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Betting Becoming Mainstream

In 1960, the face of betting within the UK changed forever after The British Government introduced its Betting and Gaming Act that permitted betting establishments to be open for business all over the nation from the 1 May, 1961. There has been no similar since.

How It All Began

The first betting shops were opened on that 5th day 55 years ago and they continued to open up at 100 shops per week. After six months of the new laws coming into force there were 10,000 betting establishments in operation. The face of the gambling industry within the UK changed over the course of just a few months.

Bookmakers who were granted licenses to operate within the UK from the Racecourse Betting Control Board were allowed to accept bets on “tote odds” which is when the amount of the bet made was divided up amongst the winning bets.

It was hoped that the new laws could assist in getting gambling illegal off the streets, and also stop the practice used by bookmakers of sending runners on physical tracks to collect the debts of punters. This led to the commission of illegal acts and extortion that had to be smashed out.

When the act’s passage, the only way punters could place a bet on off-course was by proving they had enough credit to open an account at bookmakers and then placing the bets by telephone.

The popularity of betting is growing.

Undoubtedly, the biggest shift that occurred as a result of the new laws was that gambling went from being a dark and taboo game to more of a socially accepted pastime. It moved from being an underground sport into the mainstream.

Betting shops were a safe and regulated haven where punters could place their bets without the risk of being involved in a criminal network, which was the norm when betting was not regulated on the streets.

There was still a small stigma associated with betting shops. The establishments had to lighten their windows and weren’t allowed to advertise or market themselves. But, they were in the open, and betting activity could now be closely monitored, which made gambling a far more popular recreation as it was prior to the 1960s.

Ladbrokes along with William Hill were the two biggest names in the 1960s, and their growth in the 1960s was groundbreaking. They were able to take over some small betting shop businesses like Fred Parkinson, JJ Simonds as well as Ken Munden. They appealed to the working section and helped set the standard for the industry which would remain in place for the next 50 years.

Through the Dark and Into the Light

Things remained relatively unchanged until 1986. The gambling laws were changed and betting shops granted permission to change their look and interior. No more would betting shops be viewed as dark and dim locations. They now can serve hot and cold beverages as well as paint their walls, have seating areas, and set up TVs.

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The era of gambling saw four companies take full control of the market. William Hill and Ladbrokes continued to lead , however they were joined by the huges in Coral and Mecca as a new period of gambling swept across the UK.

It was these four companies that caused one of the most significant modifications to the gambling laws which would affect punters directly. The bookmakers pressed the government to eliminate a tax charged on individual bets. It was charged at 10 percent on winnings. It took many years of lobbying from bookies to get the government to abolish the tax, and in 2002 every effort resulted in the tax being eliminated and was abolished. It was a landmark moment in the world, with many other countries and countries still imposing similar taxes.

The Dawn of the Premier League

Another monumental moment for betting shops in the UK was the introduction of the Premier League in 1992. The rebranding of the premier flight of English football , not only changed the way football was played through the use of television rights money, giving clubs the opportunity to purchase better players of the highest quality and to upgrade their facilities However, it was an event-changing moment for betting across the nation as more and more people began to bet on football.

Only punters in UK UK were initially allowed to bet on Premier League games and originally it was stipulated that punters were required to place a minimum of three bets. But the rules were relaxed after a short period of time, and betting on only single games was granted the green indication.

It was the beginning of taking betting shops into new territory. A growing interest in the Premier League led to a desire for more betting markets. The advent of gambling online was a huge boost for bookmakers to meet the demand of gamblers for betting on each and every detail of games like corners yellow cards, the minute of goals that are scored as well as throw-ins. This filtered through to the betting shops, which also needed to supply the same markets within their shops.

This has spread all over the world to other markets . Not just in football but within other sports. This has led to in-play betting and cash out. The introduction of those two options has not only become popular on the internet but also within the betting shops too, since bookmakers have done their best to ensure that land-based punters do not lose out on the advantages that online customers get.

The year 2001 saw an unpopular innovations that hit betting shops. A range of electromechanical devices called fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) were put into operation and the debate over their impact on punters and the betting industry has raged on ever since.

The minimum bets for these machines must be PS1 however, the maximum single payout cannot breach the PS500 mark. The speed with which gamblers can bet has been the major focus of controversy surrounding the machines with critics saying it fosters gambling addiction and can destroy whole communities through sucking players in.

It was also alleged it was employed to facilitate money laundering. The claim was that cash was paid into machines using low-risk bets placed. The winnings would then be withdrawn in the form of a voucher that would then be exchanged for cash at the betting counter.

Dubbed as the “crack drug of gaming” Bookmakers eventually made the decision to act in 2014 and under the umbrella of the Association of British Bookmakers made the decision to let punters to establish time and money restrictions on FOBTs.

Going Offshore

Around the turn into the 21st century, the bookmakers were starting to offer online sites for punters to place bets on the internet , without being required to leave the convenience of their homes. The result was a shift in business management , notably by a number of the big-name betting shops with their own brand.

One of the early pioneers in this of this was Victor Chandler. The eponymous bookmaker made the decision to shift all his business operations offshore and relocate to Gibraltar. It was a result of their players gamble offshore, which makes the bets tax-free. That was a major factor in being a major factor in the British federal government changing its position on gambling tax. On December 1, 2014 the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill made it clear that the taxation of online gambling was changed from a ‘place of supply and a place of consumption. That meant that bookies operating offshore were no longer exempt from the wrath of UK tax laws.

The law is continuing to affect betting shops currently. A number of the biggest bookmakers with brand names have been forced to join with Betfair or Paddy Power leading the huge mergers. Ladbrokes and Coral are two other bookies that have been at the forefront of a merger that is being considered but have been told that they have to sell gambling shops in order for the deal is to be concluded. This is a trend that is likely to increase in the near future, as book publishers have to deal with financial pressures from the new tax laws that have been imposed by the British government.

Recent statistics also indicated there is a sign that betting shop value may be declining. The value of betting shops had appeared to have reached a record high in 2005 when William Hill bought out Stanley’s betting shops for a sum of just over PS807,000 for each shop. There was speculation recently that Boylesports intended to purchase 360 betting establishments from Ladbrokes and Coral at a price of the equivalent of PS277,000 for each shop. The value of the betting shops is clearly in steep decline if those numbers are accurate.

The Future In Their Hands

Gambling online has had a huge effect on bookmakers. The most recent changes in law adds the pressure for bookmakers to the new conditions. This could mean merging with a rival competitor or providing a more sophisticated venue to keep the land-based businesses modern.

The betting shops may take the example of casinos that have seen their land-based premises take a hit with the increase in online casino gaming. The experience of customers in betting shops is now an important factor for bookmakers who want to avoid the prospect of betting shops being shut down because the popularity of online sports betting continues to rise.

It is an issue that is not being resolved with the advent of mobile gaming as becoming the following step. If the bookmakers can think of more creative and innovative ways to lure gamblers in, then the future of the betting shops will remain just as bright as they have , however these are challenging times for betting shops. Today, there are 9,000 gambling stores within the UK which means they are a common sight, but that could quickly change with numbers showing that the share of betting establishments in the UK has declined by 43% since the year 1970. It is possible that they are not extinct, but they’re in danger of becoming an endangered species.