UK’s Biggest Bookmakers
Thanks to liberal gambling laws, the UK has always been fertile ground for betting companies to grow. In fact, a spate of mergers and acquisitions over the last decade has ensured that the UK is home to the world’s biggest bookmakers, like Ladbrokes Coral Group and Paddy Power Betfair PLC. Being ‘big’ is not down to profits alone however, as we also measure the size of a bookmaker based on the number of employees, media presence and so on. The table below shows the world’s biggest betting companies operating in the UK today:
Biggest Betting Companies and their Sports Betting Brands
|Revenue Per Year
|No of Employees
|Ladbrokes-Coral Group Plc
|Ladbrokes & Coral
|2.5 Billion GBP
|Paddy Power Betfair Plc
|Paddy Power Sport & Betfair Sportsbook
|1.75 Billion GBP
|William Hill Plc
|1.7 Billion GBP
|Bet365 Group Ltd
|2.3 Billion GBP
|888 Holdings Plc
|600 Million GBP
|800 Million GBP
Ladbrokes-Coral Group PLC
Both Ladbrokes and Coral were well-know British high street betting brands for many years (Ladbrokes, in fact, can trace its history back to 1886) before merging in 2016 to create the world’s biggest bookmaker. Corporate structures can sometimes be complicated, so while the brands are separate entities, it’s also worth noting that Ladbrokes-Coral was acquired by another large gambling company, GVC Holdings, in 2017. In short, the owners of Ladbrokes and Coral also own and operate Bwin, Partycasino, Sportingbet, Foxy Bingo and several other big betting and casino brands.
But from a business perspective, GVC Holdings are right to keep the brands operating with independent identities. Not only does it reassure customers when their online betting brand can be seen on the high-street, there is also of positive associations that can be made with the brands. Ladbrokes, for example, has had a history of sponsoring Scottish football and multiple horse racing events.
Paddy Power Betfair PLC
The differences between Paddy Power and Betfair couldn’t be more pronounced. The former is a mainstay of the Irish high street that used sometimes brilliant, sometimes controversial, marketing strategies to build a presence in the UK and online. Betfair, always seen as a lot more serious, harnessed the power of the internet, when becoming one of a new wave of non-traditional sites to launch in 1999, to build one of the world’s best-known betting brands from scratch.
The merger between the two occurred in 2016 to create a betting company to rival Ladbrokes Coral Group. Unlike its rivals however, Paddy Power Betfair does not operate a huge number of other brands. They have some presence in Australia, with the site Sportsbet, and also run Timeform, a well-known statistics and tipping guide for horse racing.
William Hill PLC
For years, William Hill was the biggest player on the UK high street and it still operates more betting shops than any other individual bookmaker, holding around 2,300 outlets (2017 figures). William Hill has, in fact, resisted several takeovers and merger proposals in the last few years, and it’s still big enough to be listed on the London Stock Exchange and has a considerable global presence.
Launching in 1998, William Hill had one of the first UK online betting sites, yet it soon faced stiff competition from slick new sites like those of Betfair and Bet365. William Hill has held its own however, while still maintaining the traditions that made it one of the UK’s most recognisable brands.
Bet365 Group LTD
Bet365 is celebrated as a blueprint for success in British online business, with founder and CEO Denise Coates seen as something of an icon for women thriving in a male-dominated industry. Bet365 was founded in 2000 and pretty soon became synonymous with offering an innovative online betting experience.
Today, Bet365 markets itself as the “world’s biggest betting company”, with an estimated 35 million customers worldwide. It has, however, stuck to its roots, sponsoring the Bet365 Stadium for Stoke City (Coates’ hometown). While there are no Bet365 shops on the high street, it’s fair to say that Bet365 has become an iconic UK brand.
On our site you will find reviews of betting sites like Bet365, all you need to do is compare and choose.
888 Holdings PLC
Arguably more famous for poker and casino sites than being a bookmaker, 888 has grown into an important player in the sports betting market. Its bookmaker site, 888sport, was launched in 2008, much later than the rest of the companies on this list. However, 888sport has slowly gained more and more prominence over the last decade, thanks to good marketing and a slick, user-friendly website and app. Whilst it can’t be considered a Tier 1 bookie like Bet365, SkyBet and PaddyPower its certainly in the 2nd tier.
888 Holdings has a large number of online gaming brands including bingo sites like Red Bus Bingo and Wink Bingo. While its presence in the UK is significant, the Israeli-based company certainly has a massive presence globally and has recently made a foray into the US gambling market, being one of the first non-US companies to acquire a Nevada gaming license.
One could argue that, of all the big bookmakers on this list, Betfred has most kept its identity of being a “British bookie”. In fact, one could go further and say Betfred, founded in Salford, still has its Northern roots. Sure, you will find plenty of Betfred’s 850 betting shops in London and the South of England, but its marketing campaigns still hint at its traditions – a bookie for the working-class “up north”. Indeed, it’s still run by its 1967 co-founders, Salford brothers Fred and Peter Done.
Still, Betfred’s online operations are not boxed into to any regional identity and it has plenty of customers from around the country. To be frank though, Betfred’s website is a bit clunky and certainly not as innovative as the others on this list. Indeed, the sportsbook still resembles a shop in online form, with its focus on markets and coupons you would find on the high street.
Why Bet with the Biggest?
Punters will not necessarily take into consideration the size of bookmaker when signing up, but it does bear thinking about as some benefits to going with a large, established operator can be tangible. For example, we can speak of “economies of scale”, meaning a bigger betting company can have more resources to (potentially) offer the best odds, bonuses and betting limits. Other, often overlooked, factors can be important too:
More Depositing Methods
There is no golden rule to say that a large bookmaker will definitely have more options for deposit and withdrawal than a smaller operator, but it’s certainly more likely. At a minimum, we like to see bookies have options for depositing through credit/debit cards, wire transfer, internet wallets and top up options like Paysafecard. However, it’s also nice to have a choice within those options; for example, having all three of Skrill, Neteller and PayPal available. Another popular payment method usually available at big betting companies is cash in store, which basically means to deposit and withdrawal cash (see our cash in store betting page for more info).
Indeed, Paddy Power, one of the biggest bookies in the UK and Ireland, ticks all these boxes above, while at the same time giving an extra option that small operators simply cannot offer – depositing and withdrawing through a bookmaker’s shop using a Paddy Power Cash Card.
A bookmaker will not grow to become a huge business without treating customers fairly along the way. Sure, the nature of the industry means that every bookie will inevitably have a disgruntled punter or two prepared to voice their opinions online, but, on a whole, an established bookie will have built its reputation by delivering a quality, trusted service to its customers.
However, we would always recommend that you do your homework on any bookie before signing up. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of reviews of top bookmakers online, but sites like PlayRight and the Pogg will forensically and objectively breakdown every aspect of the bookie, allowing you to choose based on your particular needs and tastes. It is, of course, not a case of well-known bookies being better than smaller operators. That’s certainly not always the case. Rather, it’s about the peace of mind that comes with betting with a tried and tested brand.
Again, there is nothing to say that an established bookmaker will always have a better range of betting markets than a smaller competitor. In fact, depending on the event, you might even find that a new bookmaker has even more markets than the established ones. For example, Royal Panda’s sportsbook often has 400+ markets for a typical Premier League game, whereas bigger operators may have around 150-300. But, it should also be noted that big bookies are usually able to offer more long-term betting opportunities. Taking, for example, a less well-known race at Cheltenham 2019, the National Hunt Chase, odds provided now (October 2018) are mainly coming from the largest bookmakers – Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, Sky Bet etc.
However, there is a certain betting trend in this area where the biggest bookmakers hold an advantage – the customers choosing their own bets. Established top betting sites have the resources and presence on social media to react quickly to provide tailored bets to customers, such as combining several events in an individual match. Often punters are encouraged to “tweet” the bookmaker with a hashtag, such as #WhatOddsPaddy (Paddy Power) or #OddsOnThat (Betfair) to create their own bet.
Attractive Betting Limits
If you are going to bet for high stakes, the choice of bookmaker could be said to be just as important as the betting selections you make. The reason is that bookmakers will have betting limits, restrictions on what you can place as a stake and, more importantly, how much you can win. As a general rule, elite events like Premier League, Cheltenham Festival or Champions League will have a higher threshold than, say, non-league football or day-to-day horse racing meetings.
But the differences between the largest bookmakers and the smallest are probably more pronounced in this area than any other. A short example shows that the biggest operators – Paddy Power, Betfair, Ladbrokes, Bet365 etc. – will have an upper payout limit of at least £1,000,000, whereas smaller betting companies – Royal Panda, MrGreen, Grosvenor Sport etc. – may be limited to £100,000 or £250,000. The basic theory is that the larger bookmakers have better financial resources to cover these bigger bets.
Questioning whether it is safer to sign up to a big bookmaker or small one is arguably the least quantifiable aspect when choosing between the two. For a start, the UK has one of the best sets of standards for regulating the betting industry through the UKGC (UK Gambling Commission). Secondly, any sites we recommend here on PlayRight, large or small, will be licensed and regulated by the UKGC. To get that licence, bookmakers must conform to certain standards and afford players with protections, both in terms of keeping details secure and tools for responsible gambling.
High Street Bookies vs Online Bookies
At one point, it was feared that bookmakers’ shops would disappear from the UK high street, such was the perceived threat from internet gambling. While the number of betting shops did decline initially (the peak was in the 1980s), they have stabilised in recent years to somewhere around 8,500 today. In its annual revenue report for 2017, Paddy Power Betfair estimated that the entire UK retail market (shops) was worth £3.2 billion and online operations were worth £4.9 billion.
Because most betting companies are multi-faceted, i.e. they will have casino, bingo, poker and other activities, it’s difficult to find exact figures for revenue from “bookmaker activities” alone. However, we do know that online gambling is growing steadily, now representing 35% of the £15 billion UK industry.
However, the death knell has not been sounded for the high street bookie yet. Shop operators seem to have grasped that they must embrace and learn from, rather than resist, the online world. Ladbrokes shops are a good example of this, where they have online betting terminals that people can use without accounts. Moreover, Ladbrokes employs an in-shop function called The Grid, which effectively allows shop punters to benefit from things like Cash-Out, which you would normally only find online.
Online Betting Industry vs Online Casino Industry
It’s almost unheard of for an online bookmaker not to also operate an online casino, although the reverse can certainly be true. In fact, in virtually all cases, registering with an online bookie will mean having access to its casino site from the same account. It might surprise you to learn that online casino trumps betting in terms of revenue share, with the former having around 35% of the market compared to 15% for online betting. However, this can vary depending on the operator.
As with high-street bookies, it’s not the case that the two sectors are competing against each other. Indeed, you will find plenty of promotions encouraging you to cross-over from one section to another. However, it’s interesting to note that nearly every large sports betting operator, with the exception of 888, uses Playtech software almost exclusively for online casino games, whereas smaller operators will have a more varied range of developers. Moreover, the lines are being blurred even more with innovations like NetEnt’s sports betting widget, which effectively allows casino players to place bets on live dealer tables online.
The Future of Large Betting Companies
In the age of the internet, one can look foolish by making assumptions about the future of a particular company. You must remember that online bookmakers like Bet365 and Betfair were created from scratch, as little more than an idea, and now sit side by side with companies who had thousands of shops across the country. The spate of mergers and acquisitions seems to have slowed the last year or two, but with the ongoing deregulation of gambling in the US market there is a lot of potential for new major global players or the current big names consolidating their positions at the top.
Sign up with one of the big betting companies and you can be assured of betting at a brand that will offer all the payment methods, market and account limits you need. See our recommended list of the biggest betting companies and register an account today