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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 example two parties could have a bet on the date of the Battle of Hastings.

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.

What types of betting are there?

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

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

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. Remote pool betting is conducted, for example, via an online betting site run by one of the football pools operators. Non-remote pool betting is conducted in person (for example, the Tote, which accepts pool bets on tracks and in high street betting shops).

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.

Betting intermediaries

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.

Remote betting intermediaries, which includes betting exchanges, generally operate through the internet.

Spread betting

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