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Coral is a chain of betting shops in the United Kingdom, owned by Entain. The Coral business was established by Joe Coral in 1926. It grew into an entertainment conglomerate before undergoing a series of ownership changes starting in 1981. As of 2015, Coral had 1,845 shops across the country.
Joe Coral (born Joseph Kagarlitski, 11 December 1904 – 16 December 1996) began his bookmaking business in 1926 and, although primarily concerned with operating betting pitches at racecourses, together with his friend Tom Bradbury-Pratt, he ran speedway meetings at Harringay and opened a credit office in the West End of London in 1943.
He had greyhound racing pitches at Harringay Stadium and then White City Stadium followed later by Clapton Stadium and Walthamstow Stadium before branching into betting offices.
He was one of the first to take advantage of the new legislation and opened his first licensed betting office in 1961. The new law was not intended to encourage betting and therefore shops were unattractive in appearance and devoid of any comforts.
Coral arranged a merger with another bookmaker, Mark Lane in 1971. By 1979, the company had become the Coral Leisure Group and had diversified to include a variety of other businesses, including casinos, hotels, restaurants, Pontins holiday camps, squash clubs, bingo clubs, and real estate.
Coral Online Betting Log In
In January 1981, the Coral Group was acquired by Bass plc and although it continued to retain the Coral name it became an integral part of the growing Bass Leisure.
In September 1998, Bass sold Coral to the Ladbroke Group for £363 million. The UK Government, however, ordered Ladbroke to sell Coral after the Monopolies and Mergers Commission found that the acquisition was anti-competitive. The Coral business, except for 59 shops in Ireland and Jersey, was sold in a management buyout financed by Morgan Grenfell Private Equity for £390 million in February 1999.
In November 1999, Coral acquired Eurobet, an online betting operation based in Gibraltar, for £7.1 million. The company changed its name to Coral Eurobet in May 2000. Coral Eurobet was then sold in a further management buy out in September 2002, which was backed by Charterhouse Development Capital.
In October 2005, Coral Eurobet was acquired for £2.18 billion by casino and bingo firm Gala, which changed its name to Gala Coral Group, creating the United Kingdom's third largest bookmaker and largest bingo operator. Coral and Eurobet continued to operate as divisions of Gala Coral.
In July 2009, Coral announced the relocation of their broadcasting department to Milton Keynes to a purpose built studio to manage the inception of its new television channel, Coral TV.
In May 2010, Coral bookmakers launched the Coral Dugout which was designed to offer in-depth football knowledge from ex-Premier League referee Graham Poll and sports presenter Jeff Stelling during the FIFA World Cup 2010. In November 2011, Coral announced they had signed for 30,793 sq ft of offices at One Stratford Place at Westfields £1.45bn Stratford City scheme opposite the Olympics stadium in east London.
In November 2016, Gala Coral was acquired by Ladbrokes, which changed its name to Ladbrokes Coral. Coral and Ladbrokes shops continued to operate under their respective names. GVC Holdings acquired Ladbrokes Coral in March 2018.
Marketing and advertising
As part of their experimental marketing campaign strategy, Coral engaged in the ‘RUN 4 IT’ campaign, requiring brand ambassadors dressed in trademark robber costumes, to physically ‘steal’ customers from competitor bookies. Over the course of this three week campaign, punters were encouraged to change their betting habits with the lure of a guaranteed win loyalty card and then walked by the ambassadors to the nearest Coral. This campaign saw a 7% conversion rate and 2,447 customers were ‘stolen’ from 900 bookies.
- ^John-Paul Ford Rojas (24 July 2015). 'Betting giants Ladbrokes and Coral merge to create UK's biggest bookmaker - but will it close stores and axe jobs?'. The Daily Mirror. London. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
- ^Rubinstein, William D.; Jolles, Michael; Rubinstein, Hilary L. (2011). The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 182. ISBN978-1-4039-3910-4.
- ^''Joe Coral'. The Times London, England, 19 Dec. 1996'. The Times Digital Archive.
- ^Genders, Roy (1975). The Greyhound and Racing Greyhound. Page Brothers (Norwich). ISBN0-85020-0474.
- ^Genders, Roy (1981). The Encyclopedia of Greyhound Racing. Pelham Books Ltd. ISBN07207-1106-1.
- ^Limited Report and Accounts 1979 (Report). Coral Leisure Group. 11 June 1980. pp. 8–20 – via Companies House.
- ^ abFrancisco Guerrera (23 September 1998). 'DTI bars Ladbroke from buying Coral'. The Independent. London. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
- ^Eibhir Mulqueen (23 December 1998). 'Irish Coral shops not part of Ladbroke sell-off'. Irish Times. Dublin – via NewsBank.
- ^Listing particulars (Report). Ladbroke Group. 10 March 1999. p. 47 – via Companies House.[permanent dead link]
- ^Daneshkhu, Scheherazade; Rivlin, Richard (25 February 2000). 'Coral aiming for £1bn flotation'. Financial Times. London – via NewsBank.
- ^Report and Accounts (Report). Coral Eurobet. 24 September 2000. p. 27 – via Companies House.
- ^Report and Accounts (Report). Coral Eurobet. 24 September 2000. p. 2 – via Companies House.
- ^'Coral chain bought in MBO for 860m pounds'. The Scotsman. 3 August 2002. Archived from the original on 1 August 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
- ^'Casino group Gala snaps up Coral'. BBC. 7 October 2005. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
- ^Annual Report for 2007(PDF) (Report). Gala Coral Group. pp. 10 & 16. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
- ^'New systems integration team builds state-of-the-art production facility for UK bookmakers'. SIS News. 27 October 2009. Archived from the original on 4 November 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
- ^'Will Rooney Rule the World Cup? Will Messi Make His Mark? The Coral Dugout Will Be Full of World Cup Insight and Excitement This Summer!'. Market wired. 24 May 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
- ^'Westfield books Coral for Stratford HQ'. Costar. 1 November 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
- ^'Ladbrokes Coral Group – Completion of Merger' (Press release). Ladbrokes Coral Group. 1 November 2016. Retrieved 2017-12-27.
- ^Barber, Bill (31 October 2016). 'Coral-Ladbrokes merger completes on Tuesday'. Racing Post. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
- ^Davies, Craig (29 March 2018). 'GVC Holdings completes long awaited Ladbrokes Coral acquisition'. SBC News. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
- ^'Coral Experiential Marketing Results'. iD Experiential. Archived from the original on 2012-03-13. Retrieved 2018-03-31.
The owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, GVC, announced this week that they are to terminate operations at UK racecourses, meaning no more pitches in the betting ring with the famous old British bookmaking names emblasoned on them.
This news comes at a time when UK racecourses are hosting meetings either without spectators or with limited crowds with hardly any on course bookies at the moment in a very challenging time for the industry.
Given takings from on-course betting now pales into insignificance, even without the current situation, it is of little surprise GVC has taken this action from a business perspective. It is something people have been expecting since the takeover with GVC more interested in online operations and expanding into new markets.
While the announcement might have been expected by many in the business world it is a seminal moment in the history of British racing and betting. Ladbrokes was established originally as commission agents for selling horses and Coral originate from the tattersalls of race tracks and so both have been synonymous with the sport for generations.
The 106 pitches (85 UK, 21 Ireland) look like they will be snapped up by Sid Hopper, the same independent operator that bought 82 William Hill pitches for £2,000,000 when they sold up in 2018. There are murmurings that Hooper could be moving to become a big player outside of race courses on the back of this.
The loss of these names from UK racetracks is a sign that betting and racing has changed with the famous old brands that helped create modern racing now being swallowed by big international investment groups with little regard for history. Here we look at the history of these brands and how without horse racing neither would exist today – and perhaps neither would horse racing, at least in the way we know it today.
Of all the bookies in Britain Coral and horse racing are the most ingrained. Joe Coral set up his bookmaking business back in 1926 operating pitches at UK horse race courses and those pitches have been in operation for the 95 years since.
Joe was also instrumental in making greyhound racing the sport it became. He operated pitches at the old famous London tracks like Walthamstow, Clapton and White City and it was Coral the company that years later rescued many tracks, such as Brighton and Romford, by buying them up in the 2000’s.
Coral was one of the first shops to open when betting shops were legalised in 1961 and went on to branch out into other forms of leisure, such as hotels and holiday camps but ultimately it was bookmaking and horse racing that remained at the core of the brand.
The company was sold to Bass in 1981 but retained its independence. For a long time it was Coral that did the buying up acquiring the Eurobet in 1999 to become one of the first bookies to take advantage of the growing online market. Coral Eurobet was then acquired by the mega bingo company Gala in 2005, but again the businesses were largely kept separate allowing Coral to continue as it always had done.
In 2016 the company joined up with Ladbrokes in a merger, they has actually tried to merge in 1998 but the takeover was blocked by the monopolies and mergers commission. This new joint venture did not last long with GVC Holdings buying the both of them in 2017. From then on Coral has continued to exist in name but the company now has a totally different vision for what it wants with its main priorities being to grow the online business in global markets.
Ladbrokes are the oldest bookmaker still in operation today. They were established in 1886 by two gentlemen known as Schwind and Pennington who operated a partnership as commission agents for horses trained at Ladbroke Hall (hence the name). It was Pennington who trained the horses and Schwind that acted as the commission agent by backing those horses.
In 1902 Arthur Bendir joined the pair and the name was formally adopted. He helped change the business model from not just backing horses trained by them but also betting against other horses, effectively backing and laying and becoming a ‘bookmaker’ in the process.
Ladbrokes Coral Gambling Commission
The success that followed that allowed the company to set up in London in 1906 and eventually even Mayfair in 1913. From there they became an exclusive bookie to higher classes and enjoyed over 40 years in that role. The end of WWII spelled a sea change and with less and less clients the business was sold for just £100k in 1956 to Mark and Cyril Stien.
Just five years later off-track betting was legalised and Ladbrokes were among the first to get in on the act. This lead to the company floating for ten times what they paid for it, £1,000,000, in 1966. From there Ladbrokes grew and grew to become a name you now expect to see on most UK high streets and race courses around the country.
During the time form the early 1960’s to today Ladbrokes contributed an immense amount to racing in terms of sponsorship and betting opportunities, in a time before online betting when only a few companies had these resources.
Who Are GVC?
Ladbrokes and Coral were frankly victims of their own success. The staggering growth of both companies in the world of digital betting made them attractive for investors. The companies merged in 2016 in a hope that standing together would help them resist takeover that could obliterate the brands, but just one year later GVC emerged and bought the new Ladbrokes/Coral group that now sit alongside the likes of Bwin and Party Poker.
GVC Holdings are a modern international investment group, they were only founded 2004 and bought their first bookie, Sportingbet, in 2012. From there they went on an acquisition frenzy buying up pretty much any big betting brand they could, culminating with the £4 billion Ladbrokes/Coral buyout in 2017, the Jewell in the crown of the company.
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The company now generates revenue in excess of £3.5 billion each year and continues to grow with the aim of becoming the biggest gambling company in the world. They are only challenged by Flutter/Stars, the mega-group that merged in 2020 and owns brands such as Paddy Power, Betfair, Sky betting and gaming and Poker Stars.
Given what Ladbrokes and Coral have become they are now interested in quarterly profits before anything else and looking at the paltry amount they make from UK race courses the axe was inevitably going to fall at some point. The timing has certainly been advanced by the issues caused by corona virus though.
Still, it is a day to mark in the history of British racing as we move away from the old bookies that helped create the sport to a new way of betting that may see all on-track bookmakers disappear within a decade or so.
William Hill Left Two Years Ago
The only company that was bigger than Ladbrokes and Coral for British high street betting and for UK horse was William Hill. The company was established by the man of the same name in 1934, officially. Prior to this Mr Hill was an illegal bookie in various guises in Birmingham and London, such as taking bets on greyhound races, before opening an gambling den in 1934 that took advantage of a loop-hole that allowed bets to be placed on credit or by post, but not in cash.
Although initially not exactly legitimate William Hill drove much of the industry we know today. He created the fixed-odds football coupon and even owned the winner of the 1938 greyhound derby. Despite being against betting shops in the first few years, labeling them a blight on society, he opened his first in 1966 and went on to own more betting shops than any other company in the mid-2010’s.
William Hill has traded hands more than a few times over the years but has always remained what it is. This stability and the success it drove allowed Hill’s to become the biggest sponsor of British racing at one point and without this brand it is certain UK racing would not be the world leader it is today. Ten years ago it was hard to think of any UK race meeting that wouldn’t have a William Hill pitch at the course.
The group left the betting ring in 2018 when they sold off their 82 pitches across UK race tracks to Sid Hooper for a fairly measly price of just £2 million. This in itself shows how little value pitches in the betting ring have to big companies now, although independents like Sid Hooper clearly feel there is still a lot of money to be made from them given they have now bought up the GVC pitches as well.
William Hill retain shops at many courses, such as Aintree, but even these could go now the group have been acquired by Caesars Entertainment in the US, i.e. the people that own and run Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. They bought William Hill only last month in a £2.9 billion takeover.
The issue is Caesars have bought Hill’s simply because the company was one of the first to take advantage in the US as sports betting has been progressively legalised in many states. This, like with Ladbrokes and Coral, made them an attractive asset for a bigger company to take them over.
Caesars have no interest in William Hill’s shops at racecourses, in fact, they are not even interested in their websites in Europe. Therefore, the plan is to sell off these assets, either in one go or by breaking up the EU side of the company.
In one fell swoop this could see William Hill as we know it disappear from UK race courses and high streets. This would certainly be the final nail in the coffin for the relationship between horse racing and the bookmakers that helped establish it, with Betfred being the only one left (that is for now….).