The humble bookmaker has been a staple of the British high street for many decades, providing jobs, trade and entertainment across the country.
High Street Boomakers
Established in 1934, William Hill were always set up to be one of the biggest in the industry. They had been able to forge a backing of over 500,000 punters before they even opened their first store, such was the popularity in the bookmaker.
As it stands they currently entertain over 2,3000 high street betting shops are still one biggest brands in the business. They employ over 16,000 people across several sectors within their company and are able to offer up a massive following online as well.
The company, set up by William Hill, has made several key acquisitions over the years, including the likes of Stanley Leisure PLC and several dog tracks based around the UK. In 2016 they announced recorded revenue figures of £1.6billion after acquiring brands such as SportingBet, Bentrebet and Tom Warehouse.
Ladbrokes have been about since 1896, making them one of the oldest bookmakers in the world. It was set up by two business in the form of Mr Schwind and Mr Pennington, who started working within horse racing tracks throughout the UK.
The company flourished in the early days, brining in several members to board which allowed them to start working on the high street by 1961 when high street betting was made legal again. It took them just 6 years to have over 100 betting shops and were one of the first companies to go public, offering up 50p a share valuing the company at almost £1million.
Like most, they made several acquisitions in that time, such as London and Leeds Development corporation, Le Tierce SA in Belgium, Detroit Racecourse and Hilton International, allowing them access to a range of hotels and also into the bingo and casino sectors.
The merger with Coral was finalised In July 2016 for a sum of £2.3billion, making the Ladbrokes Coral group one of the biggest bookies in the world, with over 4,000 high street shops and 30,000 staff.
The Coral brand was set up in 1926 and has grown to be one of the most popular outlets on the high street within the UK. The company was set up by Joseph Kagarlitsky who was a Polish immigrant and later changed hi name to Joe Coral, resulting in the bookmaker being called Coral.
The early days of Coral were simply working as a runner for other bookmakers, due tot the fact that the ban on high street betting shops was still in place. By 1926 he decided to go it alone and gained access to racing tracks where he set up shop and also bought a headquarters in London by 1946.
By 1961 he took opportunity of purchasing his first betting shop and the company had grown that quickly that after the end of his first trading year, he had 23 betting shops throughout the UK.
The company bought the Gala brand and from there it allowed them access into the casino and bingo industries as well. In 2005 the Gala and Coral group were reported to be worth an estimated £2.15 billion, before in 2016 they merged with Ladbrokes for £2.3billion, with a combined network of over 4,000 betting still within the UK today.
Betfred was set up by two brothers, Peter and Fred Done. The pair, both from Salford were one of the first high street bookmakers to set up shop, but originally worked as runners for their fathers betting company from an early age.
They didn’t actually break out of this until 1967 where they were able to set up their own betting shop. They were able to fund the purchase of the shop thanks to the fact that they had a rather large win on England winning the 1966 world cup and clearly invested that money wisely.
The company have always been innovators when it comes to high street betting and are often famed for dreaming up the first Lucky 15 bet, and in more recent times the likes of Goals Galore and Double Delight/Hat Trick Heaven.
The company bought the then government run Tote in 2011 in a deal worth around £265million, with a large chunk of that to be reinvested back into horse racing charities and the industry in general.
These days Betfred still has over 1,300 high street betting shops in the UK and are still expanding even considering the current climate.
Paddy Power are Ireland’s biggest export when it comes to bookmaking and have been making a name for themselves since they first opened their doors in 1988. The origins of the people behind the brand date back much further than that and the Paddy Power as we know it today was actually an amalgamation of three bookmakers in Ireland that included David Power, Stewart Kenny and John Corcoran.
These three bookmakers tabled 40 shops in total when Paddy Power was first launched and to make a name for themselves they often targeted clever marketing campaigns. Some of them they have been heavily criticised, but they often see all publicity as good publicity and today they are definitely seen as one of the more down to earth and light hearted bookmaker in the industry.
The company had around 350 betting shops by 2010 and with it they were starting to get much more recognition outside of Ireland than they ever could have imagined. Today this figure sits at 600 high street betting shops, with the company’s number rising still. The merger with Betfair in 2016 was reported to be worth in the region of £10billion.
Stan James is another iconic name in the betting industry. They were set up in 1973, about 12 years after the ban on high street betting shops came into play. The two owners, Steve fisher and James Holder created the name as an amalgamation of their names and their wife name, although we can see who were the more creative out the two!
The company shot on to the scene with their telephone betting format, which back then was quite unique and is often thought as the stepping stone towards mobile betting that we see toady. Whilst the company continued to do well in the south of England, it’s fair to say that up north, their brand was hardly known.
The digital age had a massive affect on how the company was run and allowed them to gain access to a much wider audience as result. Their merger with Unibet in 2015 has allowed them the ability to kick on once again and they currently have 90 betting shops bases around the UK.
There are few more iconic and older betting institutes than the Tote. And that’s exactly what the Tote are, an institute. They are unique in that they were set up by the government in 1928, with non other than Winston Churchill giving it the green light.
The company had been set up to try and fight against illegal gambling, by offering a safe and secure pool betting system within dog and horse racing tracks throughout the UK. They have been able to attract a huge number of punters to use their betting product in that time and have been a success over the last 90 years or so.
They first took the high street in 1972, some 11 years after the bad on high street bookmakers was lifted. The company were able to get access in over 7,000 betting shops throughout the UK, allowing them the biggest single exposure of one brand in UK betting history.
Their sale to Betfred in 2011 now means that the 500+ betting shops that they did own are now part of the Betfred brand. But, they still operate as Totesport within dozens of horse racing tracks within the UK and Ireland.
Jennings Bet is widely regarded as one of the biggest independent high street bookmakers in the UK. Unlike most brands their following comes in the form of footfall from one of their 100 shops and whilst they have a huge following in the south of England, they have recently expanded into the likes of Manchester and other areas across the north to try to maintain pace with many of the bigger brands in the industry.
The company first opened their doors in 1961 are were keen to jump on the fact that high street bookmakers were no longer banished from the high street. They have seen growth at much smaller rate than the likes of William Hill and Ladbrokes, but still are classed as a large firm from an independent standpoint.
The company merged with Jennings Racing in 2002 following the death of Joe Jennings to create a bigger brand and stand more of a chance against the more established names within the industry. They have been approached many times to sell their stores but such is the passion behind the company for bookmaking, they have continuingly refused.
Boylesports is Ireland largest independent bookmaker and they have been about since 1982. The company was set up by John Boyle, who on the back of a few rough times in the early days due to alcohol, decided that it was time to get his act together.
John had worked in several of his fathers bookmakers for a number of years leading up to 1982, but with the chance to buy a closing down bookie and with the help of a loan worth £16,000 from his father, he managed to set up shop and things grew from there.
The company was literally just one shop for 7 years and Boyle will admit himself that he was bored and frustrated with the industry during this time. It wasn’t until he was able to open his second and then third shop de he really start to enjoy the process.
By 2004 he already had 77 betting shops on the high streets of Ireland and at the time of writing they now have over 230 in total, with over 1,700 employed across the business.
Bookmakers No Longer on the High Street
BetVictor is now one of the most iconic names in the gambling. The company was actually launched as Victor Chandler and some of the old school punters still call them by this name.
They’ve been about since 1946 and have a fairly familiar tale, with their founder William Chandler working as a betting runner, before eventually starting his own shop and then moving onto the high street in 1963.
The business continued to flourish in that time and with it they were able to open more stores throughout the UK. But, the decision to move online was a monumental one for the firm and this essentially changed their outlook moving forward.
They have current sold all of their betting shops and even their final stalls within racing tracks were sold on in 2015. They are now exclusively online and offer their services to punters in over 160 countries, with a turnover of £1billion.
Mainly people see bet365 as an online only bookmaker and to be fair, that’s what they are today. But, there was a time where then the Coates family, who own bet365, had a thriving high street sector as well.
The company was run by Peter Coates in 1974. Coates’ expertise actually in catering where we would work with many of the top football clubs in England to provide their catering needs on match days. But, Coates was a serial investor and had invested in some smaller betting companies throughout the 70’s.
As the popularity of these stores continued to grow, so did Coates’ interest in them, before eventually investing in Provincial Racing and then taking the company over. At their peak the company opened up 59 betting shops throughout the UK and also had shares in Stock City FC, whilst being named as Chairman.
It wasn’t until the turn of the millennium when his daughter and son, Denise and John, saw that it was online betting where the money is. So, Peter re-mortgaged all of his betting shops and managed to get £15million loan from RBS to fund their exploration online. Just 5 years later the company proved to be so popular that Peter sold of all his betting shops and concentrated solely on the bet365 online brand, a decision which looking back seems to have been very wise!
Independent Bookmakers With Multiple Locations
BetAnsells has been in the betting industry since 1920. They are an independent bookmaking service and with it they are able to offer an ‘all under one roof’ betting package. What’s pretty unique and also commendable is that the firm is run from 4 generations of the Ansell family, started by George Ansell in 1920.
Whilst the majority of their shops are found in the South of England, they actually operate stores across the UK. They’ve sold and relocated several times, but current are based in Watford, England with their rebranding to BetAnsells coming about in 2014.
Backhouse bet has been in the industry since 1920, making them one of the oldest bookmakers in our list. They have had strong ties to the west country and whilst this is where the majority of their shops lie, they have at one point been all over the UK.
The group include 19 shops in total and in 2010 this number was increased further by the purchase of 6 betting shops in Worcester, Stourport, Swindon, Wokingham,. Daventry and Welwyn Garden City. The shops are famed for including up 100 different coupons each week, with a range of different sports and betting markets included with each.
The Winning Post
The Wining Post has come from humble beginnings, but over the last 30 years the company has been headed by a former scaffolder and his family. The company are based out of Gloucestershire and Wales, containing of 9 betting shops in total.
The company have slowly been able to increase foot fall within each of their shops and state that they are looking to expand with more high street betting shops in the near future. At the minute they also enjoy betting enclosures within some of the biggest racetracks in the UK, including Ascot and Cheltenham.
Star Sports has been about since 1999 and in that time, have moved from a racecourse only bookmaker, to one that now has a significant presence on the high street. The have been able to take on a number of acquisitions in that time, including independent bookmakers such as Vickers, Waldron and Turner and Kendrick.
The company are based out Brighton targeting high-end punters in what they describe as an exclusive betting opportunity for their customers. They’ve also been able to buy out some high end betting real estate, with the purchase of the old betting lounge in Mayfair, previously owned by BetVictor.
About This Site
We are an independent guide set up to provide information about the British Bookmaker industry. Most of the content found on our pages revolves around the traditional bookmakers found in local high street betting shops and racecourses. Having said this we do also cover some facilities offered by online bookmakers, although this is largely limited to the same high street bookies rather than offshore betting sites.
You may also have noticed a lack of offers and sign up bonuses. That’s because this is not an offers site, it’s intended more as a informational resource. If you’re purely looking for free bets or bonuses then we suggest visiting our sister site bettingsitesoffers.com which focuses more on online betting sites and the promotions that they offer.