How Much Do You Know About Bookmakers And Bet Shops?

Posted on by Sean Williamson

What are bookmakers and betshops?

Bookmakers and sports betting shops have been a part of the the history of the United Kingdom since the dawn of horse racing tracks in the early 1800s. While the sport of horse racing has not changed dramatically through the years, the same can not be said for bookmakers and betting shops. In recent years, bookmakers have become known as turf accountants. What were once known as betting shops are now referred to as pleasure palaces.

Originally most of the sports betting shops were located in what were colloquially referred to as seedy areas. Bet shop establishments were required to have all street-facing windows covered to obscure any viewing of shop operations by women and children. The bet shops were only permitted to take wagers on horse racing. In the early 1800s bookmakers were known to accept bets without any actual cash changing hands between the punter and the bookie. During this practice, the bookie would agree to accept a percentage of the winnings as his fee. By 1845, this practice had become so rampant that as a preventive measure, a Gaming Act was enacted that essentially declared contracts at these establishments to be deemed not a legal document open to dispute in a court of law.

After eight years during which betting shop activity displayed no improvement, the passage of the 1853 Betting Act required closure of all betting shops as these establishments were now deemed to be illegal operations. For the next 108 years, betting shops were forced to operate in obscure locations until May of 1961.when the operation of betting shops was once again declared legal. By the end of the year, 10,000 betting shops sprang up in locations all across the United Kingdom, particularly in London.

Despite a government levy of a 33 percent tax on fixed-odds contracts, bookies and approximately 8,000 betting shops are currently known to be in operation. Today, the three major, independent sports betting businesses are: William Hill (2,250 shops), Ladbrokes (2,350 shops) and Coral (1,600 shops). Established in 1928, state-owned Tote, the fourth largest UK bookmaker, oversees 516 shops.

Betting shops or pleasure palaces as they are currently known have come a long way. Since approximately 1986, these establishments are now permitted to feature horse racing live via satellite affording patrons or punters, as they were called in the old days, to watch sporting events and to place bets if they so desire. Open 24/7, with the exception of Christmas Day, it is estimated that these establishments are currently viewed as a £30 billion economic booster.

The setup of the original bet shops required odds data to be recorded on a chalkboard by a board-man enabling punters to decide whether to take a price on odds posted for a leading horse race contender. Today’s pleasure palaces offer state-of-the-art technological features surrounded by all the comforts of home. All establishments are smoke-free and serve non-alcoholic beverages such as coffee and cocoa. Wagering transactions are handled at fixed-odds betting terminals via credit card usage.