Legal Sports Betting in the United Kingdom

Legal sports betting in the United Kingdom has been an option since 1961. The United Kingdom was one of the first countries to embrace the sports betting industry and has some of the most developed laws among countries that allow legal sports betting. The United Kingdom is famous for establishing the first sports betting exchange. In a betting exchange, you don’t bet against a bookmaker or against fixed odds, instead, you’re betting against other bettors. Betting exchanges offer higher odds and allow bettors to set their own odds for any sporting event. The betting exchange also gives bettors the opportunity to trade their bets as prices can fluctuate before and during a sporting event giving bettors plenty of opportunities to find ways to make a profit.

The United Kingdom sees more sports bets placed than any other country in Europe. The menu of sports you can bet on legally in the United Kingdom is vast. Football, basketball, American football, hockey, eSports, boxing, golf, tennis, and cricket are all sports that can be bet on legally in the United Kingdom. With minimal legislation, many sportsbooks can advertise their brand and odds without government regulation. In the United Kingdom, you can also place legal wagers at any of the major legal sports betting venues because most venues are partnered with gambling companies and operate booths or have roaming bet takers throughout the venue.

The Legality of Sports Betting in the United Kingdom

The legality of sports betting in the United Kingdom has a long history of reform and industry-leading laws. The Gaming Act 1845 made the United Kingdom one of the first countries to allow betting on horse racing. Horse racing would see another form of regulation with the Racecourse Betting Act of 1928. This legislation allowed fixed-odd betting on horse racing and created the Racecourse Betting Control Board to regulate the industry. The United Kingdom has embraced sports betting assimilating it into its culture. The Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 legalized additional forms of gambling in the United Kingdom, allowed for cash betting either by post or in person and made it legal to open a betting shop. The next form of legislation would come nearly half a century later with the Gambling Act of 2005. This act created the Gambling Commission which would regulate all forms of betting in the United Kingdom. The Act also allowed gambling companies to advertise freely if they complied with the Gambling Commission.

Furthermore, the act made gambling debts legally enforceable which helps ensure people that win their bets will get paid. The Gambling Act of 2005 was revolutionary because it was the first time a bill was signed into legislation to regulate online gambling. In order to deter sports matches from being fixed or interfered with, the 2006 Fraud Act was passed, making sports corruption a criminal offense. The Gambling Licensing and Advertising Act of 2014 required remote gambling companies to register with the Gambling Commission if they wanted to continue operating in the United Kingdom. Shortly after the Point-of-Consumption Tax was passed. This placed a 15% tax on all foreign-based United Kingdom sportsbook operators.

Is Online Sports Betting Legal in the United Kingdom?

Yes, online sports betting is legal in the United Kingdom. Online sportsbooks are the prime way many UK sports bettors get in on the action. It is convenient and can be accessed from smartphones and tablets. There are over 500 online sportsbooks on offer to UK sports bettors, including Betway, Paddy Power, and BetOnline. The UK is a major hotbed for online sports betting with European soccer leagues being extremely popular. So much so, that online sportsbooks advertise on football club shirts. There are regulated online sports betting in the UK by the official United Kingdom Gambling Commission and the laws signed in allow for safe online betting to all UK sports bettors.

United Kingdom Sports Betting Markets

London is the United Kingdom’s largest individual betting market with a population of nearly 9 million people. Soccer is the most popular sport among UK bettors, and London is home to five different English Premier League (EPL) teams. The UK’s Gross Gaming Yield showed that £786 million ($968.46 million) was wagered on soccer alone. Nine EPL teams feature a sports betting company as a sponsor on their kit, and the EPL as a whole has prioritized working with major British sportsbooks like William Hill. The UEFA Champions League and the World Cup are other major draws for soccer betting, especially after England’s run to the semifinals in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

After soccer, horse racing is the next most wagered-on sport, with the country’s 60 licensed horse racing tracks accounting for 28.4% of all bets placed throughout the United Kingdom. Other popular sports in the UK include tennis and cricket. Tennis has grown especially popular because of how conducive it is to live, in-play betting and because Wimbledon, the world’s preeminent tennis tournament, is hosted in a southwestern suburb of London. National interest in cricket hit an all-time high during the 2019 Cricket World Cup as captain Ben Stokes led the English national team to its first-ever World Cup championship. While cricket betting action has slowed considerably, expect the 2023 World Cup to bring a huge volume of bets as England seeks to protect its crown. 

Where United Kingdom Sports Betting Revenue Goes

The sports betting industry generates a lot of revenue for the United Kingdom. The Gross Gambling Yield in the UK between April 2016 and March 2017 was £13.8bn ($17 billion), according to the industry regulator, the Gambling Commission. Between the 15% tax on foreign sportsbook operators and a fully developed gambling market, the sports betting industry in the United Kingdom is one of the best in the world. With such a huge stream of revenue coming in from sports betting the United Kingdom does send some of the revenue back into the sports that the wagers are being placed on. The revenue also goes back to the workers as the industry employs over 100,000 people and generates £700 Million ($862.53 million) in tax revenue.

2020 Sports Betting Landscape In The UK

The internet sports betting community was huge in the UK and was a big part of how business was done. However, because of the Coronavirus pandemic stopping all major sporting events from occurring, the market came to a screeching halt. While they are receiving business from virtual sports betting and esports, it would seem that there has been a sudden interest in political wagers among sports bettors in the country. Members of internet sportsbooks have been placing more and more bets on politics with sports on hiatus. The biggest bets are on the American 2020 Presidential Election with Joe Biden and Donald Trump going head to head for the title. Along with political betting, casino internet gaming has also spiked while sports fans wait for the ban to be lifted and matches to resume.