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Keeping gambling Fair and safe for all

About the betting industry

What is betting?

Betting is defined by the Gambling Act 2005 as the making or accepting of a bet on the outcome of a race, competition or other event or process; the likelihood of anything occurring or not occurring; or whether anything is or is not true.

A transaction may still be a bet despite the fact the race, competition or event has already taken place and one party to the transaction knows the outcome. So by way of a simple example two parties could have a bet on the date of the Battle of Hastings.

What types of betting are there?

The most common form of betting is ‘fixed odds betting’ whereby the customer bets a stake to win a fixed amount calculated by the odds available. For example a £10 bet at odds of 2/1 would return £30 (£20 of winnings + £10 stake) if successful. If unsuccessful the customer would lose their £10 stake.

General betting licence holders are able to offer facilities for fixed odds betting:

  • From betting shops (off-course)
  • on tracks (on-course)
  • by remote means (including online gambling).

Pool betting differs from fixed odds betting as winnings are determined by reference to the aggregate of stakes paid into the pool. The return to successful customers therefore is calculated by dividing the total pool (minus commission) by the number of winning tickets.

Pool betting incorporates:

  • racecourse pool betting
  • football and other sports pool betting
  • ‘fantasy football' type competitions.

Pool betting can be conducted remotely or non-remotely.

The Tote (Successor Company) Limited holds the exclusive licence (until mid 2018) to offer pool betting in respect of GB horse racing.  In order for anyone other than Tote (Successor Company) Limited to carry on pool betting on GB horse racing pursuant to the terms of the exclusive licence, authorisation from Tote (Successor Company) Limited is required.

Betting intermediaries facilitate betting between two or more parties. They do not have liability for the bets but often derive a commission from the successful party. Betting intermediaries can be remote or non-remote.

Spread betting: The Gambling Commission does not regulate spread betting. This is the responsibility of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Further information about betting

More information about the betting industry is available in Gambling Industry Statistics.


Page last reviewed: January 2015