Betting shops were first legalized in the UK in 1961, along with casinos and bingo halls. Prior to this bets could only be placed at racetracks, or via illegal Bookmakers. Within 6 months of being legalized there were more than 10,000 up and running and at their peak in the 1970s it is estimated there were more than 16,000 betting shops across the UK.
In their heyday, UK betting shops were a gathering point for the local community, just like the traditional English pub. At their worst they have been accused to destroying high streets and preying on the poor and vulnerable. They were designed to ensure they were unpleasant places to visit; windows had to be blacked out, with no signage allowed to indicate what was going on inside, for fear of being too enticing. Inside, no seating was allowed and now were televisions or radios. They started to change in the mid 1980s, when brighter interiors and televisions were allowed for the first time, along with seating, though still considered to be unwelcoming and seedy places.
In the past, for many betting was seen as a class thing, especially for the middle and upper class as they were able to show off how much money they had by being extravagant with what they bet on and how much they bet. For the working class it was seen as something completely different; a chance to get away from their industrial based jobs in pits and factories and get a buzz of excitement from having a bet.
The future of betting shops in the UK has been put in big doubts this year after the UK Government' decision to reduce the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to just £2. The stakes were reduced to help vulnerable people and problem gamblers. Bookies such as William Hill (700 stores) and GVC, which owns the Ladbrokes and Coral brand, have said they will close up to 1,000 stores. In total up to a quarter of UK betting shops could close, with 12,000 jobs at risk.
The revenue growth in High Street betting stores has been dwindling for the past 5-6 years but the introduction of the £2 max stake has been the tipping point for many of these closures. Another factor for the drop in revenue in the shops is due to the huge growth in mobile betting. The technological advancements over the past couple of decades have made betting much easier and convenient for punters all over the world. The main reason why mobile betting has gained popularity, particularly over the high street shops is freedom and convenience. People no longer need to walk to their nearest store or sit in front of their computers being stationary to have a bet, they can bet on the go.
It is not only betting shops that has seen a reduction in business, it has affected all sectors; customers now prefer to do their shopping for whatever it may be online, in front of their phone, laptop or tablet, because access to almost everything is so freely available on the Internet and as i stated before, is so much more convenient and less time consuming this way.
UK betting shops might be set to close in huge numbers, but the companies that run them will be gearing up to reinvent the concept for a new audience on a different scale.