The number of UK betting shops is at its lowest level since they were legalised in 1961 and their number will fall further, given the regulatory and operational difficulties they are facing.
In 1961 there were 8,802 betting shops in operation – in reality only a partial year because legalisation came in on 1 May. The most recent provisional figures from the Gambling Commission show that in the year to 31 March 2019 there were 8,320 ‘active premises’.
This period does not cover the introduction of the new restrictions on B2 FOBT stakes (April 2019) and the number of betting shops will have fallen further since this data was compiled.
The recent financial accounts of one of the leading independent betting firms succinctly highlights the issues they are facing:
“Changes to legislation and regulation continues to present the highest risk to the business. There is no indication that politicians will start to take an evidence-based approach to gambling regulation and it is possible that the retail betting industry will suffer further unwarranted punitive regulations.
There has been a considerable drop in UK betting shops numbers since 1 April 2019 and this trend is set to continue. The remaining shops could be put under further financial pressure as media rights companies seek unreasonable increases in charges to compensate for the reduction in income caused by the drop in shop numbers”.
Update: 26 February 2020.
In its annual results, William Hill reported that its estate, after closures and sales, would be reduced to 1,533 betting shops. The company closed 713 betting shops in Q3 2019.