Virtually all of the business of the early betting shops involved bets on horseraces. The early shops were also kept unattractive by strict regulations. Over the years, bookmakers have expanded into other sports and, as they have gained the trust of successive governments, have been able to develop their premises to be attractive and welcoming to customers. Some of the latest betting shops look like up-market coffee shops, a world away from the dingy betting shops of the 1960s.
The traditional area of betting on horses, whilst still the most important single betting activity, has been supplemented by betting on greyhound racing (with the provision of a bespoke service during shop opening hours). Also football and sports betting and the opportunity to bet on numbers events ranging from the Irish Lottery to specially created virtual horse and dog races. On each of these products, a price is offered about a particular outcome and the customer is paid irrespective of how many other winners there are .
There are many different bet types available including win singles, where you have to predict the winner of one event (e.g. in a horse race), accumulators where you need to forecast the winner of several events (more difficult but potentially bigger winnings) and correct scores and first goalscorer where you predict the score/first player to score in a football match.
The betting shop (there are some 8,400 in the UK) is nowadays a modern environment offering a variety of facilities with TV coverage of events, information screens, refreshments and comfortable seating. It also provides the opportunity to play on fruit machines and betting terminals where customers can bet on the outcome of special roulette type events.
Each day there are hundreds of opportunities to bet, not forgetting the high profile events such as the Grand National, Derby, FA Cup, and Cricket Test matches that span the calendar.
Complementary to betting in a shop, telephone betting offers a quick and convenient method of 'getting your bet on' using, for example, a debit card.
Internet betting provides the opportunity to place bets online and this channel, in particular, serves a worldwide audience and is becoming increasingly popular.
In spite of the growth of these two remote channels, the betting shop still accounts for most betting activity.
Whilst betting remains a tightly regulated business, with each betting shop needing a licence to operate and under 18's not allowed to bet, bookmaking has progressed over the years into a modern business.
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