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Craig Porter 30th Apr 2011 - 10:25

You bet this gamble paid off handsomely

Betting shops celebrate their half-century. By Graham Sharpe, Media Relations Director, William Hill

On May 1, 1961, betting shops became legal in Britain. Fifty years later they are one of the most familiar components of every High Street and the gambling industry is one of the most recession-resilient businesses in the land.

Fifty years ago horse racing, greyhound racing and the occasional football match, tennis tournament or cricket test match were the options available to customers of betting shops.

Today, every major sporting event comes with betting odds attached; Royal Weddings, Royal Ascot, and Reality TV are all available, along with ‘Numbers’ betting, Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, Virtual Racing and almost any custom-built gamble customers care to put forward will receive appropriate odds on request.

The huge majority of betting shops, once permitted only to take bets without in any way encouraging patrons to remain on the premises, are now inviting and welcoming establishments, offering comfortable seating, toilet facilities, refreshments, large screen terrestrial and satellite tv coverage of sporting events, and are open every day of the week and into the evenings.

The last time betting shops and the Royal Wedding coincidentally dovetailed was in 1973 when Princess Anne's marriage to Mark Phillips coincided with the 11/10 victory of Royal Mark on the day. This time William Hill offered 8/1 that Royal Wedding would win on Royal Wedding day and, inevitably, it did!

"Millions of pounds were riding on what happened during and after the Royal Wedding, and it is incredible to recall that in 1977 William Hill hit the headlines for turning down bets on the sex of Princess Anne’s baby as we thought there would be adverse criticism for doing so," said William Hill’s spokesman Graham Sharpe. "But by 1981 we were quoting a huge range of odds for Charles and Di's wedding."

William Hill currently operate 2350 betting shops, more than any other British company. "Betting shops have enjoyed an eventful fifty year history, chronicled in 'Fifty-plus Great Betting Shop Stats and Stories', and there is little reason to believe that the name of William Hill and other betting shop companies will not still be a prominent part of the High Street on May 1, 2061," added Graham.


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