How and Where to Bet in the UK in 2014

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The British gambling market is home to some of the most trusted brands in the history of bookmakers.

Sports wagering is the most popular form of gambling in the United Kingdom. Betting shops have been around since 1961, when lawmakers first regulated the market. Within a month after the law passed, the number of shops exploded and came close to 10,000.

Today, there are more than 9,000 shops across the country. Gamblers living in England will have no trouble finding a bookmaker close-by. All they have to do is log on to their favorite company’s website, use the locator tool and enter their postcode and the closest betting shop will pop up on the virtual map.

Players who don’t want to leave the comfort of their own homes and prefer to place wagers via the Internet can access a number of legal online sportsbooks in the UK. But let’s look at some of the most popular options available for British players.

Popular forms of betting

By 30 September 2013, the British gambling authority had handed out more than 380 licenses for off-course betting and 596 licenses for on-course betting. Four major operators – William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and Betfred – dominate the wagering industry, running 86% of all land-based shops.

Number of betting shops by operator, at 30 September 2013:

• William Hill – 2,353
• Ladbrokes – 2,286
• Gala Coral Group – 1,793
• Betfred – 1,377

Off-course betting on horse and dog races has seen a significant decline over the last few years, while football wagers have become increasingly popular. On-course betting isn’t doing so well either, with overall turnover falling by 19% in the last five years. British players can also engage in pool betting, although this industry has also seen a decline.

Meanwhile, gaming machines located in betting shops – especially fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) – have seen a constant growth over the last few years. Between April 2012 and March 2013, FOBTs have accounted for 67% of total machine gross gambling yield.

The increasing popularity of high-stakes machines has drawn the attention of anti-gambling campaigners, who claimed they were “addictive” and harmful, asking politicians to limit their numbers. Both the government and opposition have promised to take measures to stop the “menace” from spreading, but no action has been taken so far.

Betting shops in the UK

The Gambling Act 2005 defines betting as the making or accepting of a wager on the outcome of a race, competition or other event or process. The non-remote betting sector makes 51% of UK’s total gambling profits, followed by the casino sector which only produces 15%. According to statistics published by the UK Gambling Commission, the wagering industry is currently worth more than GBP 3 billion.

UK’s most popular bookmakers run modern shops on nearly every high street. Under British gambling laws, companies holding a general betting license are allowed to offer services both off-course and on-course, as well as via the internet.

While British bookmakers focus mostly on professional sports such as football, cricket or hockey, betting on horse races and dog races is also very popular. To make things more interesting, shops accept a much wider range of bets, including wagers on the outcome of political elections, awards ceremonies or various novelty bets.

Online and mobile betting have become widely popular, but bookmakers with a long-standing tradition – such as William Hill or Ladbrokes – still run very successful brick-and-mortar betting shops.

Online sportsbooks in the UK

The internet gambling industry has been growing steadily in the UK and betting turnover has seen an impressive 39% increase between 2012 and 2013. Online sportsbooks dominate internet gambling in the UK, generating GBP 19.6 billion of the total GBP 20.7 billion turnover. Between April 2011-March 2012 and April 2012-March 2013, betting turnover increased by £5.5 billion (39%).

Traditional betting shops are still the most popular option among local players, but players are beginning to find that web services are more convenient, because they allow users to place wagers with a single click, using their computers, as well as on the go, using their mobile devices.

The most popular internet sportsbooks in the UK are William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral, Bet365, Betfred, Skybet, Paddy Power, Betfair and Unibet, but there are countless options in the virtual world. One of the biggest advantages of such online services is that they offer unique incentives – bonuses, free bets and more – which are not available in regular betting shops.

Whether they prefer to place your wagers in a traditional betting shop or via the internet, the options are practically limitless for British gamblers. The best part is that the UK is home to some of the most famous and trusted brands in the world, which offer high quality services. Could Britain be the best place for players looking to place wagers on sports? You bet!

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