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Future of Betting Shops

The main streets in the UK are declining across the UK. Businesses are shifting to shopping centers where parking is free and are easily accessible because of. A lot of brands were forced to shut their doors, and a lot of them have managed to move online to take advantage of the growth of this market.

The gambling industry is one of the industries which have been stricken by the decline of the high-street off. There was a time when the streets were a bustling activity, but for bookmakers the bookmakers have been forced to adapt and move to the internet.

The statistics don’t make for an enjoyable reading experience either. The numbers have been steadily decreasing since the 90s, and while bookmakers still manage to earn a decent profit in their stores however, their popularity has certainly waned. The stigma surrounding the industry and the rise in problematic gamblers (or at the very least, the rise in the number of new people who surround them) certainly had an adverse effect on the way the shops are portrayed.

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The number of betting Shops

At the height of its popularity at the time, the UK was home to more than 16,000 betting establishments across the country. They were found in almost every city and town and often had multiple brands to select from each. The websites they acquired were well-known which meant that they were usually in the middle of major streets instead of being hidden in side streets or away from view.

In the year 2019, it was reported that the number was reduced to 8,423, which is about half of the “glory” times. The issue currently is that the numbers continue to decline each year. From 2017 to 2018, the decline was about 1.5 percent overall, and more than 100 stores closing. These numbers are pretty steady considering the recent closures the industry has experienced.

But, the numbers appear to be shockingly low in comparison to what they were. They’ve actually seen some stabilisation over the past decade or so, and it’s only been since the year 2018 that the numbers have been declining yet again. In fact, there are more betting shops on the high street operating today than there were in 2009, with the peak being recorded in 2012, which saw that increase to 9128 in 2012.

Online & Mobile Betting

Let’s discuss the first major change that cut off nearly half of the betting industry. It was primarily due to the rise in mobile and online betting. In the beginning, players could bet at the convenience at home, or even traveling. There was no requirement to go into the betting shops and the betting could be carried out discreetly and virtually anonymously when a person wanted.

The advent of online betting has changed the gambling industry for the better and, while the numbers have risen to an industry currently worth PS14.4bn annually in the UK as a whole, the negatives of this success was felt the most on the high streets. It is also worth looking at the amount of bookmakers who are located on track at racecourses, who have experienced the same trend of decline to the high street because of people not attending as many meetings , and also betting on their smartphones while racing.

To give you an understanding of the popularity of betting via remote, during the year 2019 it was reported that they saw the growth of online gambling of 2.9 percent for the year. The market for remote betting has reached 38.8 percent, a figure that has grown by 6% within just three years. The numbers will increase as the generations that have been raised with technologies will be able to utilize remote devices over the high street.

The Rise and The Fall of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

However, there have been periods of stability for high-street bookmakers, and this can be observed in the fact that they increased the number of betting shops between 2012 and 2011. The primary reason behind this was FOBT (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals).

They are basically mini casinos and include games like Roulette as well as Blackjack. They let gamblers bet huge amounts of money quickly, and then losing large amounts of money rapidly. They became huge money-making machines for gambling shops, and are among the primary reasons that many betting establishments were able to keep their doors open.

However, The Gambling Commission ordered that the number of machines in each shop be restricted to 4 machines to prevent them from becoming more of a casino rather than a betting shop. This had a direct impact on the bookmakers’ revenues, which were now restricted.

The solution came by simply opening more stores in order to run more FOBTs. While bookmakers wouldn’t confess to opening new stores to accommodate the machines, those in the know knew the reason they were doing it. It was unusual to find two or more bookmakers from the same name in the same street, just to run more machines.

Like most things that all good things have to be ended eventually and that’s exactly the case with FOBTs. According to the Gambling Commission researched that these machines were among the primary causes of problems with betting in UK which has continued to increase following the introduction of video-based casino games.

To stop this, the betting limits for maximum bets of PS2 were added on to these machines in order to prevent losing too much money too fast. The first time this happened was in the year 2018 and it’s not a coincidence that since the amount of money that machines are now able to make is limited and the number of betting shops has begun to shrink. In reality, both the years 2018 and 2019 have witnessed the largest decrease in betting shops in the past 10 years, and it appears that this trend will last but in a slower pace than what many experts had anticipated at the time that the new laws were approved.

Brand Dominance

There are four major names that have remained active on the high-street until today. They include William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and Betfred. Be aware the fact that Ladbrokes as well as Coral are both part of the same group however, they operate stores under their original brands, so keep this in mind when you read any information about these two included in the article.


The number of stores which are owned by each has changed considerably in the past decade or more. It’s been fascinating to observe that not all of them are declining. Actually, Betfred has more than twice the number of high-street betting shops in 2018 than they had in 2009. The number of Betfred betting shops has increased from 806 up to 1667 betting establishments and they are expected to continue growing.

Ladbrokes Coral Group

They were able to negotiate an agreement with the Ladbrokes Coral Group in 2017 after they were required to sell a portion of their betting stores in the course of the merger in order to ensure that there was enough competition in the UK. The deal added 322 betting shops to the total. According to an announcement made after the purchase they plan to make this number increase and it did.

This is quite different from the practices of Coral as well as Ladbrokes however, which have been continuously removing many of their stores even following the merger and the sale of 322 stores to Betfred. Ladbrokes have shut down another 60 shops since the sale and Coral closing close to 100. While they have the biggest combined betting shop portfolio, with more than 3,500 shops in the UK It is likely that they reduce this amount as they continue to sell.

William Hill

William Hill have remained very stable. They are the most popular of betting shops that are independent, with 298 total shops in the year 2018. The number climbed to 2,345 in 2013, but was never lower than 2,238 in 2009. The numbers appear to be very robust to William Hill and they are likely to remain steady in the future, mostly because their size business allows them to run some stores at break-even, and still be worth the effort for branding purposes.

Other Brands Notable to Mention

Beyond these, there are “other” bookmakers that include the likes of Paddy Power, Totesport and Jennings Bet, along with many independent brands. They’ve been the most severely hit and, after a peak of 1,607 stores in 2012 they now have just 1079 stores, and their numbers are falling quickly. It will be extremely difficult for them to keep up with the competition particularly since the smaller stores won’t be online either.

Betting Shop Distribution

The divide between the north and south is a fact that is evident in the location of betting shops across the UK. There’s a significant rise in these shops in northern cities and towns as compared to the southern towns.

In reality, only one town to the south of Leeds (Aylesbury) is included on the list of the top ten towns that have the highest percentage of people for each betting store. The top spot on the list is that of Grimsby which has one betting shop per 6,721 residents. Grimsby beat out Darlington, South Shields and Huddersfield to claim the “crown”. The complete top 10 are as the following:
The Top 10 Towns in the United States with the Most Betting Shops per Capita

South Shields

The towns with the lowest amount of betting shops per person include the likes of Oxford (lowest with one shop for each 11,398 inhabitants), Ilford, Hayes, Southend-On-Sea and Luton. It is notable that only Rochdale is considered to be northern on the list, which accentuates the division between north and south.

The 10 towns with the least Betting Shops per Capita


The most shocking aspect of the matter is that betting shops focus on the poorest regions, where they perform better than the more affluent regions of the UK. People with lower incomes are more inclined to gamble, even though they may have much less disposable income than the majority of people.

Future of Betting Shops

The numbers aren’t a good fit for the traditional high street. The betting industry is shifting online, and, while there is plenty of betting shops in the moment but the future doesn’t appear to be very bright. Many are of the opinion that the limits of FOBTs could cause the industry to collapse completely and that could be the case. However, early indications of the machines’ limitations haven’t been as dire as initially thought, which provides the betting shops with optimism.

Additionally, Boylesports announced in March 2019 that they would be moving into the UK to begin their first venture as a major street bookmaker. They will initially buy the independant book maker, Wilf Gilbert, and acquiring their 13 stores , but stating that this is only the beginning, with about 100 stores expected to start operating within the next twelve months.

The interesting thing about the Boylesports situation is that they’ve never operated FOBTs in any of their betting stores in Ireland since they are prohibited in Ireland. They also say they do not plan to add them into their UK stores, which highlights the lucrativeness of the high street is still.

We anticipate that more independent bookshops will begin to slowly fade off, but. These numbers have experienced the most rapid growth in the past decade or so, and we believe that this trend will continue. For the brands that are more established, they’ll likely consolidate their offerings right now , and will likely evaluate when the dust has settled on the limits of FOBTs.