BetVictor was founded in 1946 by William Chandler, the owner of Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium, during a time when betting shops were still illegal in Britain. The official company history doesn’t describe how business was conducted in those days, but colourful images involving pseudonyms, cloaks and bundles of cash may not be far off the mark!
When bookmaking shops were legalised in the UK in 1963, William’s son, Victor Chandler Senior, opened and expanded a modest chain of betting shops across the south-east of England.
After his father died, Victor Chandler Junior took over the business. Notwithstanding some early challenges (including being declared insolvent), he went on to grow the company from a few betting shops into the global corporation that it is today.
Victor Chandler was among the first bookmakers to predict and understand the importance of the internet. He added significantly to BetVictor’s profits by appealing to high-rolling Asian punters, overlooked or judged as too great a risk by other bookmakers, and by expanding into Asian markets. He was also the first to relocate to Gibraltar to circumvent heavy UK taxes – bookmakers like William Hill, Ladbrokes and others followed suit. A new “point of consumption” tax introduced in the UK in 2014 is likely to reduce the advantages of being based offshore, but nonetheless Victor’s move added significantly to BetVictor’s success.
Victor himself is famous for his betting stories and decent approach. For an entertaining report of some of his more colourful experiences, from being expelled from Highgate School after being caught climbing out the window, to unexpectedly encountering a Lucien Freud painting of himself in the Hayward Gallery, to negotiating with armed Hong Kong gangsters, read the 2008 Guardian article, To Victor the spoils.
According to The Huffington Post, Victor Chandler is “a traditional charmer whose business is more caring about its punters than some of the other well-known brands”.