UK Football Betting By The Numbers

If you ask anyone to name the top three most popular sports in the UK and the British Isles, the answer would be football, football, and football alone! Whether you like it or not, that is the exact state of affairs in Britain at the moment.

England, in particular, has a special relationship with the sport. With 22 levels, and a massive top eight pro/semi-pro league structure, the English football system is one of the most comprehensive in the world.

And then there is our long-standing history with gambling as a pastime including no deposit bonus casinos and sports betting. In the UK, even the monarchy has indirect connections with it, albeit in the form of horse racing. But for the rest of the populace, football has replaced horses as the preferred sport for a wager or two.

How Football Dethroned Horses In UK Gambling

  • Horse Racing Betting

    For centuries since the 1500s, horse racing was the most popular gambling pastime in the British Isles for both monarchs and commoners alike. This slowly started to change in the 1950s, with the legalization of betting shops.
  • Football Betting

    Brands like William Hill and Ladbrokes offered both football and horse betting markets (along with other sports) for the next several decades. Two things happened after 1980 that changed the industry for good – in the mid-80s, shops were allowed more freedom to market their products.
  • Premier League

    And in 1992 came the new Premier League, a more glamorous, cash-rich avatar of the First Division of English football. The entire nation was soon hooked on the league, and demand for football betting markets went through the roof.
  • Gambling Law

    The final push was given by the Parliament in 2005 when it legalized and regulated online betting. Now, sportsbooks could offer punters an incredible variety of football betting markets, including live wagers, directly to their computers and mobile devices. Horse racing never stood a chance!

A Quick Look at the UK Gambling Industry

UK Gambling Commission

The modern UK gambling industry is one of the biggest in the world. Thanks to the changes made by the Parliament in 2005, it also happens to be the most regulated industry anywhere on the globe.

The UK Gambling Commission has issued close to 800 licenses to betting companies since the new law was passed. Based mainly in the UK, Malta, and Gibraltar, these companies constitute the gambling industry in the country.

As for the player base, the numbers are certainly very impressive indeed. Close to 69% of the UK population had placed a wager on a sporting event at least once a year, and this was the figure in 2012. But the latest industry figures estimate that only around half the population gamble, and that is when you take into account national lotteries.

So a safe estimate of regular gamblers would place the figure in the UK somewhere in between 20% -30% of the population. With the current population at 66 million, that would mean that around 20 million people in the UK have a gambling habit of some sort.

According to the Gambling Commission figures, the entire industry in the UK was worth around £14 billion in 2017-18. Of that figure, a third came from online gambling, which came to around £5.6 billion. But it has to be remembered that online gambling includes sports betting, casinos, and other forms of gambling entertainment.

Football’s Share of the Gambling Pie

Football’s Share of the Gambling Pie

Now that we have a clear grasp of the background, it is time to take a look at the actual share of football in the UK gambling industry landscape.

Remember that £5.6 billion (approximate) figure for the online gambling sector? Out of that, around £2.5 billion came from online casinos and slots. This leaves another £2+ billion as online sports betting’s share.

This is where we can see how dominant football is. Horse racing is second with around 28% of the revenue, close to 500 million pounds. Football is at the top of the pile, with punters putting in more than £786 million into the coffers of betting companies in 2017.

Football’s share of the online sports betting market sits at a massive 40% mark at the moment. And the remote online betting industry has been growing in the UK at the rate of 1.2% each year, currently accounting for 38.8% of the Gross Gambling Yield (GGY)

In contrast, betting shops have been declining, accounting for around £3.2 billion GGY. In here too, we can expect both football and horse racing to maintain similar percentages. That would put another £1 billion as the input from football bets to the gambling industry through these shops.

The Impact on the Sport in the UK

Premier League

With almost £2 billion worth of best coming from online and offline betting, football seems to be the clear choice for UK players in the field of sports betting. The betting industry in the UK has deep ties with the sport due to this reason.

And nowhere is this more visible than in the top two divisions of football in England. We are talking about the Premier League and the Championship. And to be more precise, we are talking about club sponsorships.

Out of the 44 clubs in the top two divisions, 27 have betting company logos on their shirts. This includes half the clubs in the Premier League and more than half the teams in the next division. This includes medium-sized teams like West Ham, Everton, Newcastle, Watford, and Crystal Palace.

The heavy involvement of gambling companies in football has also drawn quite a lot of criticism from many politicians and media. The Gambling Commission has also cracked down hard in recent years on the marketing side of the industry, to protect children and problem gamblers.

The major betting brands have responded by voluntarily placing a ban on ads during live matches. This is important, since the vast majority of football bets and placed during the match itself.

Regardless of these new developments, football betting shows no sign of slowing down in the UK. Interest in the Premier League remains at an all-time high with exciting title showdowns between Manchester City and Liverpool at the forefront. The UK gambling industry will continue to depend on football for its revenues into the foreseeable future.