Following the Gaming Act 1845, the only gambling allowed in the United Kingdom was at race tracks. The introduction of special excursion trains meant that all classes of society could attend the new racecourses opening across the country. Cash concentrated towards the bookmakers who employed bodyguards against protection gangs operating within the vast crowds.
In 1961, Harold Macmillan's Conservative Government legalised betting shops and tough measures were enacted to ensure that bookmakers remained honest. A large industry has grown since. At one time there were over 15,000 betting shops in the UK. Now, through consolidation, they have been reduced to about 8,500. The group of the largest bookmakers in the country, known as the "Big Three", comprises William Hill, Ladbrokes, and Coral.