Betting Shops in the United Kingdom – a Timeline

In 1960, the face of betting within the UK changed completely with it was announced that the British Government introduced its Betting and Gaming Act that allowed betting shops to officially be open for business across the country from 1 May 1961. The world has never been the similar since.

How It All Got Started

The first betting stores opened on the 5th day 55 years ago and they continued to open at a 100 shops per week. Six months after the new laws coming into force there were more than 10,000 betting shops in operation. The face of the gambling industry within the UK was changed in the span of a matter of months.

Bookmakers who were granted licenses to operate within the UK from the Racecourse Betting Control Board were allowed to accept bets at “tote odds” which was when the amount of the bets placed was divided between the winners of bets.

It was anticipated that the new rules would help towards getting betting that was illegal off the streets, and also stop the practice used by bookmakers who send physical runners to collect the debts of punters. This led to the commission of crimes and extortion that had to be smashed out.

When the new law being passed at the time, the only method players could make a bet off the course was to show they had enough credit to establish a new account with a bookmaker and then placing bets over the phone.

Betting Becoming Mainstream

Undoubtedly, the biggest change that occurred under the new law was that gambling changed from being a seedy and taboo sport to an increasingly popular and accepted sport. It shifted from the underground to mainstream.

Betting shops were a safe and regulated haven for punters to place bets, without having the fear of getting caught in a criminal circle that was frequent during the time when betting wasn’t regulated on the streets.

There was still a certain stigma surrounding betting shops. The establishments were required to darken windows and were not allowed to advertise or market themselves. However, they were out in the open, and betting activity was now controlled, making betting an increasingly popular pastime as it was prior to the 1960s.

Ladbrokes along with William Hill were the two big names in the 1960s, and their growth in the 1960s was revolutionary. They were able to absorb a number of small betting shop businesses such as Fred Parkinson, JJ Simonds, as well as Ken Munden. They appealed to the working classes and established the direction for the industry which will remain in operation for the next 50 years.

In the Dark and into the Light

Things remained relatively unchanged until 1986. Changes to gambling legislation saw betting establishments granted permission to change their look and interior. There is no reason for betting shops to be considered to be dark and dingy places. They are now able to serve hot and cold beverages, paint their walls, place seating in them, and also install TVs.

The era of gambling saw four brands take firm control over the market. William Hill and Ladbrokes continued to be the leaders, but they were now joined by the titans that are Coral and Mecca as a new age of gambling was sweeping across the UK.

It was these four brands who were the source of one of the biggest changes in the law of gambling which would affect punters directly. The bookies pressed the government to eliminate the tax on individual bets. This was charged at 10 percent on all winnings. It took several years of campaigning from bookies to persuade the government to abolish this tax and in 2002 it was the time that all of this hardwork finally came to fruition and the tax ended up being eliminated. This was a milestone moment in the world, with many other countries and states still paying similar taxes.

The Dawn of the Premier League

Another monumental event for betting shops across the UK was the introduction of the Premier League in 1992. The change in the branding of the top flight of English football was not the only thing that changed the face of football with the introduction of television rights, which gave clubs the chance to buy better players of the highest quality and to upgrade their facilities as well, but it was an event-changing moment for betting in the United States as more people than ever started to bet on football.

Only punters from their home country of the UK were initially permitted to bet on the Premier League games and originally it was ruled that punters must place at least three bets. However, the rules were changed after a brief period of time, and betting on just one games was given the green light.

It was the beginning to expand betting shops into new territories. A growing interest in football’s Premier League led to a need for more betting markets. The emergence of gambling online has seen bookmakers meet the demands of players to bet on every and every minute detail of games, including corners, yellow cards, the time of goals being scored, and even throw-ins. This filtered through to the betting shops, which also needed to provide the same markets within their shops.

It is now spreading all over the world to other markets . It is not only in football, but in all sports. It gave rise to cash-out and in-play betting. The introduction of those two features has not only become popular on the internet but also within the bookmakers as well. have done their best to ensure that punters who live in the country are not left out of the benefits that customers who are online can enjoy.

The year 2001 saw some of the biggest debated innovations that hit betting shops. The electromechanical systems called fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) were put into operation and the debate over their impact on both punters and the industry has raged on ever since.

The minimum bet on the machines have to be PS1 however the highest single payoff cannot exceed the PS500 threshold. The speed at which gamblers can place bets has been the most criticized aspect concerning the machines, with critics saying it fosters gambling addiction and can destroy entire communities by luring players in.

The allegations also suggested it was being used to carry out money-laundering. It was claimed that cash was deposited into machines with low-risk bets being placed. The winnings would then be paid out in an e-ticket that could be exchanged for cash at the betting counter.

The term “crack cocaine” is used to describe”the “crack cocaine of gambling”, bookmakers finally decided to take action in 2014 and under the aegis of the Association of British Bookmakers made the decision that punters could be allowed to set money and time limits on FOBTs.

Going Offshore

At the turn to the turn of century bookmakers were starting to provide online websites for players to bet on the internet , without having to leave the security of their home. The result was a shift in business management , notably by a number of the big-name betting shops with their own brand.

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One of the first pioneers of the idea was Victor Chandler. The self-styled bookmaker made the decision to relocate all of his operations offshore to Gibraltar. This shifted their players gamble offshore, which makes them tax-free and that was the main reason behind making the British administration changing its position regarding gambling tax. On the 1st December 2014, the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill meant that taxation of online gambling was changed from a “place where supply occurs in order to be a point of consumption. The result was that offshore bookies were no longer safe from the grasp of the UK tax law.

It is a law that continues to have an impact on betting shops in the present. A number of the biggest branded bookmakers have been forced into merging together with Betfair and Paddy Power leading the huge mergers. Ladbrokes and Coral are two other bookmakers that are at the center of a merger proposal however they’ve been told they must open betting stores if the deal is to be completed. It’s a trend that will certainly get more common in the near future as bookmakers have to deal with financial pressures from the new tax laws that have been imposed by the British government.

Recent statistics also indicated it is decreasing. Value of betting shops appeared to hit a high in 2005 when William Hill bought out Stanley’s betting shops at a cost of P807,000 for each shop. It was speculated recently that Boylesports planned to acquire 360 gambling shops at Ladbrokes and Coral at a price of the equivalent of PS277,000 for each shop. The worth of the betting shops is evidently declining rapidly if these numbers are accurate.

The Future in Their Hands

Gambling online has had a enormous effect on bookmakers. The most recent changes in law has added even more pressure on bookmakers to be able to adapt to the changing environment. Be it merging with rival competitors or providing a higher-end platform to keep the traditional ventures modernized.

Betting shops could take the lead of casinos who have seen their brick and mortar establishments be impacted by the growing popularity of online casinos. The customer experience in betting shops is now a priority for the bookmakers who want to avoid the risk of betting shops becoming extinct because online sports betting continues to increase.

It’s an issue that is not going away with mobile gambling becoming the following step. If the bookmakers come up with more creative and inventive ways to lure the punters in then the future of betting shops will remain as bright as they always have but these are troubling times for the betting shops. There are currently 9,000 betting establishments within the UK so they remain commonplace however that could change quickly as numbers showing that the share of betting establishments in the UK has declined by 43% in the last decade. There is a chance that they won’t be extinct but they’re certainly on the brink of becoming an endangered species.