The high street betting shop has been the backbone of the betting industry in the UK since it was legalised in the early 60’s, and without them the online world of betting would not be what it is today. For many, the shops weren’t just a place to bet, they were a place to meet friends, a community, a way of life. If you wanted to bet (legally), the high street bookie was the place to go.
History of the High Street Betting Shop
The first high street betting shops opened up in 1961. This was after Harold Macmillan passed a law to legalise betting shops in an attempt to tackle the many illegal gambling hangouts in the country.
The industry exploded with 10,000 setting up shop within the first 6 months, and the market was booming in a very short space of time. At its peak, around 16,000 high street betting shops could be found throughout the UK, but the introduction of online betting has seen this number drop to almost half that, and it continues to decline.
Whilst high street bookmakers may be on the decline, it’s not a fair reflection on the gambling industry as a whole. In 2009 the UK economy went into a recession with many high street stores facing closure and the town centre’s in danger of becoming ghost towns. Whilst this certainly had a negative effect on the high street bookmaker, in a roundabout way it gave them a break. In an attempt to reinvigorate high streets the government allowed bookmakers to take up residence in the unused buildings for up to two years without planning permission. Whilst a short term solution, it does open the door for the high bookmaker to reclaim the UK’s high streets.
High Street Bookmaker Distribution and Density
It’s probably no surprise to hear there is a correlation between bookies locations and areas that have low employment levels, high benefits levels and a low-level income base. Bookmakers target these places because they know they are going to attract a higher number of people to their stores. Evidencing this, the whole of Tyneside has more bookmakers per hectare then the whole of London and a lot of its surrounding boroughs, and a high street in Newham has the most bookies on a single street anywhere in the UK – 18.
In city centre’s and otherwise affluent areas bookmakers tend to be more scarce.
There’s little doubt that in these hard times bookmakers are targeting people who may be lured by the chance of earning big money fast and changing their lives. Whether this is morally or ethically acceptable will be left for another day.
Do High Street Bookies Still Have A Place In Modern Day Betting?
Well the stats certainly suggest not. A decrease in high street bookmakers of almost 50% from their peak, and an economy which is showing few signs of turnaround anytime soon certainly don’t help the cause. The popularity of online betting sites is probably another nail in the coffin.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the punter, though; online betting sites are so accessible since you can place a wager from anywhere in the world at just the touch of a button. It also means that bookmakers reduce their outgoings since they don’t have to pay the upkeep on so many shops. This will theoretically trickle down to their betting sites where they can afford to offer better odds and enhanced betting specials, which again benefits the punters.
To conclude, it certainly doesn’t look good for high street bookmakers. It’s a trade – one of many – that’s going through big changes. On the flip side, though, betting in general is probably seeing its biggest upturn since the introduction of betting shops, and is midway through the next step in the expansion of bookmaking as we know it.