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Since betting shops were first legalised in the UK in 1961 independent bookmakers have been a prominent part of high street’s across the country. During the 1960’s betting shops thrived and many large chains of shops were created eventually becoming some of the biggest high street brands to this day such as Ladbrokes, Corals and William Hill. 

These big names in bookmaking were around before betting shops were legalised and were able to acquire many of the smaller chains of bookmakers and grow their business very quickly.

So quickly in fact that Ladbrokes was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1967, whilst William Hill were acquired by Sears Holdings in 1971 . Joe Coral began by betting from pitches at greyhound stadiums before opening and acquiring betting shops in the 1960’s.

During the 1970’s and 1980’s there were around 16,000 betting shops in the UK but with the increase in taxes and lower profitability, the numbers began to drop. 

However in 2001 the UK Government changed the method of taxation on betting from a turnover tax to a Gross Profits tax leading to the abolition of betting duty for customers and the beginning of a new era of profitability for UK independent bookies.

The abolition of the tax on turnover was to lead very quickly to the introduction of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals(FOBT’s) into UK betting shops and these terminals which allowed customers to play roulette and other casino-based games were immediately very popular with customers. 

Independent bookmakers were again encouraged to invest and grow their businesses as the FOBT’s provided a big increase in betting shop profitability. 

During the years immediately after 2001, Coral, in particular, were very active in acquiring further betting shops and picked up a number of larger chains including Reg Boyle, John Joyce, Pagebet and Chas Kendall.   

A review of gambling in the UK was begun in 2001 and the Budd Report as it was called was enacted into law in 2005 and became fully operational in 2007. Amongst the many implications of this new Gambling Act was that it would now be much easier for Bookmakers to open new betting shops as they did not need to prove demand existed for a new premise.

This resulted in new independent bookmakers and the existing high street chains opening shops across the UK sometimes very close to each other or in some extreme cases next door to each other!  

After many years of growing concern regarding the impact of FOBT’s on problem gambling in the UK a reduction in the maximum stakes allowed per spin was implemented in April 2018. Whilst the full effects of this legislative change is still to be seen it was expected to result in the closure of many betting shops across the UK including many hundreds of independent betting shops. 

It has been reported that the number of independent betting shops in the UK has fallen from 696 to 536 since 2019. A drop of around 23% in five years.  These shops still generate business rates of £5.5m along with over £25 in taxes.

Along with land-based betting shops, the number of independent bookmaker brands has also decreased. In 2018 there were 145 independent bookmakers, with that number dropping to just 82 in 2024.

Independent Online Bookmakers

We have a list of independent bookmakers including many of the private and small independent bookies here. In recent years a number of these bookies, who have been well established in the retail sector, have tried to establish online betting sites. There aren’t many success stories unfortunately as competing with the larger companies has been very hard.

Some of the independent betting sites listed do have their own online transactional betting site whilst others will simply have informational websites.

If you are considering betting with some of the very small companies you need to be more cautious. You may want to consider not leaving large sums in accounts or betting on events a long way into the future as unfortunately, we have seen a number of these smaller betting sites come and go over the last few years.

Scroll to the top of this page and you’ll find a list of independent bookmakers. Select a bookmaker to read more about their history and whether or not you can bet with them online.

Telephone Bookmakers

Although not as popular as they once were due to the rise of online betting, telephone bookmakers still play a big part in providing a betting service to those who prefer traditional means of placing bets.

Telephone bookies are often marketed as more personalised betting services compared to online bookies. They have a smaller client base and so are able to dedicate more time and attention to their customers.

Several telephone bookmakers have been around for decades with some of the most notable brands being Joe Jennings, Wilsonbet and Ken Howells.

Telephone betting works with the customers placing bets by calling the bookmaker’s dedicated phone line. It’s particularly attractive for those who enjoy some interaction with the bookie and want to discuss odds or help with their bets.

You can find a list of UK telephone bookmakers at the top of this page.

 

 

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