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What’s the Story of Coral Bookmakers?

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There are just a few names associated with betting on sports and the gaming business that remain within the UK high streets of today One name that is certain to be a king is Coral.

The company wasn’t even in existence in 1920, by the year 2020 Coral had grown to become one of the most well-known brands in the market. So how exactly did the name and famous blue and white logo come to the level of fame it has today?

As with many businesses in the world of gambling and in many other areas of business, Coral started out in a smaller way. In the case of Coral, the origins and subsequent growth of the company can be traced back to one man, Joseph Kagarlitsky… but more about him later.

The size of the business isn’t all that has changed during this time. The nature of the company’s operations has also changed significantly over the years. The days of the arduous credit-based betting process and the shady backstreet activities, with Coral now being among the most modern and well-known names in the betting industry. It doesn’t matter if you are betting on sports, bingo, or casino action which gets your gambling blood flowing Coral will be relied on to provide top-quality product and top-quality customer service.

Due to the effort of one Polish immigrant back in the early 20th Century, Coral has enjoyed a century of growth and here we look back at the path taken by one of the biggest players in the world of gambling.

1926: Established By Joe Coral

We begin with the Mr. Joseph Kagarlitski, born in Warsaw in 1904, however, He was considered to be an Russian as his father was of Kiev (presumably that is of Russian descent). He was a Jewish immigrants into Britain, UK, Joseph changed his name to the snappier sounding Joe Coral (he could probably have been a funk singer!) since he believed that this could aid in the pursuit of work. Why Coral? No great meaning behind this is apparent, and the reason attributed to the fact that his sister was reading a book entitled Coral Island at the time.

Young Joe was not a big fan of school, and was often truant before leaving at 14, though this was not uncommon in the days before. Originally finding employment working at the lamp manufacturing company as well as an advertising firm, Joe’s flair for mathematics and his love of gambling soon led him to a completely different route.

In his first step into the industry as a bookie’s runner, it didn’t take very long when Joe Coral began taking bets himself. At first, he noticed a trend in and around local billiard clubs, he soon started operating his own tracks at the Harringay as well as the White City greyhound tracks – later expanding to Clapton and Walthamstow.

The greyhound pitch along with the fact that they also ran an event for speedway players at Harringay was the legal side of Joe’s operations. However, the murky – and illegal – world of street betting was the majority of Coral’s activities in the early days. By 1930 Joe was said to have employed up to 80 agents in order to collect bets on his behalf.

All aspects above led to Joe Coral becoming known as one of the biggest bookmakers from the region at the close of the 1930’s.

1941: Opened a Credit Office in Stoke Newington

With the growing pace in the world of trade, Coral was going to need a base of operations. The company’s first offices which were focused with its credit-related operations were located within Stoke Newington in north London. After the First World War though these had been moved to West London’s West End.

For Coral closing times check this site…

1945: Begins Advertising In the National Sporting Papers

Already having some experience working in advertising, Joe Coral wasn’t about to miss out on the opportunity to grow the reputation of his business and reach new customers through press advertisements.

It was permissible to advertise the service of credit card betting via postal mail that the company offered in various publications, such as the Sporting Chronicle and the Sporting Life at this time since no money changed hands during postal betting it was just cheques and post orders.

1961: Opens first LBO

1960 was by far the biggest turning point in the history of gambling in Britain in the early days and possibly even still today. It was in this year in 1960 that it was that the Betting and Gaming Act was approved. One of the most important aspects of this act was the legalisation of off-course cash betting.

Initially, he was opposed to the new legislation due to concerns regarding the kind of client it might attract, Joe Coral seemingly didn’t have to wait long to get over these doubts and change his decision, when he launched his first high-street gambling shop in the year 1961. He by the year 1962, there were 23 establishments under Coral’s umbrella. Coral umbrella.

1963: PLC becomes A

The high-street betting shop part of the company now experiencing massive expansion and expansion, it was decided to register Coral as a public limited corporation.

Around this time, the business also began to broaden its wings with regards to expanding into other areas such as bingo halls casino, hotel, and bingo hall markets.

1971: Merges with Mark Lane, a fellow bookmaker Mark Lane

The company further strengthened its position in the British betting arena via the acquisition of Mark Lane bookmakers. The new company maintained the snappier Coral name but this takeover/merger was a hint of things to come.

1973: Sponsors The Welsh Grand National For The First Time

Coral has long been a partner in the business that has proved to be an essential factor to its success as a business. British horse racing provided the majority of Coral’s income, especially during the early years and the company also sponsored numerous races throughout the year, both on the flat as well as over jumps.

The longest-running of these agreements – and indeed now the longest running sponsorship agreement in the whole sport is the company’s relationship with Chepstow’s Welsh Grand National, which it first offered its support to in 1973.

1979: Currently referred to as the Coral Leisure Group

While the estate of betting shops continued to grow – reaching approximately 650 shops by 1979 and 650 shops by 1979 Coral continued to demonstrate the most ardent determination in dipping its toes into other markets. Apart from casinos, bingo halls, and hotels, the Coral umbrella also now covered properties, squash teams along with Pontins holidays camps.

To reflect this more diverse portfolio to better reflect this portfolio, the company made the decision to change the title of the company into the Coral Leisure Group.

1981: Acquired by the Bass Plc

1981 saw the burgeoning company catch the eye of one of Britain’s biggest and most storied brewing firms, and that led to Bass Plc stepping in to buy Coral at a price that was not widely known. Even though the company is now fully under Bass’s ownership and management, the new owners opted to leave the recognisable Coral brand in place. Bass might have been the oldest trademark in the world, however they knew the Coral name was right for wagering.

1993: The Tote has reached an agreement with Tote

The popular tote placepot and jackpot have long been among the most popular types of horse racing bets in the UK However, previously, they only been accessible on tracks or in a Tote owned betting shop. Conscient of the fact that it was not able to capitalize on popular demand for these popular bets, in 1992 Coral sign an agreement with the Tote to allow the old business to offer Tote products available in its betting outlets.

1998: Sold to Ladbrokes …Briefly

The next acquisition in the Coral timeline almost happened in 1998, when the betting giant Ladbrokes acquired the company for the headline-grabbing sum of PS363m. The initial amalgamation of the companies was to prove an event that was short-lived, however.

Afraid of the mergers and monopolies commission, the new owners were made to sell Coral almost immediately. Ladbrokes kept 59 of its stores located in Ireland and Jersey and Jersey, however, the rest of the business went to Morgan Grenfell Private Equity for PS390 million in 1999.

1999: Eurobet buys Eurobet

Looking to increase its presence in the online marketplace, Coral opted to purchase the Gibraltar-based Eurobet for PS7.1m shortly before the turn of the century, with the combination of Coral’s bookmaking expertise as well as Eurobet’s established product that specialized in football bettingand was deemed to be an ideal fit.

2000: Changes its name to Coral Eurobet

In honor of its recent acquisition they changed their name from Coral European to Coral Eurobet in May 2000.

2002: Sold to Management Buyout

Another takeover was announced two years later in September 2002. In this case, it was a management buyout type, the hands of Charterhouse Development Capital.

2005: Bought By Gala

2005 saw the biggest takeover yet, with the PS2.18bn paid by Gala providing a clear indication about how the company had grown since the latter part of the 1990s, and how far the industry was moving.

Already a strong presence in bingo bricks and mortar and casino markets, this was the right choice for Gala, and launched the newly-named Gala Coral Group with the distinction of being the UK’s largest bingo operator and the third largest bookmaker.

The Eurobet division of the business was also kept running as an entity distinct from the main Coral operation.

2007: New Sponsors Scottish Grand National For The First Time

Already enjoying a long-running arrangement that includes one of England’s biggest steeplechases, the Welsh Grand National, 2007 saw Coral join in the support of Ayr’s Scottish edition of the event for the very first time.

2009: Coral TV Established

2009 witnessed a radical shift in the media output of Coral, with the company moving its broadcasting operations into a brand-new, specifically-built studio in Milton Keynes in order to assist in the launch of Coral TV, a new media product that will be distributed across the company’s betting shop estate as well as online.

The year 2010 was a great one. Coral Dugout Launched

Coral expanded its reach still further in 2010 ahead of the Football World Cup, with the latest edition of”Coral Dugout. “Coral Dugout”. Bringing in big names such that of Jeff Stelling and Graham Poll and aiming to enhance its coverage prior to one of the biggest sports betting events on the globe.

2011: Purchases New Offices and launches Gala Interactive

The pattern of improving the facility of the company was continued in 2011 as it was reported that the Gala Coral group shelled out the enormous amount of PS1.45billion for the acquisition of 30,793 square feet of new workplace space within Stratford City.

This year also marked a change in approach to Gala Interactive’s online offerings. Having previously operated a slightly scatter-gunned approach, the launch of Gala Interactive as the company’s online division saw the offering streamlined into three separate websites: Coral, Gala Bingo, and Gala Casino – in addition to the Italian-market-focussed

2012: Sells Off Casinos To Rank

2012 saw the company be cast off its land-based casino operation, with its 23 properties sold into Rank for PS205million, as as reported by the BBC at the time.

In 2015, Coral Connect Card Launched

As product integration became one of the key areas of the betting industry – due to the massive rise of online wagering Coral was among the first companies to make an effort to link the various products of its business by launching in 2015 its Coral Connect Card. Customers could play in shops by using their phone or online accounts.

Providing a single wallet solution, the card enabled customers to withdraw funds from, as well as deposits to, their online account in stores, as well as having a convenient betting tracking app, as well as a range of benefits and special offers.

2015: Bingo Clubs Sold

Following the sale in 2012 of the land-based casino branch of the business further streamlining took place via the selling to Caledonia Investments the 130 Gala Bingo clubs the business then owned to Caledonia Investments for PS241m.

2016: Acquired By Ladbrokes …Again

If at first you don’t succeed! Eight years after falling under the control of Ladbrokes – albeit briefly – two of the titans of the British betting market have finally joined forces in the year 2016. Crucially on this occasion the firms heeded the recommendations of the mergers and monopolies commission prior to finalizing the deal by selling off the region of 400 shops, mostly to Betfred along with Stan James.

With all legal boxes checked, the deal was signed on 2 November 2016, the new entity going under its name Ladbrokes Coral Plc. While it is now operating as a single entity from an Plc perspective, the company did make the choice to keep Ladbrokes and Coral as separate entities from a consumer perspective as they both had enough brands to survive.

2018. GVC Purchases Ladbrokes Coral

It seems like we are never far from a merger of some description In March 2018, we saw the newly created Ladbrokes Coral Group taken over by the gaming and betting giant GVC Holdings, in a deal believed to have a value of an astounding PS4bn.

More details on the new acquisition can be found on the corporate GVC website. Already holding the likes of Bwin, Sportingbet and partypoker, GVC Holdings are now undoubtedly one of the leading players in the world betting market, but more consolidation is not excluded in the near-term.