You may look at the betting and gaming industry and believe there is a lot of healthy competition, with countless brands currently vying for our pennies. Many businesses however, though they may appear impartial, are in reality part of the exact same group, and you’ll likely never know it. Like many markets, there are in fact a few large players and the rest are left to scramble for the remainder of the custom.
It isn’t only the old high street bookies such as William Hill and Betfred that occupy the best places in the largest betting company leagues. Many ancient online only bookmakers have beaten the old land based operators, such as Bet365, and the planet’s biggest and earliest online exchange, Betfair. Mergers between already large companies such as 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 a very few enormous businesses, very much like the energy markets.
Within this article we also examine the development of the united kingdom gambling industry, the dimensions of the profits made along with the progressive change to online gaming and gambling.
Largest CompaniesUK Market ShareUK Market SizeEvolution of all GamblingMergers
Largest Betting Companies Ladbrokes-Coral Group Plc (owned by GVC Holdings)
Position 1
#2.5 Billion
Workers 30000
High Street Shops
Established 2016 (Merger)
William Hill were ousted from top spot following the merger in 2016 of Britain’s second and third biggest bookmakers in 2015, completed 2016. The new firm, imaginatively named Ladbrokes-Coral Plc, generates almost #2.5 billion in revenue each year and workers over 30,000 individuals 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 additional capability to the brand on an global scale. GVC also own and run sites such as sportingbet (although we would not recommend them to wager with), partypoker and Bwin.
Ladbrokes, Britain’s oldest gambling company founded in 1886, and Coral, established in the 1926, have over 200 years experience of being a bookmaker between them. The group own nearly 4000 betting shops, although were made to sell over 300 in the merger, and are two of the most recognisable brands in the British 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 made their first effort to purchase Coral from Bass but this was blocked by the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission in the moment. Coral was offered to Morgan Grenfell, a private equity firm in 1999 and merged with Eurobet, one of 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 make the Gala Coral Group.
Ladbrokes was launched by two men who acted as a commission representatives for horses (trained in Ladbroke Hill). After a move to London in the early 20th century that the company became a bookmaker for wealthy customers. Falling on harder times following WWII that the business was sold for only #100,000. The identical legalisation of betting shops that drove Coral’s rise in 1961 however reversed the fortunes of Ladbrokes also, who were afterwards floated on the stock exchange for #1M in 1966. With forays to the hotel (Hilton Group) and residence advantage sector the Ladbrokes team grew to next biggest UK bookmaker. Before their Coral merger Ladbrokes also acquired BETDAQ, the second biggest betting market, 2013.
The team now generate over a third of their gains from electronic sources and between them have more online customers than any other business. For much more about every brand visit our complete reviews.
Ladbrokes Review Coral Review
William Hill Plc
Ranking 2
#1.7 Billion
Workers 16000
High Street Shops
Launched 1934
For a long time William Hill were the biggest betting company in the UK with over 2300 shops and just under #2 billion in yearly revenues. The operator, that now generates around #200 million in yearly profits and is listed on the FTSE 250, comes from humble beginnings.
In 1934 the company was founded by Mr William Hill, who after some early failures and prohibited ventures found he could earn money by means of a loophole that permitted off-course gambling using credit or post. Hill’s entered into the gaming store industry, starting their first 5 years following the change in legislation in 1966, as a result of founders belief they were a cancer to society. He relented when he noticed how quickly his competitors were getting forward.
The business changed ownership several times down the years. Bought for #700 million in 1997, the newest was sold two decades after for #825 million and listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2002.
The William Hill team have had some corporate failures over the years but their aggressive strategy, especially online, has allowed them to dominate the industry landscape. Possibly the most well-known bookmaker in the world, mainly to the reality Hill’s have spread outside the UK over any other bookie, and due to their huge 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 just about money. Coral didn’t really bring anything fresh to Ladbrokes for instance, but the merger between Betfair and Paddy Power in 2016 to create the third biggest betting brand was surely mutually beneficial to both parties.
Paddy Power, among Ireland’s largest bookmakers, was founded in 1988 but it was the online age that actually saw the newest come to life via its often controversial advertising approaches. Holding over 600 shops across the UK and Ireland and boasting retail earnings of nearly #1 billion Paddy Power attracted the real world locations, marketing strategy and cash to the merger.
Betfair on the other hand had a very distinct history in the gambling industry. Located as a peer-peer betting exchange rather than a traditional bookie in 2000, Betfair became the biggest of its kind in no time in any way. Despite better odds on offer from the exchange, the industry still remains fairly small (see later) and so in order to compete Betfair launched a fixed odds sports publication in 2011. Betfair would be the smaller party in the merger, making less than 500 million in earnings. Because of this PP shareholders received 52% and Betfair 48 percent of the new firm.
Paddy Power Review Betfair Review
Bet365 Group Ltd
Ranking 4
#2.3 Billion
Workers 3500
High Street Shops
Established 2000
Bet365 meteoric rise has all come form the digital industry, and considering that just today is the online gaming market bigger than the high road (excluding national lottery) that is a pretty remarkable performance. When they state in their advents that Bet365 is the worlds favourite online betting company they really are not lying.
Launched in 2000 from a tiny temporary building in Stoke by today multi-billionaire Denise Coates, Bet365 now produces enormous online revenues and is the biggest private company in Stoke. They even own the football stadium.
Denise began the company by borrowing against her fathers brick and mortar 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 have gained a massive customer base of more than 20+ million people from 200 nations. The brand 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.
Often mentioned as a success story of British online business, if you were to rule out the offline gaming sector then these guys are the greatest. Multi-award winnings and constantly developing new technology and ideas that the only way this company is going in the future is up.
Bet365 Review
Ranking 5
#800 Million
Workers 1000
High Street Shops
Established 1967
The Betfred journey to becoming one of the largest independent gambling companies in the UK is much more heart-warming than others. Launched from a single store in Salford by Fred an Peter Done in 1967, the team finally have a multi-billion turnover and up to #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 in particular for paying our ancient on Manchester United to win the league double only for them lose on both occasions (1998 and 2012). He also dropped #1,000,000 in a private bet with Victor Chandler (proprietor of BetVictor) gambling again on Man United, this opportunity to finish greater than Chelsea in 2005 – they didn’t. Despite all these misjudgements Fred is also known for inventing the Lucky 15 and other complete cover bets.
The company has a large betting shop operation, and since purchasing around 300 shops that Ladbrokes-Coral were made to sell now own in the area of 1650 stores in the united kingdom. 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 allows them to enable totepool bets to other operators as well as providing bespoke tote bets others don’t have. Despite this Betfred’s future looks mixed and will likely hinge on how well they develop online in the next several years.
Betfred Review
888 Holdings Plc
Position 6
#600 Million
Employees 1600
High Street Shops
Launched 1997
888 is a thoroughly modern gambling company, there’s absolutely no romantic rear story here. Currently part of a rather convoluted corporate arrangement, 888 Holdings is your gambling arm of parent firm Cassava Enterprises. Initially founded as Virtual Holdings conducting an early casino site, casino-on-net, by two Israeli business guys, the business grew in step with the rise of the internet.
The brand was renamed 888 in 2002 and despite taking a hard hit when online gaming became illegal in several US territories in 2006 has continued to rise in every area of online gaming. The group operate a sport (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 ladies, Wink Bingo) with a distribution of 61% casino, 18 percent poker, 11% game and 9% bingo.
888 really are a global online specialist which will only increase in the long run. The company was fined nearly #8M by the gambling commission in 2017 for failure to properly protect vulnerable gamblers in the UK. This may slow down the aggressive growth plan of the business, although only slightly.
888 Sport Review 888 Casino Review
Kindred Group (Unibet, 32Red, Stan James, et al)
Ranking 7
#800 Million
Employees 1400
High Steet Shops
100 (Stan James)
Launched 1997
Kindred is a name that you may likely not have heard of, it is in reality the rebranding of this older Unibet Group Plc following the purchase of over a dozen other manufacturers.
Fast becoming one of the biggest betting companies in Britain and Europe that the Kindred group includes Stan James, 32Red, and Maria. Unibet is of course the jewel in the crown, the Scandinavian brand has grown to become one of the largest online betting sites with over 15 million clients.
The future goal of this brand is clear from their current history of takeovers, paying #19 million for Stan James (which contains a brand new real world existence ) 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 gambling market share
The pie charts above show a general representation of the supply of gaming revenue in the UK. Offline gambling is still the biggest sector as this comprise the national lottery (28%), in contrast to high street bookies (27%) and land-based casinos (5 percent ) only online betting is larger (40%). The tendency from offline to online is predicted to continue in the future.
Within the online marketplace casino is the largest (slots 37% and other games 15%), followed by with sports (40%). Exchange gambling (3%), online poker (2%) and online bingo (2%).
The Size Of The UK Gambling Industry
The united kingdom gambling sector currently generates around #15 billion in annual revenues and is increasing rapidly at around 8 percent a year. Of this total on a third (#5 billion ) is created from online gaming, with a demanding split of 60 percent casino and 40% sports betting.
The sector as a whole is to blame for contributing around #8 billion into the UK treasury each year and directly employs over 100,000 people (possibly up to 500,000 in the event that 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 about 9000 gambling 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 owned by the Rank Group and 41 by Genting). There are currently in the area of 200,000 gaming machines worked in the united kingdom too, of which around 40,000 are the controversial fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The National Lottery (along with other lottery) revenues 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 good causes.
High road bookmaking is responsible for a similar figure, #3.5 billion yearly, claiming over 95 percent of their non-remote gambling earnings in the united kingdom. Pool betting (such as the Tote) constitutes 4 percent with different sources, for example on-track bookies, making up only 1%.
Land-based casinos create #1 billion in annual profits. Just under half of this comes from roulette (44%), a quarter from blackjack (25%), a fifth (20 percent ) form slots and other electronic games and the remainder from various other tables and games.
Online Betting And Casino
Sports betting distribution in the UKApproximately 57% of online gambling revenues comes from distant casinos. Of this 3 quarters derives in slots, with the rest coming from table and other games (an opposite trend to land based casinos). Poker, which is categorized under casino, generates less than 2% of their total earnings.
Sports betting is the next biggest sector, producing up to 37% of the general earnings. Of this around 54% comes from soccer betting, around 32% from horse racing and the remainder from other sources (of that 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 risen to 32 percent. By 2020 the industry could approach 50% of annual revenues generated from gambling related actions in the united kingdom.
Evolution Of High Street To Internet Betting
Aside from the peculiar independent bookie and a number of the stalls you see at racecourses, all bookmakers now offer online betting. Obviously, it did not utilized to be this way, and prior to the online era breaking into the industry was easier said than done. For a full history of gambling see our dedicated page.
Prior to 1960 from the UK it was illegal to take bets away from horse and greyhound tracks. Betting was heavily regulated by the government and although illegal operators did exist, overall you’d find it really 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 taken by telephone or via postal order. This is how William Hill began out. In the event that you were rich enough needless to say there were always choices open for you, Ladbrokes for example 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 dog and horse racing only. Football betting was largely outlawed, except for non stakes pool betting syndicate games, such as the football pools (which still exists now ).
Fundamentally before 1960 betting was not very easy as you needed to attend some race-track to do it (or do it in a back street gambling den). That is unless you were rich once the law did not really apply to you and you could bet through discreet retailers.
1960 Betting And Gambling Act And Betting Shops
Gambling shopIn 1960 the authorities 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 action for the first time permitted off-course gambling and from the next 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, together with rules in place like the’trebles principle’ on football. This meant all footy bets necessary to be accumulators with at least 3 or more choices otherwise you could not wager. The only sport you could place singles on was rushing.
Nevertheless this new industry was embraced by the people of Britain, sowing the seed that eventually led to the UK becoming the biggest gaming nation (per head) on earth.
Among the first individuals to open these new gaming stores was Joel Coral and 10,000 stores 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, stating they had been a cancer on society. He 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 United Kingdom.
Here is the time when many of the biggest names we know today made and solidified their reputation. Britain’s oldest bookmakers, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral were making so much they also began to spend money on other leisure businesses.
Despite the huge success of high street bookies from the past three decades the industry had a restricted clientele. The huge majority of punters using gaming stores were working class guys and the reputation of stores as being dark dens full of smoke and filthy language did not help to change this.
Bookies sought to create a bigger customer base by introducing new features, such as live game in shops and new soccer coupons to promote more diverse clients and bets. The removal 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 superior image, wider array of stakes and markets, more televised sports (especially Premier League soccer ) 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 across the country. Many believed gambling and gambling will be like this forever. This was before the internet came along.
New Millennium And The World Wide Web Online betting 2As that the 1990’s drew to a close a new threat started to emerge to the old established order, online gambling. This was dangerous to the established high street bookies than you may imagine.
High road bookmaking was regulated by different betting and gaming functions and much more importantly stakes were taxed (9p/#1 staked). Online gambling however was a tiny bit like the wild west, you can essentially set up in which you wanted, launch a website and start taking bets from clients — tax free.
Although preventing tax on gaming bets and winnings was in the time illegal it was nearly impossible to police. New companies along with the old high street bookies began to install 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 industry share online was still very low and even though the new unregulated online commerce was a concern it was not widespread enough to induce changes yet. The bookies were still making enough from the high street though tax avoiding new manufacturers were 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 at the gambling tax rates in the united kingdom, selling his 41 stores to Coral. This allowed Victor to provide gaming chances to global clients, especially from Asia, without paying UK tax. Additionally, it enabled UK punters to bet with no even paying the 9p/# bet taxation.
It is thought it was this decision that led the then UK chancellor, Gordon Brown, to remove 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 UK and by this point the ship had mostly sailed and many conventional bookies were running their online performance from abroad.
2005 Gambling Act
gambling act 2005
Finally the authorities realised that the status quo couldn’t last indefinitely. This {wasn’t|was not

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