Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Great Names of Betting

Stakis Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Texas Home Stores, Laskys Electrical Stores and Coral Bookmakers: all acquisitions by Ladbrokes PLC, a company named after a signpost somewhere in Worcestershire. 

The first four purchases were made by Cyril Stein, utilising profligate profits from high-street betting shops in the 1980’s – a golden age for bookmakers, when margins were high and profits more or less guaranteed. A huge commercial empire was built on the back of horseracing, an issue that still rankles when racing enthusiasts get together to discuss the opportunity missed when Government failed to implement a Tote monopoly in the early 1960’s.  

The truth is, though, that every pantomime needs a villain and racing is no different. Pitting your wits against the Tote pool can be rewarding, but it’s not as much fun as taking money from a characterful bookmaker – hence the development of several great bookmaking names: William Hill, Joe Coral and more recently BetFred and Paddy Power. 

Ladbrokes is one of the exceptions - taking its name from a signpost to Ladbroke Hall, the race-horse training establishment of Mr Schwind, one of the company's founders. At Cartmel, our friendly bookmaker was Chas Kendall - who created the small Cumbrian chain purchased by Corals in 2011.  

Joe Coral was born Joseph Kagarlitsky in Warsaw, 1904, and moved to Britain in 1912. He took the name Coral to make it easier to find a job, soon finding himself employed as a clerk at a lamp-making company. This gave him the opportunity to become a runner – working as an intermediary to carry bets from the workforce to the bookmaker. The practise was still illegal at the time and apparently young Joe was sacked for “concentrating on the wrong ledger”. 

Now the company, that Joe Coral built, is to be merged with Ladbrokes - in a deal which most observers believe is evidence of consolidation in the shrinking betting shop market. Rumours that the new company will be named Schwind-Kagarlitsky have no foundation - apparently the name would be too easy to remember.

But, putting the name game aside, should we be feeling sorry for our local bookmaker? Is it time to stop bashing the bookie? 

Of course not: the diverse range of digital gambling platforms now outweighs the negative impact of 4,000 betting shops resting in the same hands. It has never been easier for the fickle punter to find the best value in the market place. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all have a favoured adversary to do battle with. 

I am delighted that Coral Bookmakers have chosen to support our two feature races on Bank Holiday Monday 31st August – the Coral Bookmakers Cavendish Cup Steeplechase and the Handicap Hurdle Race (both Class 2). Their sponsorship has helped us to develop one of the best quality race programmes ever staged at Cartmel.

So please… Go in to one of their shops on the high-street, eyeball the manager and try and take some money off them. If you need inspiration: take a second look at Jack Dexter, who is a good each way price for the Stewards Cup at Goodwood and will appreciate any juice that remains in the ground.

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