The betting industry is notoriously competitive. There are so many bookmakers providing a top class service to customers that the main goal for many – in terms of their ongoing success – is to stand out against the field in any way possible. That, in a nutshell, is Paddy Power’s key strength – their personality.
The Irish bookmaker has no problem ruffling a few feathers in their attempts to gain attention, and this has more or less been the case since the moment they were founded in 1988; in their own words, Paddy Power have “been serving up mischief and entertaining our customers since the very beginning”.
Although the original people who launched Paddy Power were experienced bookies, they surely could not have dreamed that the business would go as far as it has over the last 30 plus years. Paddy Power’s story is one of a company who do things their own way and without takings it all too seriously, on the face of it at least. This is their story.
1988: The Dream Team
Horse racing fans in Ireland have been wagering on the sport for hundreds of years. Ireland is the original home of the betting ring, a practice which is first noted to have taken place at Baldoyle races in County Dublin in the mid-1700s. Gambling went through boom and bust times and it wasn’t until the post-war period that gambling was legalised on the high street.
Stewart Kenny, David Power, and John Corcoran had all made out significantly from running betting shops in Ireland (Kenny was also successful from selling shops to Coral) but in the late 1980s they decided their business aims would be better served by pooling their resources. Thus, Paddy Power was set up in Dublin in 1988.
The name Paddy Power was chosen because, of all three of the founders, David Power’s surname was thought to be the strongest. The three had also decided that they were going to be loudly and proudly Irish right from the start so adding Paddy made perfect sense, as did the green and white colours for the logo and branding. The fact that David’s son was called Patrick is an interesting but coincidental piece of trivia.
The bold approach Paddy Power took with their branding was also applied to their business strategy. The three founders took the decision to open as many shops as they could in prominent high street locations throughout Ireland, rather than opening them in more out of the way – and therefore cheaper – locations as was the norm with the competition.
2000: Riding the World Wide Web
At the turn of the new decade the internet became a talking point, but nobody could have predicted how the gambling industry would be turned on its head. Paddy Power’s management team were still very much focusing on their expanding bricks and mortar operation, making a trip to one of their shops as enjoyable as possible for their customers. Paddy Power’s growth throughout Ireland was fuelled by taking a local approach and ensuring that people knew what they stood for and that they were proud of who they were.
But they were still a young company in bookmaking terms, and as one of the more ‘trendy’ bookies it fit their profile to adopt new technology and be one of the first to take advantage of the new World Wide Web.
Paddy Power’s online sportsbook was an instant hit (relative to the scale of internet betting at the time), and the company poured more money and effort into the website, convinced that it was the future of the gambling industry. This exciting new direction didn’t change Paddy Power’s desire to continue to grow their bricks and mortar operation though, and 2000 was the year their holding company floated on the London Stock Exchange to fund a much greater presence on British high streets.
2007: More Products, More Stores
One of the most empowering things about running a bookmaker online is the possibility to achieve a lot more from the same place, where a physical betting shop has limitations on space for products/screens/cashier desks, as well as customers. Paddy Power proved this in 2007 when they began expanding the products available on their website and by opening a number of other websites alongside.
Paddypowerpoker.com, paddypowercasino.com, paddypowergames.com and bingo.paddypower.com were all opened in fairly quick succession. Those standalone sites have since been shut down but the products that were on them continue to be offered on the main Paddy Power website as well as on their mobile offering.
2008: A Joke Too Far?
Paddy Power arguably have the best brand recognition of any betting company. You can tell this is the case by the number of people who know that Paddy Power is the ‘cheeky chappy’ of the betting industry, even those who don’t bet seem to be aware of the company and thier reputation.
The most common way that Paddy Power draw attention to themselves is by well thought out and expertly planned publicity stunts. They paid Nicklas Bendtner to show off his Paddy Power boxer shorts after scoring in the Euros for example, but these stunts do sometimes land them in hot water.
In 2008, Paddy Power were forced to apologise when one of their tongue in cheek moments garnered negative publicity. They took bets on whether or not Barack Obama would complete his first term in office, generally perceived to mean whether or not the American president would be assassinated.
It’s fair to say this wasn’t Paddy Power’s proudest moment, even if it did earn them plenty of column inches.
2008-2010: Buying up the Street
By 2008, Paddy Power’s relentless expansion had bagged them over 200 betting shops in Britain and Ireland, as they sought to ensure they had a presence in every town possible. The 2008 purchase of McGranaghan Racing, an independent bookmaker based in Northern Ireland, set them well on the way to achieving their aim, and just two years later over 350 shops bore the Paddy Power branding, the majority of which were located in Ireland.
2009: Paddy Power Down Under
Paddy Power’s expansion into Great Britain and Northern Ireland meant they already knew a thing or two about operating under a different jurisdiction’s rules and regulations. Things were ratcheted up another level in May of 2009 when Paddy Power bought an operating stake in the Australian bookie, Sportsbet.
Paddy Power’s investment and expertise was an important factor in Sportsbet’s continued growth Down Under, and the two companies still operate under the same corporate structure today. As you can see from the image, they have a similar sense of humour.
2010: Going Mobile & Early Payouts
Around the same time, Paddy Power showed once again that embracing the ‘new’ is almost always the right decision. Having moved so quickly to embrace the internet in 2000, Paddy Power were at it again in 2010 when they realised the world of gambling was about to go mobile. They were one of the very first bookmakers to really take mobile betting seriously and invested a lot of money to launch their iPhone app. Indeed, for many months Paddy Power were the only bookie to have an app on Apple’s App Store, which shows just how far ahead of the curve they were.
Not only that, but they continued to build their reputation for treating their customers well. Renowned for good service in store, huge efforts were made to give online customers the same treatment, and in 2010, Paddy Power told anybody who would listen that they were paying out losing bets on Felipe Massa to win the German Grand Prix after he was ordered to give up first place to his teammate, Fernando Alonso.
They have similarly created headlines for paying punters out early on a whole host of markets, from teams to be relegated from the Premier League to New Zealand winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup, paying out four days before the match even took place on that one. They haven’t always got it right though, sadly for Hillary, and for the rest of the world…
2014: Time to Grow Up
By 2014, Paddy Power was a more mature player in the betting industry, even though they still liked to act like a rebellious teenager in public, and they were ready to get serious. 2014 saw a major milestone as Stevenage became home to their 500th shop. That location would prove to be prescient as Stevenage was home to a major Betfair office.
The acquisition of Sportsbet obviously sparked something among the powers that be at Paddy Power as a few years later they were at it again. Paddy Power and Betfair, two giants of the gambling world, merged to form a new company in 2016, inventively called Paddy Power Betfair. Technically, however, the merger was structured in such a way so as to make it an acquisition of Betfair by Paddy Power.
Together, Paddy Power and Betfair became one of the biggest betting companies in the world. The move saw their combined worth grow considerably as the company pooled their resources in their Dublin head office and their operations around the world, which included almost 600 Paddy Power shops in the UK and Ireland.
2016: Courting America
The relaxing of online gambling laws in America was still a few years away in 2016, but people in the industry were growing in confidence and excitement about the opportunities available in America, thanks in no small part to the growth of peer-to-peer wagering companies such as DRAFT.
DRAFT allowed groups of friends and bigger groups to make money from fantasy sports across America, and their progress was so impressive that Paddy Power Betfair acquired DRAFT in 2016. The move bought the company a ready made audience in America and another string to their bow in terms of product diversity and areas of expertise.
2018: The Goldrush
The news that people in the betting industry had for years been hoping for finally came in 2018 when the US Supreme Court struck down the legislation which banned sports wagering at a federal level in America. With states now able to decide for themselves what sort of gambling they allowed there was something of a gold rush, with many major British and Irish bookmakers racing to set up shop in America.
Paddy Power Betfair were a little ahead of the curve thanks to their purchase of DRAFT, but went much further in 2018 when Paddy Power Betfair merged its American operations with the huge fantasy sports betting company, FanDuel. The new company was known as FanDuel Group, but elsewhere Paddy Power Betfair continued to operate their brands – including Paddy Power, Betfair, Sportsbet, DRAFT and FanDuel – as individual companies all falling under the same umbrella. The group opened up their first physical sports betting location at New Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey shortly after the merger.
2019: Flutter Entertainment is Born
Paddy Power Betfair made another purchase in 2019, adding the biggest betting company in Georgia to the fold, Adjarabet.
It became clear that the company wanted to keep extending into new territories wherever possible, and that more acquisitions were liekly in the future, so the decision was made to re brand to reflect the fact that they have a number of different brands in various different niches. Having one of those brands ‘head’ the umbrella company didn’t seem to make sense anymore.
Thus, FanDuel Group was re branded to become Flutter Entertainment, a parent company that all of the well known brands could work under. The company still has its headquarters in Dublin and is listed on the London Stock Exchange where it forms part of the FTSE 100 Index.