The changing business environment for betting shops

This article focuses on changes and challenges faced by betting shops as a result of the widespread use of digital technologies, the mounting public and political concerns around how betting shops may encourage gambling, and the updated government regulations on gambling within betting shops.

Date added 16 November 2021
Last updated 16 November 2021

This article focuses on changes and challenges faced by betting shops as a result of the widespread use of digital technologies, the mounting public and political concerns around how betting shops may encourage gambling, and the updated government regulations on gambling within betting shops. The article also provides contextual background to the history and emergence of gambling and betting shops’ presence on the high street.

By 1990, the chain betting shops such as William Hill, Ladbrokes and Corals dominated the market and by 2019, these same businesses including Betfred and Paddy Power were still the major players, making the betting shop provision highly concentrated. However, as times are changing, so is the business environment for betting shops. With the increased use of personal mobile communication technologies, the traditional brick-and-mortar betting shop is now challenged by the digital availability of gambling. Competing with these new digital spaces for spontaneous gambling is making it harder to attract people to physically visit the shops, although the article does point out that there is a social aspect to betting and that bookies offer that atmosphere.

Nevertheless, there are concerns around betting shops that impact on their business environment. The article highlights research that suggest that betting shops are “a marker for social decline of an area” that have a detrimental effect on places’ vitality and viability by lowering the attractiveness. This becomes even more problematic when betting shops are clustered in deprived areas, and it has been found to fuel anti-social behaviour.

Some of the leading betting shop businesses have however attempted to rebrand their image by offering more modern technology in store such as new screens and interactive digital experiences. As such, betting shops are trying to establish so called ‘multi-channel solutions’ to combine online platforms and traditional retail offer. However, the article suggests that by promoting their digital experiences, betting shops are effectively contributing to their own decline.

The article concludes that although the leading chains on the market seek more sustainable business models, the number of betting shops will continue to decline on the high street. Albeit it may not be the end for physical betting shops altogether.