High streets around the UK are declining across the UK. Businesses are shifting to out of town retail centres where parking is free and they are very accessible as a result. Many companies have been forced to close their doors and many of them have managed to move online to benefit from the popularity of that market.

The bookmaker industry has been one of the areas that have been hit hard by the decline of the high-street off. There was a period when high streets were buzzing with a hive of activity, but in terms of the bookmaker, they have been forced to adapt and take a leap online.

The stats don’t make for an enjoyable reading experience either. Statistics have been consistently declining since the 90s and while bookmakers still manage to generate a decent amount of profit on their sales they are not as popular. has definitely waned. A stigma around the industry and the rise in problematic gamblers (or at the very least the growth in new surrounding them) has certainly had an adverse effect on the way they are perceived.

There are a lot of betting Shops

At the height of its popularity at the time, the UK boasted more than 16,000 betting stores across the country. They were located in nearly every city and town usually with several brands to pick from each. The sites they found were well-known and , as such, were frequently within the center of the majority of popular streets, instead of being hidden away up side streets or out of site.

Did you know? You can find bookies opening times at this website.

In the year 2019, it was reported that this number had been cut to just 8,423, which was a quarter of the “glory” year. The problem that they have now is that these numbers are continuing to decrease every year. From 2017 until 2018, the decline was about 1.5 percent, which included more than 100 stores closing. These numbers are pretty stable , given the recent closures that the industry has experienced.

But, the numbers are shockingly low in comparison to what they were. There has been a bit of stabilisation over the last decade or so and it’s only been since 2018 where the numbers have been declining to a lesser extent. It’s interesting to note that there are more high street betting shops opening today than they were in 2009, with the highest number of 2012 which saw the number grow to 9128 in 2012.

Online & Mobile Betting

Let’s talk about the first major change that cut off nearly half of the industry. This was , of course, primarily because of the increased popularity of online and mobile betting. At first ever, gamblers could place bets at the convenience of their home or even at the move. There was no need to gamble in betting shops, and it could be done discreetly and virtually anonymously if a player wished.

Online betting changed the gambling industry forever . While the number of players has increased to an industry now worth PS14.4bn annually in the UK only, the down side of this success was felt by the high street. You even look at the amount of bookmakers who are located on track at racecourses. They have experienced the same trend of declining as the high streets because of people not attending as many meetings and , even more importantly, betting on their smartphones while at the races.

For a better understanding of the success of remote gambling, in 2019 the news reported that they had witnessed an increase in online betting of 2.9% for the year. The market share for remote betting has reached 38.8 percent, a figure that has increased by 6% in only 3 years. These numbers are going to increase as the generations that were raised with technologies will be able to make use of remote betting products instead of the traditional street.

The Rise and Fall of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

But there have been times of stability for high-street bookmakers and this can be seen as they even increased the number of betting outlets in 2012 and 2011. The principal reason for this were FOBT (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals).

They’re basically mini-casinos and include games such as Roulette and Blackjack. They let punters bet massive amounts of money quickly and in turn, lose large sums of money rapidly. The machines became massive cash cows for betting shops and are one of the major motives why betting establishments maintained their doors.

However it was the Gambling Commission ordered that the number of machines per shop was to be limited to just 4 in order to avoid them becoming more like a casino hall rather than a betting establishment. This was initially a negative impact on bookmakers’ revenues, which are now restricted.

The solution came in the form of simply opening up more stores in order to run more FOBTs. While bookmakers wouldn’t admit they are opening up new stores for these machines, those in the know knew the reason they were doing it. It was unusual to find two or more bookmakers of similar brands on the exact same high street, just to run more machines.

As is the norm that all good things have to come to an end eventually and that’s precisely the case with FOBTs. According to the Gambling Commission researched that these machines were among the main causes of problem gambling in the UK the United Kingdom, a situation that had continued to rise after the introduction of video-based casino games.

To prevent this from happening, the maximum bet limits of PS2 were added on the machines to prevent people loosing too much money in a short time. This came about initially in the year 2018, and it’s no coincidence that the amount the machines are able to earn has been limited as well, the number of betting shops has begun to decrease. In actuality, the years 2018 and 2019 have seen the biggest decrease in betting shops in the past 10 years, and it appears that this trend will last although at a slower pace than what many experts had anticipated at the time that the new laws were implemented.

Brand Dominance

There are four main names that remain active on the high streets up to the present. These include William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and Betfred. Please note it is the case that Ladbrokes as well as Coral are both part of the same company, but they still operate businesses under their own names. Keep this in mind whenever you come across details pertaining to these two included in the article.

Betfred

The number of shops that are owned by each has changed considerably in the past 10 years or so. It’s been fascinating to find out that not all of them have been declining. Indeed, Betfred are more than twice the number of high-street betting stores in 2018 than they had in 2009. Their number has grown from 806 up to 1667 betting shops and they’re expected to keep this increasing.

Ladbrokes Coral Group

They managed to reach a deal 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 be able to compete with the market in the UK. The deal added 322 betting shops overall. According to a statement issued not long after the purchase they plan for this figure to grow as well, which they did.

This is quite different from the practices of Coral as well as Ladbrokes however, who have been continually slashing some of their stores even after the merger and sale of 322 stores to Betfred. Ladbrokes have shut down an additional 60 stores since the sale with Coral closing more than 100. They still hold the biggest overall betting shop profile with over 3,500 locations in the UK It is likely that they reduce this number as their selling continues.

William Hill

William Hill have remained very steady. They have the largest number of independent betting shops , having 2,298 overall in the year of 2018. The number climbed to as high as 2,345 by 2013 but has never been so low as 2,238 back in 2009. The numbers seem very good and are a good sign for William Hill and they are likely to remain steady as time goes on, mainly due to that the scale of their business means they are able to operate some stores at break-even while still being worth their time for branding purposes.

Other Notable Brands

Outside of them, you can find “other” bookmakers. These include Paddy Power, Totesport and Jennings Bet, along with many independent brands. These guys have been hit the hardest and, after a peak of 1,607 stores , there are now just 1079, with their numbers declining rapidly. It’s going to be hard for them to keep up with the competition especially since smaller stores don’t have an online presence either.

Betting Shop Distribution

The northern-south divide is one that is very obvious when it comes to the distribution of betting shops in the UK. There’s a massive increasing number these stores in northern cities and towns as compared to the southern towns.

In actuality, only one town located south Leeds (Aylesbury) is included on the list of the top ten cities with the highest percentage people for each betting store. At the top of the list is that of Grimsby which has one betting shop per 6,721 inhabitants. Grimsby beat out Darlington, South Shields and Huddersfield to take the “crown”. The full top 10 are as in the table below:
Top 10 Towns with Most Betting Shops per Capita

Grimsby
Darlington
South Shields
Huddersfield
Oldham
Stockport
Blackpool
Aylesbury
Pontefract
Bootle

The towns with the least amount of betting establishments per head include Oxford (lowest having one shop per every 11,398 residents), Ilford, Hayes, Southend-On-Sea and Luton. What’s interesting is that only Rochdale can be considered northern on the list, which highlights the north-south divide even further.

Top 10 Towns that have the Most betting shops per capita

Oxford
Ilford
Hayes
Southend-on-Sea
Luton
Smethwick
Houslow
Rochdale
Brentwood
Cambridge

The most shocking aspect of it all is that betting shops target the most disadvantaged areas that always perform better than the more affluent regions of the UK. The people with lower incomes are more likely to bet even though they may have less disposable income than the majority of people.

Future of Betting Shops

The numbers don’t read well for the high street. Betting has moved online and whilst there are still an abundance of betting shops in the moment but the future doesn’t appear to be very bright. Many believe that the limits of FOBTs could cause the industry to fall apart completely, and this might be true. However, early indications of the fact that these machines aren’t been nearly as bad as initially thought, which gives the betting shop some hope.

Additionally, Boylesports announced in March 2019 that they will be making their way to the UK initially as a high-street bookmaker. They will initially buy the independant book maker, Wilf Gilbert, and acquiring their 13 stores . They also state that this deal is only the beginning, with about 100 new stores scheduled to start operating within the next 12 months.

What’s interesting about the Boylesports situation is that they’ve never run FOBTs in any of their betting shops in Ireland as they are actually illegal in Ireland. They also state they are not planning to include them in their UK stores, further illustrating how lucrative high street retail remains.

We are expecting that more independent bookies will start to gradually fall out, however. This is the reason why we have seen the sharpest trend in the past 10 years or so, and we believe that this trend will continue. Regarding the brands that are more established, well they will likely consolidate what they’ve got right in the moment and then evaluate it after the dust settles on the limitations to the FOBTs.