to a close a new threat started to emerge to the older established order, online gambling. This was more dangerous to the established high street bookies than you may imagine.
High street bookmaking was controlled by different betting and gaming acts and much more importantly stakes were taxed (9p/#1 staked). Online gambling nevertheless was a tiny bit like the wild west, so you could essentially set up in which you wanted, launch a site and begin accepting bets from clients — tax free.
Although preventing tax on gambling bets and winnings was in the time technically illegal it was almost 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 make the most of the tax free trade (many are still based there today).
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the market share online was still very low and even though the new unregulated online trade was a concern it wasn’t prevalent enough to cause changes yet. The bookies were still making enough from the high street though taxation averting new brands were now taking a slice of the profits.
Victor Chandler And Tax
In 1999 Victor Chandler (currently BetVictor) transferred his bookmaking business off coast to Gibraltar in protest in the betting tax prices in the united kingdom, selling his 41 stores to Coral. This allowed Victor to provide betting opportunities to world-wide customers, particularly from Asia, without paying UK tax. It also enabled UK punters to bet without even paying the 9p/# stake tax.
It is believed it was this decision that directed the then UK chancellor, Gordon Brown, to remove 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 earned in the united kingdom and by this stage the boat had largely sailed and most traditional bookies were conducting their online performance from abroad.
2005 Gambling Act
gambling act 2005
Eventually the government realised that the status quo couldn’t last forever. This {wasn’t|was not

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