Chandler to open City betting shop as empire expands

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The Independent Online

Victor Chandler, one of the leading figures in British bookmaking, is to open a financial betting shop in the heart of the City, as part of an ambitious expansion plan announced yesterday.

Victor Chandler, one of the leading figures in British bookmaking, is to open a financial betting shop in the heart of the City, as part of an ambitious expansion plan announced yesterday.

Mr Chandler, whose reputation has been built on telephone and internet credit betting and on-course bookmaking, is buying a chain of 28 betting shops to give him a high street presence. He aims to double the size of his business within the next two years and the move could be a precursor to a float or trade sale.

"We have never considered it fully but it is always a possibility a couple of years down the line," said Mr Chandler, when asked about a float or sale.

The value of bookmaking businesses has soared in the past two years thanks to the success of William Hill's float in 2002. Another big growth area for bookies has been fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) which allow people to bet on the outcome of an on-screen roulette wheel.

Mr Chandler announced yesterday that he had bought Sports Bookmakers, a chain of 28 shops based mainly in the home counties. He is also planning to offer fixed-odds betting on the financial markets through a shop in the Square Mile. Mr Chandler said he was close to signing a lease on a site that he was hoping to announce in the next two weeks.

His company is planning to develop 10 more betting shops to add to the 28 that it bought yesterday.

"I think the market is growing," said Mr Chandler, explaining why he had decided to begin a high street chain. "I think we will also be able to offer extensions of the product which will make it more attractive. We aim to double the size of the business within the next two years at a minimum."

Mr Chandler's dash for growth will coincide with the Government's planned deregulation of the gambling industry, although most bookies have already benefited from new rules allowing them to install FOBTs.

Mr Chandler is no stranger to running betting shops. He and his father started a number of chains that they sold - the last in 1994 - before Mr Chandler moved his betting operations to Gibraltar.

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