The world of online sports gambling can be secretive and shadowy, with little known about the people and organisations behind the biggest betting brands.
Some of these gambling companies are now traded publicly, which means they at least have some level of accountability, but for others they are mostly free to do as they please.
A lot of firms have also gone through mergers to make themselves larger and more powerful than ever, although some punters may not realise their chosen brand is owned by another.
So who is behind some of the best known betting firms in the world? Let’s take a look…
Year Founded: 2000
Public or Private: In 2015, Betfair merged with the Paddy Power Group and is traded on the London Stock Exchange.
British entrepreneurs Andrew Black and Edward Wray founded Betfair, sharing the Ernst & Young emerging entrepreneur of the year award two years later as a result.
When Softbank purchased 23 per cent of Betfair in early April 2006, it meant that the company was valued at a massive £1.5 billion.
In 2010, Betfair then floated on the London Stock Exchange. Shares were sold at £13, valuing the company at £1.4 billion, indicating its value had held up since the Softbank investment.
Like a lot of the big betting companies, Betfair was then involved in a major merger. Betfair’s plan to merge with Paddy Power was announced in September 2015 and the deal was completed a few months later.
The firm remains listed on the London Stock Exchange, with the new company known as Paddy Power Betfair. Revenue was recorded to be £1.5 billion in the tax year to 2016.
Powerhouse of UK bookmaking
Year Founded: 1926
Private or Public: Merged with Ladbrokes in 2015 and is traded on the London Stock Exchange
Coral’s history dates back to 1926 and the bookmaker started out offering odds at racecourses before later branching out into betting shops.
After merging with another bookmaker in 1971 – Mark Lane – a decade later the company was bought out by Bass Leisure, although it retained the famous Coral name and blue branding.
Talks over a merger between Coral and Ladbrokes, which would create one of the largest betting companies in the world, began to take place in 1997.
But it took nearly 20 years for the merger to be completed, during which time Coral had been bought by Gala. In July 2015, the Ladbrokes-Coral merger was finally confirmed.
The new company, known as Ladbrokes Coral, is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Year Founded: 2000
Private or Public: Privately owned
The first privately owned company on our list is Bet365, which is controlled by the Coates family.
Known for its close association with the Premier League football club Stoke City, Bet365 was founded in 2000 and in the following year it released its initial online sports betting platform.
Bet365 already had a chain of betting shops that had been founded by Peter Coates in the 1970s, but these were sold off for £40 million to Coral in 2005.
Peter’s offspring Denise and John continue to run the company today, with Peter having previously been listed as the 25th richest person in British football.
Denise Coates, who was behind the idea to set up Bet365 as an online bookmaker, is reportedly worth in excess of £2.5 billion.
Year Founded: 1997
Private or Public: Owned by William Hill Plc
William Hill also owns centrebet.com and Williamhill.com
Sportingbet is part of a family of sportsbooks found under the William Hill PLc umbrella. It was founded by Mark Blandford in 1997.
The firm ran as an independent company until October 2012, when the firm agreed to a £530 million takeover bid from UK bookmaker William Hill.
Under the terms of the deal, Sportingbet came under the banner of Isle of Man-based GVC Holdings. GVC is listed on the London Stock Exchange and the company is also is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.
Brands owned by GVC include Gamebookers, Betboo, Bwin, PartyPoker and Foxy Bingo.
Year Founded: 1967
Private or Public: Private
Another privately owned company is Betfred, which remains under the control of the bookie’s co-founders Fred and Peter Done.
The brothers set up their first betting shop in Salford in 1967 and the company continued to expand, with its 100th betting shop opening up in 1997.
In the next few years Betfred enjoyed rapid expansion and by 2000 the brand had 200 betting shops under its name.
Fred Done, who invented the Lucky 15 Bet in 1984, remains the chairman and CEO of Betfred today and the company currently sponsors the Betfred World Snooker Championship, as well as being the main sponsor of rugby league’s Super League.
The firm also employs over 10,000 staff and is the owner of Totesport, having acquired the company from the government in 2011 for £265 million, bringing the Tote’s 500+ betting shops and the online branch Totesport.com under the Betfred umbrella.
Year Founded: 1946
Private or Public: Private
Independent bookmaker BetVictor used to be known as Victor Chandler International Limited, but the firm is no longer owned by Victor Chandler himself.
Chandler grandfather William Chandler set up the bookmaker all the way back in 1946, control of the firm passing through to Victor after the death of his father, who was also named Victor.
In May 2014 the company was sold British racehorse owner Michael Tabor, who is regarded as one of the richest people in the country.
Tabor has an estimated fortune of £600 million but it was not revealed how much he paid for the controlling stake in the Gibraltar-based betting company.
On completing the takeover of BetVictor, Tabor said: “I believe the BetVictor brand has enormous potential and is well placed to continue its expansion with further investment and strategic development.”
Year Founded: 1970
Private or Public: Kindred Group is traded on Stockholm’s Nasdaq Exchange
Last but not least is Stan James, another online betting brand that began life as a single betting shop, having been set up by Steve Fisher and James Holder in the 1970s.
The duo came up with the name of the company by taking the first two letters of Steve’s name, as well as from his wife Anne – to make Stan – and from James.
In October 2015, Unibet completed a takeover of the online gaming business of Stan James in a deal reported to be worth £19 million.
Unibet is part of the Kindred Group, which claims to be one of the largest online gambling companies in the world. Kindred – which was founded by Anders Strom in 1997 and has its headquarters in Malta for tax reasons – trades publicly on the Nasdaq in Stockholm.