The History of Bookmakers in the UK

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Although betting shops were allowed to legally open for business in 1961 following the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960, that year does not mark the beginning of bookmakers in the country. Keep reading to learn about the origins of bookmakers in the UK as well as where the industry is heading. How did we go from the 1800s to online casinos like sbobet? Let’s find out!


Even though betting has existed in one form or another for millennia, it really began to take off in the UK in the 1800s. In this century, bookmaking started to resemble what it does today. At this time, horse races began to have a larger field. Head to head matches became less prevalent. Bookmakers started to offer individual pricing on horses.

While horse racing was the most popular sport to bet on at the time, other sports were quickly gaining popularity. People started to bet on anything they could find. From foot races to house building, if there was some uncertainty in the outcome, there was likely a bet on it.

In the 1830s, some groups tried to shut down gambling because of its negative effect on British citizens. The first Gaming Act was passed in 1845. This law stated that the government was to stay out of gambling affairs. If people lost badly or were ripped off, it was their problem. However, it wasn’t until the Betting Act of 1853 that the government actively tried to shut down the betting shops that had sprouted up all over the country. Even though bookmakers became illegal, that did not stop the activity. It largely moved “underground” into private residences and clubs.


Fast forward to after World War II, and the Royal Commission was set up to determine how betting could be regulated. In the years following the 1853 ban, the government realized that the practice had not stopped. Once the government figured out that they could make money off gambling and control its activity, they decided to legalize it in 1960 with the Betting and Gambling Act.


In 2001 the government taxing structure changed to prevent betting companies from moving offshore to avoid taxes. They opted to allow punters free winnings instead of charging a 15% tax on bookies. As things have moved online, taxes have been difficult to enforce. However, the government re-evaluates the system every few years to ensure they are not missing out on any profit.

In 2005 the Gambling Act was passed to support consumers of betting services. This law required bookmakers to become licensed and adhere to certain regulations before they would be allowed to offer their services.

While online betting has grown exponentially, betting shops are still popular due to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). FOBTs are essentially mini casinos that allow bettors to play dozens of games in an instant.

In the future physical bookmakers may disappear entirely, but at the moment they are still holding out. However, it is likely that the popularity of online gambling will only increase as time goes on.