Sports betting is an enormously profitable business in the UK. That’s true not only for the betting companies themselves, but for the government too. As of 2019 for example, Bet365 was the second-biggest taxpayer in the entire UK, handing over approximately £156m.
Technically, there are dozens of major betting brands operating in the UK. The truth is, however, that only a handful of these attract the majority of punters, and generate the vast majority of the revenues. In this article you’ll learn not only about the biggest betting companies in Britain, but about the biggest overall betting companies too.
|Flutter Entertainment PLC||Betfair Review||Go to Betfair|
|Entain PLC||Ladbrokes Review||Go to Ladbrokes|
|Entain PLC||Coral Review||Go to Coral|
|Bet365 PLC||Bet365 review||Go to Bet365|
|William Hill PLC||William Hill review||Go to William Hill|
|Kindred Group||Unibet review||Go to Unibet|
|Betfred||Betfred review||Go to Betfred|
|888 Holdings||888sports review||Go to 888|
Our list of the biggest bookmakers in the UK hasn’t been thrown together at random. Instead, it is the result of extensive research, based on a series of clearly-defined parameters. These are the key criteria on which we’ve based our rankings.
This is the quickest and easiest way to determine the largest betting companies from the average bookies. A business’ revenue is a straightforward measure of its overall income. Quite simply, the bigger the revenues, the more money the company is making.
When a betting company is publicly-traded – like most of the ones on our list – they must reveal their revenues in public statements for their shareholders. That being said, however, the contents of the financial statements for Betfred – the only private company in our rankings – is also publicly available.
This is the net gain a betting company makes, when its costs have been deducted from its income. The difference between revenues and actual profits can be sizable. Whilst William Hill’s revenue in 2019 was £1.58 billion, for example, its actual profits were only £147 million. For publicly-traded betting companies which are driven by outside investment, the ability to advertise impressive profits can be crucial.
Unlike with their revenues, the biggest online gambling companies do not need to state their exact user numbers. Some brands reveal rough estimates anyway, which give us some idea of their popularity, but others simply don’t bother. William Hill, for example, stated that they welcomed over three million online punters in 2019, and Betfair claims to have over four million total customers, with 1.1 million active users. Brands like Paddy Power and Bet365, however, give almost no clues regarding their user data.
Since this information is much easier to come by than user numbers, we can get a solid idea of how many people each brand on our list actually employs. Whilst more employees obviously equals a bigger operation, a note of caution must be sounded here. Brands which still have hundreds of high street bookies – like Betfred – will usually have more employees. Given the decline of profits from brick-and-mortar stores, however, this certainly doesn’t mean they’re making more money than companies with fewer employees.
The likes of Bet365, William Hill, and Betfred are obviously enormously popular in their own rights. Still, they simply can’t compete with the betting companies which have managed to unite multiple giant brands. Paddy Power and Betfair alone would be two of the biggest sports betting operations. The fact that they’re joined together as part of Flutter Entertainment blows everyone else out of the water when it comes to revenues.
Major sportsbooks don’t work in isolation. Instead, they are always part of a wider operation. At the very least this will involve an operating company. At the higher levels though, it can involve one single betting company controlling a whole range of different brands. When each of those brands is very successful in its own right, that’s when the overall revenues become stratospheric. There are seven betting companies which stand above and beyond the competition. Let’s take a closer look at each of these biggest betting sites in turn.
In addition to Paddy Power and Betfair, Flutter also houses Sky Betting in the UK, FanDuel in the US, and Sportsbet.com.au in Australia.
Alongside a sprinkling of other sportsbooks, it also operates the famous Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars sites as well as continues to operate 600 physical high street bookies.
With the merger of The Stars Group in May 2020, Flutter Entertainment became the single biggest betting company in the UK. Flutter is a publicly traded company and is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE: FLTR).
As with Flutter, whilst you most likely won’t know the name ‘Entain’, you’ll definitely know the betting brands it operates.
Entain was originally formed as Gaming VC Holdings (GVC Holdings) in Luxembourg (not usually known as a betting industry hotspot) back in 2004. Over the next nine years they relocated to the tax-friendly Isle of Man in the UK, created their own sportsbook, and began to acquire other brands. Things started taking off when they acquired Sportingbet in 2013, then Bwin in 2016, and eventually culminated in the massive acquisition of Ladbrokes Coral Group PLC in 2018. Their rebranding to Entain took place in January 2020.
Ladbrokes and Coral remain Entain’s biggest bookmakers in the UK, with decades of combined industry experience behind them. Other sports betting brands they operate include Betdaq (the second-biggest betting exchange), BetMGM, and Australian brands like Neds. They also own a range of poker and bingo businesses, most notably Party Poker and Gala Bingo. Entain’s 2019 revenues were approximately £3.22bn, they have some 2,800 employees on the books, and their headquarters remain based on the Isle of Man.
Today, Entain is one of the biggest betting companies in the world, with licenses in 27 countries and 20 offices across five continents. Entain plc is a publicly traded company and is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE: ENT).
Bet365 is still a relatively young brand, having only been launched in 2000 by Denise Coates. She was committed to online operations from the start, selling off all the betting shops previously owned by Peter Coates (her father) in 2005. Thanks to strong leadership, Bet365 has gone from strength to strength, growing this single brand into easily one of the biggest betting companies in the UK within less than two decades. Bet365’s decision to remain based on the UK mainland – rather than moving to a more tax-friendly location – makes it a significant contributor to the British economy.
Compared to the two brands above it, Bet365 has taken a significantly different approach. Whilst they have focused on acquiring a whole series of businesses, and building up a diversified portfolio, Bet365 – by contrast – has focused exclusively on its own brand.
Bet365 is a privately owned company. In addition to its office in England, it also has offices in Australia, Malta, Bulgaria, and Gibraltar. In 2019, Bet365 launched its website in New Jersey, USA, and Sweden.
William Hill is arguably one of the most prestigious names in British sports betting. It certainly has one of the longest track records, which stretches all the way back to 1934.
Like Bet365, William Hill is primarily a one-brand betting company. Technically, it has acquired other sportsbooks over the years, including Mr Green in 2019, but this is not a focus of its business. William Hill’s most notable overseas operations have been in the USA, where it struck quickly after gambling laws were relaxed in 2018, to seize a chunk of the new market. The success of this move was part of the motivation for Nevada-based, publicly traded company Caesars Entertainment (Nasdaq: CZR) to acquire the company.
William Hill has experienced plenty of ups and downs since its inception, and has been sold numerous times. Most recently this happened in September 2020, when the aforementioned US casino giant Caesars Entertainment agreed to acquire the brand for £2.9 billion. The acquisition completed in April 2021, after which William Hill was delisted from the London Stock Exchange. Many of William Hill’s offerings in the US will be rebranded to Caesars Sportsbook. As for William Hill’s European business, including its 1,400+ UK betting shops, this was acquired by 888 Holdings in September 2021 from Caesars for £2.2 billion.
Unibet was originally founded in 1997, and launched its first online betting platform in 1999, putting it on roughly the same timeline as Bet365. The two companies have taken very different approaches since then, however. Whilst Bet365 has focused on its own development, Unibet has pursued a policy of aggressive expansion.
In the 2010’s alone it acquired a whole series of different businesses, including StanJames.com, Bet24, and the successful 32Red. It has also diversified into poker and bingo, with Bingo.com being perhaps its most notable addition here. In 2016, Unibet’s shareholders met and decided a rebrand was needed to reflect the growing portfolio of brands – ‘Kindred Group’ was the result.
Whilst Unibet was originally founded by the Swedish Anders Ström, and was listed on the Stockholm stock exchange, it is headquartered nowadays in tax-friendly Malta. That said, it also has offices in various countries including the UK, USA, Australia, and France. Kindred Group is a publicly listed company on Nasdaq Stockholm (KIND-SDB).
Like William Hill, Betfred is a betting brand with a long history in the UK. The first shop was launched by Fred Done in Salford, near Manchester, back in 1967. Originally called Done Bookmakers, the business grew rapidly over the next few decades, until it had some two hundred betting shops by 2000. In 2004 the business was rebranded as Betfred, and the online sportsbook was first launched. By 2017, Betfred had over 1,650 betting shops and its online operations were thriving.
Somewhat unusually, like Bet365, and now William Hill, Betfred remains a private company. Most of the other biggest bookmakers in the UK are publicly traded, but Fred Done (along with his brother, Peter) retains ownership of the Betfred brand. Betfred has also largely steered clear of acquisitions. Its purchase of the Tote in 2011 was a rare exception, but this was sold on again in 2019.
Betfred’s primary headquarters remain in England, but its online business operations are based in Gibraltar.
888 was originally founded as Virtual Holdings back in 1997, by two sets of Israeli sibling entrepreneurs. Initially, the company was focused exclusively on poker and casino games, and it wasn’t until March 2008 that its sportsbook – 888sport – was launched. Nowadays, of course, 888sport is one of the biggest bookmakers in the UK. 888 remained a privately-owned company until 2005, when it was first listed on the London Stock Exchange, and it’s currently a member of the FTSE 250.
888 Holdings hasn’t been as aggressive as some other companies in its sportsbook acquisitions, largely preferring to develop its existing products. Talks have been held to acquire both Ladbrokes and William Hill, but neither deal went through. It has been more aggressive in other areas though, acquiring a range of different bingo and casino brands over the years. In fact, most of the company’s revenue is actually generated by the casino section of its business, rather than the sport, bingo, or poker areas.
As mentioned above, in September 2021, 888 Holdings purchased William Hill’s European business, including its UK betting shops, for $3 billion (£2.2 billion) from Caesars Entertainment. 888 Holdings is a publicly listed company and is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE: 888).
Using the biggest bookmakers in the UK to place your bets comes with both advantages and disadvantages. It is important that you know what those pros and cons are.
Here are some of the main upsides and drawbacks with wagering on the largest betting companies around:
Gambling is big money in the UK and loads of Brits – young and old – take part in the action every year, betting at the biggest UK bookmakers, casinos, bingo sites, lotteries, etc. The Following are some of the nation’s most interesting gambling stats.
The British sports betting industry is simply enormous. As of 2018, it had an estimated value of some £14.4 billion per year, meaning that – even for brands with operations in a whole range of different countries – the UK is often still their most profitable market. Approximately 100,000 people are employed within the gambling sector, the majority of whom work in sports betting, and around 31% of the British public are believed to gamble weekly.
Gambling has been a popular pastime in Britain for centuries, with the first true sportsbooks opening in the 1850’s. However, it was the development of online technology which made sports betting simply explode in the country. Over 38% of all gambling nowadays takes place online, accounting for approximately £5.6 billion in annual revenues. This is believed to be one of the highest amounts in the world, which is remarkable considering the UK is only the 21st-most populated country.
That said, revenues in the USA will likely dwarf these figures soon, following the relaxation of anti-gambling laws in 2018. $2.1 billion was wagered in January 2020 alone by Americans, and – if that upward trend continues – betting companies who have previously focused on the UK might turn their attention across the Atlantic.
Of more concern to the biggest UK online gambling companies right now is the prospect of tighter government regulations. There is a growing movement to restrict marketing, both via sports sponsorship deals and TV adverts. Calls have also been made for bookies to do more to help problem gamblers. The introduction of stricter legal measures wouldn’t affect bettors themselves, but would certainly have a significant impact on the revenues of betting companies.
The UK’s biggest bookmakers all embraced the digital and mobile revolutions to help make this lucrative market what it is today. Check out some fascinating facts about some of the current largest bookmakers in the UK:
There is plenty that the largest UK bookmakers have in common. This is what sets them apart from the same firms operating in other regions, or smaller competitors within Britain. Make sure that you look out for these common features with the UK’s biggest betting companies today:
Ultimately, the biggest bookmakers are industry leaders with good reason. Reputation is everything, and the major players built up their prestige over many years. It’s no accident that the most profitable British gambling companies have reached the pinnacle of the sector by being trustworthy, reliable, and regulated but also fair to the punters who bet on them, all of which has helped them to stand the test of time.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about today’s biggest bookmakers in the UK, and we hope that the added insight will help you choose the best destination for all your betting pursuits. Happy punting!
Entain, comprised of Ladbrokes, Coral and Betdaq among other gambling brands, is widely considered to be the largest UK bookmaker today. This has been formed by a series of takeovers and mergers in recent years.
The revenue of the UK’s biggest betting company, Entain, is estimated at around £2,500,000,000.
On average, a British adult will gamble £135.20 per year according to a 2019 survey commissioned by Finder. You can view more UK gambling-related stats like this one, above.