2016 UK Gambling Industry Wrap Up: Big Winners, Mass Mergers, and More

 Leicester City earns punters £25 million.

It was another year of mixed fortunes, but at least Leicester City supporters were able to bank £25 million. (Image: ab.net.au/Getty Images: Laurence Griffiths)

It’s been another year of fun and frolics in the United Kingdom’s gambling industry filled with excitement and controversy.

From Brexit fears and continued homogenisation of the market to big money winners on long shot betting prospects, British bettors had a lot to keep them occupied over the last 12 months.

Mergers and Movers

2016 didn’t see as many mergers as 2015, but the market did continue to consolidate. In February, we saw Paddy Power Betfair become an official entity with a formal listing on the stock market.

In the hours leading up to the new company’s listing on the London Stock Exchange, Paddy Power’s individual listing shot up by 4 percent and when Paddy Power Betfair went live it closed its first day trading at £10.71.

The initial success of that deal was enough to push NYX Digital into a major move later in the year. Continuing its expansion, the software provider acquired Betdigital for £24.5 million in a bid to increase its online, mobile and TV betting provisions.

While other companies were enjoying the benefits of merging, Rank and 888 were left disappointed. Despite offering £3.6 billion in exchange for a deal with William Hill, the bid was branded “too low” and the deal was rejected.

The Big Brexit Vote

For bettors and non-bettors alike the issue of the EU was a major storyline this year. Would the UK vote to leave the European Union (EU) or would we stay as part of a single market? As expected the June 23rd vote divided the nation, but not the gambling industry.

Although it’s still too early to tell what effect the leave vote will have, the early signs are that everything will remain the same. In fact, one of the surest signs that the UK’s betting industry will survive the split came from the Rank Group back in August.

With UK retail outlets enjoying a 1.4 percent uptick in overall spending during July 2016, Rank announced that it would be sheltered from much of the market fluctuations.

Leicester City Crushes the Bookies

When it comes to sports betting, 2016 was the year of the football punter. Thanks to Leicester City’s unlikely Premier League win, British bookmakers were hit with a £25 million bill.

With odds of 5,000/1 at sites like William Hill and Ladbrokes at the start of the 2015/2016 season, Leicester City’s faithful couldn’t help but ante-up in droves.

As the end of the season dawned in May, the Foxes hung onto the top spot and that meant a flurry of major payouts for football fans across the country.

A Pocketful of Chips

In what was possibly the most entertaining story of 2016, a casino dealer from London was caught stealing £12,000 in the most inventive way we’ve seen in a long time. While we’re certainly not condoning or advocating such behaviour, the poker dealer from London’s Genting Casino Cromwell Mint did raise a few eyebrows when he was caught red handed.

So how did he do it? According to the casino’s security team, the Romanian dealer secretly removed casino chips from the table, put them into his pocket where they were then moved down a tube concealed in his trousers.

At this point they fell into his shoe where they stayed until he walked out of the venue.

The elaborate scheme eventually unravelled after he was eventually asked to empty his pockets. As the chips fell to the floor, the man was sacked and left to the mercy of local police officers.

This year there was certainly mixed fortunes for those in the industry. While operators were forced to look towards increased cooperation, punters managed to get one over on “the man.”

With 2017 promising more of the same, we can only look forward to some more gambling highlights over the next twelve months.

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