Online sports betting keeps getting bigger and better daily, with increased convenience, better services, and more wagering options. One of the pioneering figures of this sector worthy of recognition is Victor Chandler, the former chairman of BetVictor known as “The Gentleman’s Bookmaker.” Victor’s decades-long career has left indelible marks in what has now become a billion-dollar industry.
This article delves into the life of Victor Chandler, exploring the following key areas:
- His early years
- His personal life
- Taking over his family business and taking it offshore
- Making necessary changes in the bookmaking business
- His famous bet with Fred Done, etc.
The Early Years
Victor Chandler was born on the 18th of April, 1951, into a family with a rich gambling business heritage. His grandfather, William Chandler, founded the Walthamstow Stadium and a bookmaker that would later become BetVictor. His father, Victor Chandler Sr., took over the business after William died in 1946. Chandler Sr. took advantage of legislation change in 1961 to open up a chain of shops for the bookmaking business, which undoubtedly positively impacted the brand’s growth.
Unsurprisingly, Chandler got exposed to the world of gambling pretty early. He even placed his very first bet alongside his dad at a horse race track at a very young age. And when they weren’t at the race track, the Victor Chandler son and father duo and the rest of the family would spend quality time together playing card games, even at the dinner table. Growing up, Chandler wasn’t the most dedicated student as he often skipped class, which led to him being kicked out of the Highgate School. Fortunately for him, Chandler Sr. convinced the headmaster at the Millfield School to take him in after forgiving some of the latter’s gambling debts.
So, Chandler decided to travel around to work, moving from Switzerland first, then to Spain. Sadly, while he was in Spain, his father was diagnosed with aggressive cancer in 1974 and died shortly after. At that point, Chandler had no choice but to take over the family business, left with a mother and two sisters to support.
Taking Over the Family Business
Chandler took over the family business as a 23-year-old and discovered it was in severe financial trouble. The troubles deepened under the archaic system in Britain at the time that a son could only take over pitches (where bookies stand and make odds at racecourses) from his father if he had worked in the business for at least two years. Chandler hadn’t done that, resulting in losing the business’s pitches at major racecourses.
Chandler later stated that this was probably the best thing that happened to him as it allowed him to dedicate himself to the pitches and rails rather than just being a businessman. He soon started refitting his father’s betting shops, during which he also sold a few shops and made cutbacks. Two years into struggling with the business, the young Chandler was ready to call it quits and considered selling after receiving an offer from Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Enterprises. However, he refused the bid at the last minute as he felt the money wasn’t enough to justify selling his family’s decades-old business.
Deciding to stick it out, Chandler made some strategic plans for the business during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year in 1977. One of these is setting up a Victor Chandler book-making desk in the stands at the Ascot. He pulled in some big players and made decent profits that helped keep the business running. Soon after, he started making big moves, securing a line of credit from the Allied Irish Bank, which allowed him to build more shops and buy into others. He was bold enough to go to the Far East in the face of the UK recession in the 1990s to target new customers while avoiding the Triads.
Taking His Business Offshore
BetVictor, the Victor Chandler bookmaker business, grew steadily, and in the 1990s, he was getting lots of action from Asian gamblers who wanted to place bets on football games. It made him see the potential growth in targeting customers in new and foreign markets. However, the 9% British betting tax incurred by punters at the time was putting off foreign markets and even British gamblers.
Chandler started considering making the controversial decision to move his business offshore to become free of UK tax. After considering various territories, he obtained a betting license in Gibraltar in 1996. Three years later, he moved his entire business to Gibraltar, allowing him to offer tax-free betting to foreign and British gamblers. It is when the BetVictor brand took off and started snowballing into one of the world’s leading bookmakers. Another factor that also helped at the time was that online gambling was beginning to offer betting companies the chance to have a wider reach.
Seeing Betvictor’s apparent success, many other UK sports betting books followed suit and started moving their brands offshore. As expected, this massive move negatively impacted the UK’s gambling sector. It resulted in Gordon Brown, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, abolishing the UK betting tax in 2001 to make the businesses return. Sadly, things could no longer go back to how they were.
Making Some Necessary Changes
Around the time the Victor Chandler bookmaker business moved to Gibraltar, the Internet began to grow in popularity. Recognizing the potential of the Internet, Chandler decided to exploit it to his business’ advantage and make betting available to punters online. As a result, BetVictor became one of the very first online sportsbooks to offer betting services over the Internet. This decision proved wise as the book attracted many bettors worldwide, becoming one of the most successful betting brands in the 2000s.
Soon enough, the Victor Chandler online betting platform became one of the first to offer casino games. Naturally, this also attracted a large volume of gambling enthusiasts who enjoy the convenience of online casino games. Chandler was among the foremost innovators of mobile betting as he recognized how it would impact the online gambling business.
Victor Chandler’s personal and love life has been somewhat complicated. One of his friends once said, “He was so charming that he had women falling down his feet all his life.” However, the first woman he had a meaningful long relationship with was Carol Masters, who was ten years older. Sadly, the relationship fizzled out, and they parted ways.
During Chandler’s business activities in Asia, he met and fell in love with Susan, who later became his wife, somewhat late in life. The Korean-born Victor Chandler’s wife already had a son, who he was happy to adopt. Victor and Susan later gave birth to two kids but soon started experiencing problems with their relationship. They tried to stay together for the sake of their young children but still couldn’t make things work. Eventually, they decided to call it quits and got divorced.
Another interesting highlight of Chandler’s personal life happened a little while after his divorce when he got together with his cousin’s ex-wife, Caroline. According to the reports, having known each other for 14 years, they became close while bonding over their respective divorces. This relationship resulted in tension between Chandler and his devastated cousin. According to Dailymail, the latter quit as head of communication for Victor Chandler group, where he had worked for over 12 years.
The Famous Bet with Fred Done
Victor Chandler’s sports betting activities are not just limited to the odds provider side, as he enjoys putting action on sports events. He is responsible for one of the biggest bets ever. In 2004, Chandler and Fred Done, the co-founder of Betfred, placed a massive £1 million bet against each other during the English Premier League (EPL).
As a fan, Fred Done proposed a £1 million high-stakes wager to Chandler that Manchester United would finish the season’s EPL in a higher place than Chelsea, the latter’s team. Being a gambling enthusiast, Chandler accepted the wager.
Unfortunately for Fred Done, not only did Chelsea finish higher than Manchester United by 18 points, but they also went on to win the league. Although their wager was hardly binding other than a handshake agreement, Done paid up in full, netting Chandler a million. The bet garnered quite a lot of attention from the media for both parties, giving their brands some positive publicity.
As former chairman of the BetVictor brand, Chandler has made a fortune in the gambling industry. Victor Chandler’s net worth was estimated to be £150 million in 2009 when he made the year’s Sunday Times rich list, ranked at the 362nd spot. Interestingly, this was a decline of more than half compared to the previous year’s estimation of £365 million. While it’s been many years since then, Victor Chandler remains an incredibly wealthy man, also known to be a generous philanthropist.
The End of an Era
After decades of visionary leadership and carrying his family’s legacy forward, Victor Chandler stepped down as Chairman of Betfred’s Victor Chandler Group in 2014. As a part of the transition, he decided to sell a significant part of his shares in the company for an undisclosed sum to Michael Tabor, a renowned British businessman, bookmaker, and racehorse owner. It marked the end of an era for the Chandler family and the company as it goes under new leadership.
His biography book, “Victor Chandler Put Your Life On It: Staying at the Top in the Cut-Throat World of Gambling,” came out many years later. The book was a memoir depicting his life and how he turned the struggling Victor Chandler betting business into the widely successful brand it has become today.
It became one of the best sports betting books in the history.
Interesting facts about Victor Chandler
From the young days of skipping classes to becoming an iconic man with indelible marks on the online gambling industry, there is no denying that Victor Chandler has led an exciting and impactful life. As a social person, Chandler has dabbled in many fascinating pursuits, some even beyond the confines of sports betting. Let’s get into some notable and interesting facts about this trailblazer.
Victor Chandler’s love for horses is no secret, as they have long been his principal sporting passion. He loves riding horses on his ranch during his free time. During a Victor Chandler interview, he once admitted that seeing his horses is the first thing he does in the morning and the last thing at night.
This passion also extends to owning champion racehorses. Chandler has owned several horses in the UK, South Africa, and the US over the past three decades, most of which partook in various races. After some success over the years, he formed a syndicate called “Men in Our Position,” which owned Zaynar, the 2009 Cheltenham Hurdle winner. He said no sporting moment was sweeter for him than seeing Zaynar win.
Lucian Freud Friendship
As an outgoing person, Victor Chandler made many quality friends. One of such notable and peculiar friendships was with the famous painter Lucian Freud, with whom he bonded over their shared love for horse racing. They often had fun evenings out together, sometimes in the company of other friends like Francis Bacon and Jeffrey Bernard.
Freud decided to paint Chandler’s portrait, which he called “Man in a String Chair.” Interestingly, this oil piece became quite popular and sold for over £4.5 million during an auction in 2006.
Like most bookmakers, Chandler realized quite early that one of the best ways to expand the Victor Chandler bet brand is through sponsorship. As a result, Betvictor has sponsored many sporting events across various sports over the years, from horse racing to snooker, darts, and many others. These sponsorships helped get the BetVictor Victor Chandler bookmaker out into the public conscience, significantly increasing traffic, especially online.
That said, one of the most significant sponsorships of BetVictor happened in July 2009 when Victor Chandler agreed to become the official principal sponsor of Nottingham Forest F.C. This amounted to a reported “significant six-figure fee.” Interestingly, as part of the sponsorship, he also offered that should Forest F.C. to win the league, he would pay for the following year’s seasons’ tickets for every fan who wants to open an account with the BetVictor online betting site. Sadly for Forest F.C. and their fans and, luckily for Chandler, Forest F.C. didn’t win the league, as that would have cost him approximately £6 million.
Known as the “Gentleman Bookmaker,” Victor Chandler is a pioneer who has considerably impacted the gambling industry. From being the first UK bookmaker to pack his business offshore to tax-haven Gibraltar to pioneering internet betting, Chandler’s big moves spelled a new era for the BetVictor group, prompting it to new heights. The bookmaker became a billion-dollar enterprise and one of the leading gambling brands.
Even though Chandler has given up his shares of the BetVictor Victor Chandler group and is no longer actively involved in the industry, his remarkable legacy will not be forgotten soon.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is Victor Chandler?Victor Chandler is a British businessman, bookmaker, and former chairman of BetVictor, one of the leading gambling brands in the world today. Chandler is a prominent figure in the gambling industry known for his innovative contributions. He is often credited as the man who brought tax-free betting and the first bookmaker to recognize the importance of online betting.
What is Victor Chandler’s net worth?As of 2009, the Sunday Times Rich List ranked Victor Chandler as the 362nd spot, with an estimated net worth of approximately £150 million. Being a private person, Chandler’s current net worth is not public, but it’s safe to say he is still incredibly wealthy.
What is Victor Chandler’s background in the gambling industry?Born into a family of bookmakers, Victor Chandler was thrust into the bookmaking business after his father’s untimely demise in 1974. Under his leadership, the business grew rapidly to become one of today’s leading betting brands. He is responsible for innovative improvements in the gambling industry, including moving his company to the favorable tax haven, Gibraltar and pioneering online internet betting.
What is Victor Chandler’s involvement in BetVictor now?Victor Chandler stepped down as the chairman of Betvictor’s group in 2014, selling most of his shares when he did. So, he is no longer directly involved in the operations of BetVictor. However, he remains a special consultant to the brand.
Who owns BetVictor?Michael Tabor, a successful businessman and racehorse owner, owns the BetVictor brand. Tabor acquired most of the company’s group shares from Victor Chandler in 2014 following his decision to step down as chairman.