Gala Coral Group
|Industry||Betting and Gaming|
|Founded||Coral (1926), Gala (1991)|
|Owner(s)||Candover Investments, Cinven and Permira|
Gala Coral Group Ltd is a British betting shop, bingo and casino operator owned by private equity houses Candover Investments, Cinven and Permira. In October 2005 it merged with Coral Eurobet for £2.18 billion. The acquisition made it the UK's third largest bookmaker and largest bingo operator. It also owns over 30 casinos. Coral will remain a brand and trading division of the new group.
The Group headquarters are in Nottingham (Gala Bingo and Casino), Stratford, London (Coral), and Woking (Gala Coral Remote Gaming). However in 2011, a decision was made to move substantial parts of the business to Gibraltar, including almost all of the Remote gaming division.
The Group, through acquisitions and new developments have over 1700 Licenced Betting Offices.
Gala Bingo operates 137 clubs throughout the United Kingdom, with approximately a 24% share of all clubs and nearly 40% of National Bingo Game ticket sales up until the operator's withdrawal from the National Game in Summer 2008.
Gala has around five million bingo members, of which approximately 1.2 million are active players. Gala Bingo has an average of 600,000 admissions per week.
The bingo division began participation in the Nectar loyalty card scheme on June 1, 2007. Nectar points were originally awarded for club admissions, and additionally for slot machine play from 1 September 2007 - a first for the UK Bingo industry. Gala Bingo no longer participates in the Nectar loyalty card scheme.
Until May 2012 Gala Casino operated 20% of the UK casino market through 32 outlets (30 of which are UK based). It sold 19 of these to the The Rank Group, effectively making Rank the biggest casino operator in the UK. Gala have not actually sold any of their casinos yet as of February 2013. Gala Casinos has 1.3 million members. Roulette is the most popular game by far, accounting for 63% of gaming income. Punto Banco/Baccarat is next with 19.1% and blackjack 11.1%.
In December 2000, the Gala Group made its first move into the casino sector with the acquisition of 26 Ladbrokes casinos from the Hilton Group. This established the Group’s leading position within the high volume, low stake sector of the gaming market. Private equity firms Candover and Cinven acquired the Group in February 2003 and in August 2005 a third investor, Permira, bought a stake in the Group.
Joe Coral began his bookmaking business in 1926, after borrowing some money off of a local cafe owner who happened to be a good friend of Joe's, operating betting pitches at greyhound courses. His great friend, Tom Bradbury-Pratt ran speedway meetings at Harringay and a number of other venues. He, and Joe Coral, went on to establish many speedway and greyhound tracks and Joe was one of the first bookmakers to take advantage of the 1960 legalisation of off-course betting shops and opened his first shop in 1961. In those days Coral were not afraid to lay large commissions, even to shrewd customers.
Coral was acquired by Bass in January 1981, by which time Coral was one of the largest leisure groups in the United Kingdom, comprising approximately 650 betting shops, two greyhound stadiums, social clubs, casinos, hotels and holiday camps. Although the betting shops and stadia retained the Coral name, the other operations were integrated into Bass.
In December 1997 Ladbrokes acquired Coral from Bass. However, the acquisition was referred to the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission and they concluded in September 1998 that Ladbrokes should not be allowed to retain ownership of Coral (however they were allowed to keep Coral's betting offices in the Channel Islands and integrated these into their own retail division).
Coral Group was then sold in a management buy-out backed by Morgan Grenfell Private Equity in February 1999. At the end of 1999 Eurobet, an internet betting business was acquired and the Group’s name was changed to Coral Eurobet.
The Coral Eurobet Group was then sold in a further management buy-out in September 2002 which was backed by Charterhouse Development Capital.
Coral owns two greyhound racing stadia in Britain, at Romford and Hove. Coral also operates betting shops at three of Britain’s biggest racecourses – Cheltenham, Epsom, and Sandown Park (venue of the company sponsored 'Coral Eclipse' race), plus one each at Gatwick Airport (South Terminal) and Stansted Airport. Coral also has a successful Telebet business, based in Barking.
Coral was the first major UK Bookmaker to sign to Turf TV on 22 December 2007.
Coral employs over 11000 betting shop staff within the UK
In 2007, the Group commenced the rollout of betting shops in Italy (under the 'Eurobet' brand) following its success in December 2006 in winning 403 sports and horse race betting licences, through a government-led auction. The Group also set up a joint venture in China.
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 TV 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. The Coral Dugout currently features the Coral Insider who posts daily betting odds and tips on the FIFA World Cup 2010 for all online visitors.
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. Coral is the first private company to sign for offices at the Olympic park. Westfield has let the seventh and part of the eighth floor of the building to Coral which is moving from head offices in Barking.
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 3 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.
The division is responsible for the development, management and operation of all the E-Commerce activities of the Gala Coral Group. The division is also the online betting and gaming arm of the Gala Coral Group, offering a wide variety of products and betting opportunities both in the UK and internationally through the Group’s branded services.
Eurobet serves clients in over 130 countries, providing online sports betting in the following languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, Greek, Russian, Turkish, Bulgarian, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Albanian and Czech.
The Telebet business also forms part of this division.
Other services operated by the division include Gala TV.
The international division of Gala Coral was formally established on 1 October 2007. The aim of the International division is to develop an integrated multi-brand strategy. The first example of this is Italy with Eurobet retail and eurobet.it
Italy The Group won 403 betting licences in the open market tender in December 2006 under its Eurobet brand.
China The Group set up a joint venture to launch land-based bingo in China, with bingo being seen as the most appropriate point of entry for the Group.
Coral Eurobet History
Joe Coral (born Joseph Kagarlitski, 11 December 1904) began his bookmaking business in 1926 and, although primarily concerned with operating betting pitches at racecourses, he did open a credit office in the West End of London in 1943.
He was, though, one of the first to take advantage of the new legislation and duly opened his first licensed betting office in 1961. The new law was, however, not intended to encourage betting and therefore shops were positively unattractive in appearance and devoid of any comforts.
By 1962 there were 13,340 betting offices of which Coral owned 23. During the seventies the situation changed completely and by 1977 four major bookmakers had evolved (including Coral) who owned nearly 24% of the 13,254 shops operating. Coral's number had originally grown to 589 as a result of a merger with another bookmaker, Mark Lane in 1971.
By 1975 the company had become the Coral Leisure Group and had diversified to include a variety of other leisure activities comprising social clubs, casinos, hotels and later holiday camps.
In January 1981, however, 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. Bass is one of the oldest established UK companies, William Bass having started the brewing operation in 1777.
With Bass support the number of Coral shops continued to grow during the 80's via acquisitions of Bartletts and Heathorns in 1984, with 13 and 47 shops respectively, PTS in 1985 with 41 shops and Leisure Bookmakers in 1989 with 60 shops.
The private ownership meant that more acquisitions were to come and by the time Coral joined Gala the number of shops had grown to 1260. Coral also owns and operates two greyhound stadiums at Romford and Brighton & Hove (the latter being named the most scenic Greyhound Stadium in the UK), both of which operate using the Coral brand.
At the 2006 UK Gambling Awards, Coral was named "Bookmaker of the Year".
Gala Bingo was formed in May 1991 when Bass plc purchased Granada Theatre Limited's bingo clubs to merge with their existing Coral Social Clubs for a reported £147 million. Gala was officially launched on October 17, 1991 when 17 clubs re-branded and launched a new image. In 1997 a management buy-in purchased all 130 Gala Bingo Clubs from Bass for £235 million. The deal was backed by PPM Ventures (now Silverfleet Capital).
Over the next few years, Gala began acquiring other bingo clubs to increase their portfolio including 17 clubs from Ritz in July 1998 and 10 clubs from Jarglen in March 2000. In April 2000, they added 27 Riva Bingo Clubs from First Leisure for £90 million. Gala diversified outside bingo for the first time when it purchased 26 Ladbroke Casinos for £235 million from the Hilton Group in December 2000. In 2001 it added the Jamba Online business for £1.5m.
The owners sold the whole business for £1.24 billion in February 2003 to the private equity firms Candover and Cinven. Permira bought a stake in the company in August 2005, which valued the business at £1.89 billion. This transaction occurred just two months before the Gala Group merged with Coral Eurobet in a £2.15 billion deal in October 2005, valuing the business at £4 billion.
The group added another 10 bingo clubs in 2006 when it purchased the County Clubs in Scotland for £64 million. The company spent another £14.5 million in February 2006, when it bought the Leo Casino in Liverpool from Dolby Management Ltd increasing the number of casinos in the estate to 31 (at the time).
In November 2006, Gala Coral tabled a bid for the 540 state owned Tote licensed betting offices. The sale of the Tote was a manifesto commitment by the Labour Government. The bid was shortlisted, however the group later chose to withdraw it to concentrate on restructuring.
Gala's total clubs peaked at around 174 but since 2007 and the introduction of smoking bans in Scotland, Wales and England, this total has now declined to around 140. In their 2012 year-end accounts, the company reported employment of 4,801 staff in their bingo clubs, along with 10,849 in 1,600 Coral shops, 2776 in 25 casinos, 276 in remote gambling and 98 in Italy where it has over 400 betting outlets - plus a further 374 in support staff functions.
- Gala Bingo joins Nectar
- Daily Telegraph, 1st August 2007 Issue Number 47,325 Pensioner is bingo's first £1m winner
- "Coral Experiential Marketing Results". iD Experiential.
- Cinema Organ Society History of Gala Bingo Tooting
- Matthew Turner joins Palamon Capital Partners www.palamon.com
- About Gala Coral galacoral.co.uk
- Gala will spend £3m to make Jamba pay-to-play brandrepublic.com
- Leisure - Gala Coral skillscapital.com
- Acquisitions galacoral.co.uk
- Permira Funds buy stake in Gala permira.com
- Casino group Gala snaps up Coral bbc.co.uk
- Gala acquires County www.casinocompendium.com
- Gala buys Leo Casino casinocitytimes.com
- Gala Bingo galacoral.co.uk.
- Annual Reports and Accounts 2012 galacoral.co.uk