Gala Coral Group
|Industry||Betting and Gambling|
|Fate||Merged with Ladbrokes plc|
|Successor||Ladbrokes Coral plc|
|Revenue||£1.2 billion (2013)|
|Owner||Candover Investments, Cinven and Permira|
Number of employees
Gala Coral Group Ltd was a British betting shop, bingo and casino operator formerly owned by private equity firms Candover Investments, Cinven and Permira. 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 had over 30 casinos and 1,800 licensed betting offices.
In July 2015, it was announced that the company would merge with Ladbrokes. In October 2015 it was announced that the group would sell the Gala Bingo business to investment trust Caledonia Investments for £241m. The merger with Ladbrokes was completed in November 2016, forming Ladbrokes Coral plc.
Coral Eurobet history
Joe Coral (born Joseph Kagarlitski, 11 December 1904 – 16 December 1996) began his bookmaking business in 1926 and, although primarily concerned with operating betting pitches at racecourses, together with his friend Tom Bradbury-Pratt, he ran speedway meetings at Harringay and opened 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.
Coral arranged 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, 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.
In December 1997, Ladbrokes sought to acquire 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 buy the betting chain (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.
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 17 October 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.
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.
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).
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 year end accounts of 2012, 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 four hundred betting outlets, plus a further 374 in support staff functions.
In October 2005, Gala acquired Coral Eurobet for £2.18 billion creating the United Kingdom's third largest bookmaker and largest bingo operator. 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 television 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. 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.
In July 2015, Gala Coral agreed to be acquired by its slightly larger rival Ladbrokes. Gala's 130 bingo clubs were not part of the merger, and were sold to Caledonia Investments for £241m in December 2015. The merger was completed on 1 November 2016, and Ladbrokes became Ladbrokes Coral.
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 1 June 2007. Nectar points were originally awarded for club admissions, and additionally for slot machine play from 1 September 2007, a first for the bingo industry. Gala Bingo no longer participates in the Nectar loyalty card scheme.
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.
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 three 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.
E commerce division
The division is the online betting and gambling arm, offering a wide variety of products and betting opportunities both in the United Kingdom and internationally:
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
The group won 403 betting licences in the open market tender in December 2006, under its Eurobet brand.
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.
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