BetVictor is one of the best-known and most easily recognisable brands in bookmaking. They are known for having a top class website, for sponsoring many major sporting events and teams and for being one of the prime movers in the world of online gambling, and have been for many years. But their history goes back way beyond the advent of online gambling.
For many people, BetVictor is indelibly linked to the company’s former owner, Victor Chandler Jr. For many years he regularly featured in advertising for the company (that he inherited from his father, Victor Sr.) and is widely credited with laying the foundations from which the international bookmaker is now thriving.
Although BetVictor now turns over millions of pounds every month and has customers in 160 different countries around the globe, theirs is primarily a story of a family business done good. Here are some of the key pieces of the BetVictor jigsaw that has been constructed over the course of many years.
1946: The Foundations Are First Laid
William Chandler always worked in the world of gambling. The British businessman developed his reputation as a bookmaker at greyhound tracks around London, eventually becoming the main bookie at White City Greyhounds. Chandler used the expertise and money he built up over the years to buy Walthamstow Stadium in 1931. He developed the stadium and associated bookmaking business even though technically gambling was still illegal in Britain.
It wasn’t until 1946 that Chandler was able to properly lay the foundations for the company that would eventually go on to become BetVictor, offering on-track betting and other odds for punters. Unfortunately, he died in the same year so was never able to get even an idea about how far the fruits of his labour would take the business.
1947: A Family Affair
William Chandler’s children were well versed in their father’s business long before his death. It was therefore no surprise that his ventures carried on, taken on by his five sons. Ronnie had a passion for dogs so trained greyhounds, Charles and Percy took on the running of Walthamstow Stadium whilst the bookmaking side of the business went to Victor and Jack.
It is Victor Chandler Sr. who is the most important of William’s sons when it comes to the history of BetVictor. He is credited with improving the fortunes of the betting side of his father’s business as regulations changed in Britain and gambling became a more acceptable and, crucially, legal part of British society.
1961: A Presence on the High Street
The first seismic change for Victor Chandler Sr. was the passing of new legislation by the British government in 1961. Harold Macmillan and his cabinet decided that they had had enough of unlicensed, illegal bookmakers running the industry and wanted to take it from the shadows onto the high street. Thus, legislation made its way through Parliament which legalised betting shops and Victor Sr. was very quick to take advantage, opening up a chain of bookies which bore his name to capitalise on this new land grab.
1974: A New Generation Takes Control
Victor Chandler Sr. died in 1975. Just as with his father before him, control of the rapidly expanding betting company stayed in the family and was passed to his son, Victor Jr. The passing of his father left Victor Jr. with a huge amount of responsibility. He was happy enough working in the hospitality industry in Spain but he was thrown into the deep end, looking after both the business and his mother and two sisters.
Although Victor Jr. had returned to England and had established some business interests of his own, he admitted that he hadn’t quite given full consideration to taking over the bookmakers. Indeed, his father had a fairly extended illness so Victor Jr. believed he had time; that all changed when Victor Sr.’s condition deteriorated and he died fairly rapidly.
1977: A Change in Emphasis Pays Off
As if Victor Chandler Jr. was not sufficiently concerned about the size of the task that faced him, he was told very early on by the company’s accountant that the business was insolvent. The expansion into betting shops had worked early on but with a more mature marketplace far too many shops were losing money.
Rather than trying to turn things around with the bricks and mortar business, Victor Jr. decided to change course. He sold off several shops and poured the funds into a credit business for high rollers and VIPs. This was a gamble in itself but those with doubts about the new direction were convinced after a particularly profitable Royal Ascot in 1977.
1998: Setting a New Trend
Victor Jr. was always a charismatic and fairly quirky character. He quickly developed a reputation as a shrewd businessman though and his ability to see things differently to the competition actually proved to be to the benefit of Victor Chandler. Having become frustrated that Irish competitors were able to take bets from British punters but avoid paying the same level of tax that his company had to, Victor Jr. came up with the innovative idea to base his company offshore.
Many of the biggest bookmakers in the world currently have their headquarters in either Gibraltar or Malta but when Victor Chandler made the move in 1998 it was major news. The company’s growth with this new arrangement was not missed by the competition or by the authorities with Gordon Brown’s government abolishing the gambling tax in 2001.
1999: Another New Frontier
The move to Gibraltar had another consequence for Victor Chandler beyond the tax incentives. It forced the company to think of ways in which they could continue to grow their business as a remote operator. Thankfully, the start of the internet’s maturity as a global platform came at just the right time.
Victor Jr. is regarded as one of the first big players in the bookmaking industry to really grasp the opportunity presented by the internet. Victor Chandler had a website before most of their competitors and their speed to market really helped them get a strong position in the early land grab for bookmakers and the internet.
2004: A Big Move Into Poker
Victor Chandler had firmly established their presence on the internet by 2004. The sheer size of the opportunity provided by the internet was apparent to the leaders at the company including the rapid rise of online poker. Thus a new online poker platform was introduced as was an in-person poker tournament known as the Victor Chandler Poker Cup.
This lucrative event took place in 2004 and 2005 and attracted some of the best-known professional poker players in Britain and beyond. It was broadcast live by Sky Sports and, in 2004, provided a first prize of £250,000.
2008: The ‘Gentleman Bookmaker’
Victor Jr’s charisma and foresight made him a very well-known and important figure in the betting industry. He further realised that his personality could be used as a selling point for the business. In 2004, the Victor Chandler was renamed to VC Bet to give the brand more of a modern feel but much of the advertising was focussed around Victor Jr. and the feeling of this being a classy company.
In 2008 the notion of Victor as the so-called ‘gentleman bookmaker’ was a well-known advertising slogan in the industry and the business reverted to its former name of Victor Chandler to better reflect that. To capitalise on Victor Jr’s celebrity, he was regularly featured in TV adverts for the company alongside celebrities such as Paddy McGuinness and Paul Kaye.
2012: BetVictor Is Born
Changing the name too many times is not exactly conducive to building a solid brand but it didn’t seem to hurt Victor Chandler. Indeed, in 2012 they took the decision to make yet another change in name to BetVictor.
The decision to move away from Victor Chandler was a mark of what was to come with the company. Victor Jr. had already started to scale back his day to day involvement in the business and the new branding allowed BetVictor to advertise its products and services separate from the brand of Victor Jr. himself.
2014: Michael Tabor Takes Control
The rebranding to BetVictor didn’t mean the end of Victor Jr.’s involvement with the bookie – he remained an important figure in all sorts of ways – but it was no real surprise when it was announced that the Chandler family’s ownership of BetVictor was finally coming to an end in 2014. Victor Jr. worked out a deal with leading racehorse owner and long term friend, Michael Tabor, for BetVictor having come to the decision “that the company would be best served under new ownership and leadership.”
Tabor was already a major shareholder in the BetVictor holding company, Victor Chandler International, so knew the workings of the company very well. Still, there was only so much he could do without properly taking control of the business, which is what he did in May of 2014.
2015: A Boon for BetVictor’s Leading Pitch
Moving away from Victor Chandler left BetVictor needing different ways to promote itself in their advertising to potential new customers. In 2015 they hit upon a great way of doing just that when independent analysis of the odds offered by various bookmakers showed that BetVictor provided the best value on major European football league. Thus, a major push to mark BetVictor out as the place where punters win more began.
2015: New Products Build on Innovative Past
The history of BetVictor is full of many examples of the company taking leaps into new areas and innovating. Michael Tabor and his team at BetVictor were keen for that to continue hence the investment in 2015 in new products developed in house. These included a cash out feature to rival any of the competition, new apps and many unique ways for punters to bet on in-play events.
2016: A Partnership with British Racing
By 2016, BetVictor has a long established relationship with horse racing in Britain. The announcement of a partnership with British Racing to become an Authorised Betting Partner of the sport solidified that in February 2016.
At the same time, BetVictor announced a growth of its sponsorship of horse racing. This included the sponsorship of the Open Meeting at Cheltenham and its feature race which would be renamed as the BetVictor Gold Cup.
2016: Liverpool Come on Board
Sponsorship of major sporting events in Britain was a long established part of BetVictor’s marketing strategy by 2016. The company had sponsored snooker tournaments such as the Welsh Open and Northern Ireland Open, darts tournaments including the World Matchplay and major horse races including the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
BetVictor also signed deals to be the official bookmaker of West London clubs Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers but turned things up a notch in 2016 when they signed a deal with Liverpool. As well as taking bets at Anfield, the BetVictor logo was featured on Liverpool training gear and the company benefited from making promotional videos with Jurgen Klopp and his players.