Victor Chandler places a £5m stake on Bet FC

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The Independent Online

Victor Chandler, the bookmaker recently snubbed by Enic, is bouncing back with a £5m investment in a new football betting site.

Victor Chandler, the bookmaker recently snubbed by Enic, is bouncing back with a £5m investment in a new football betting site.

Bet FC, which goes live tomorrow, is said to be the first dedicated football betting site set up by a major bookmaker. His £5m investment reflects the fact that football accounts for more than half the turnover of Victor Chandler International, his Gibraltar-based company.

The announcement will come just days after Enic, the leisure company which recently acquired a stake in Tottenham Hotspur football club, pulled out of takeover talks with VCI. After more than a year of tortuous negotiations, and several months without an apparent breakthrough, news that the discussions had terminated unsuccessfully came as no surprise.

The end of the talks came as both VCI and Enic arrive at a crossroads. VCI has generated a large turnover, thanks to its ability to offer tax-free bets over the telephone and internet. However, there is a growing consensus that the Government intends to reform gaming duty during the next Parliament, by abolishing the 6.75 per cent levy on each bet and instead taxing bookmakers' profits. That would remove much of the attraction of VCI's service, since mainland bookmakers would be able to offer equally cheap bets. Maintenance of his competitive advantage is crucial to Mr Chandler's reported desire to float the business.

Enic, meanwhile, last week wrote to shareholders requesting approval to liquidate two of its assets, the stakes in software company Autonomy and Rangers football club. The plan should free up about £100m, much of which is expected to be invested in Tottenham.

Although Enic is sure to realise a princely sum for its 3.1 per cent stake in Autonomy, finding a buyer for its Rangers holding may prove trickier.

Enic's various investments include stakes in other European football clubs and control of the Warner Brothers Studio Stores retail chain. It is also in talks to acquire spread-betting company Sporting Index, although the two sides are thought to disagree on price.

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