Do You Have To Play Football To Be A Commentator The History of Bookmakers

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The History of Bookmakers

The origins of bookmaking have faded into the past, but betting, especially on horse racing, has been ingrained in the character of England for centuries. Originally betting was between individuals, with the biggest bets placed on classic races such as the Derby and the St Leger. Betting was the domain of the wealthy, but betting contracts, where no money changed hands, often led to huge debts and animosity. The Gaming Act of 1845 banned the practice and bookmakers began insisting on cash.

Betting shops began to be set up across the country but were outlawed by the Betting Act of 1853 and not legalized until 1 May 1961, with 10,000 shops set up within 6 months, some illegal bookies made it through the new inspection process. , established by the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act. However, many of them find that entering the business world is beyond their means, unable to set up premises, pay staff and ‘go straight’. Also, betting tax was increased and the government imposed a 33 percent tax on fixed-odds coupons issued by bookmakers. High street shops began to dwindle in number and now number just over 8,000.

Punters could only listen to audio commentary on the races at the betting shop, provided by the Exchange Telegraph Company, each region having a ‘local’ commentator with a ‘local’ accent. In 1986 the rules were relaxed and television screens were allowed allowing most shops to carry live racing via satellite. Bookmakers were allowed to open in the evenings and on Sundays, but the 10 per cent duty drove punters to illegal bookmakers, who operated in pubs, clubs and factories, accounting for 10 per cent of betting turnover.

Two other events have had a major impact on bookmakers – the first when Frankie Dettori rode all seven winners at Ascot in 1996, leading to huge payouts. The second was the introduction of the National Lottery and specifically scratchcards in 1995, denying betting shops the right to sell tickets. A government survey on gambling found that 57% of gamblers use lotteries, 20% buy scratchcards and 17% bet on horse racing.

However, over the past decade, measures have been taken to rebalance the country’s gambling impulses. The tax on betting shop wages was reduced from 10% to 9% and abolished in 2002 in favor of a tax on bookmakers’ gross profits. Rules on betting on football have been relaxed, allowing betting on single matches and allowing betting shops to install fixed odds betting terminals and fruit machines.

Online gambling is today’s concern for bookmakers but statistics suggest that internet gambling and betting shops can coexist – the four biggest betting shop companies are still strongly committed to betting shops. William Hill currently operates more than 2,250 stores; Ladbrokes is 2,350; Coral owns 1,600; and manages totesport 540. Paddy Power, which has 58 British stores, mostly in and around London, announced profits of £55.2m for 2007, half of which came from online operations. But the UK shops have also made money and are planning to double by 2011.

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