A chat with… Victor Chandler

Victor ChandlerVICTOR Chandler is probably the most famous face in bookmaking. He changed the face of betting when upping sticks in 1999 and moving his business from the UK to Gibraltar. A pioneer of online gambling, he has been called a lot of names and had a few brushes with the authorities, but he has overseen the successful growth of his company, now BetVictor, into one of the industry’s major players. Here he talks exclusively to Horse Racing Chat…

Do you prefer being called Victor, Mr Chandler, or Vic?

Definitely Victor.

You’ve been called a lot of things: including the Gentleman Bookmaker and the Indiana Jones of bookmaking. Do you have a favourite nickname?

Not really. Those descriptions are from other people.

Can you remember the very first bet you placed?

I was aged about eight and it was at Fontwell races. I was there with my dad. I had four bob on the Tote. I used to go racing a lot when I was a kid, especially at Fontwell, Brighton and Plumpton.

What floats your boat the most: the flat or national hunt racing?

I like the best of both. I probably slightly prefer Cheltenham to Royal Ascot. At Cheltenham people just want to talk racing, while at Ascot people want to talk about a lot of other things. You even get people talking during the races!

Desert Orchid and Panto Prince (hidden) in their epic 1989 clash in the Victor Chandler Chase. Picture: Racing Post

The Victor Chandler Chase is well established as a Champion Chase trial. My best memory was Desert Orchid giving 22lb to Panto Prince in 1989. What’s your favourite memory from the race?

The Desert Orchid race stands out. I also remember Martha’s Son’s victory [1994] because I had quite a big bet on it. Twist Magic [2010] was another one I backed, in fact I’ve been quite successful backing the winner of it. Blitzkreig’s victory [1991] was also memorable because he was owned by JP McManus who is a good friend.

Nicky Henderson has said the Victor Chandler could be on Sprinter Sacre’s agenda? How exciting is that? And can anything touch him?

Very exciting. I don’t think we’ve seen anything to beat him but you never know.

I see that you’re on Twitter. How do you handle the inevitable stick that you get on it?

I’ve been called a lot of names down the years, so any stick I get on Twitter is water off a duck’s back especially when you get to my age. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

You were among the first bookies to pioneer online gambling, and digital platforms now provide huge business. How do you see the bookmaking industry evolving? 

Most of our business will be on the iPad and smartphones within a couple of years, which is why we’re investing a lot of money to make sure we bring out the best products.

There is intense competition between the major bookmakers and, subsequently, great value for punters. Are you optimistic about the future of your industry?

More than you think. We have become an entertainment industry. You can see the changing patterns of customers’ habits. For example, more people are staying in to play casino slot machines or to have a bet in-play. We have taken on 75 people in the past eight months, mostly in Gibraltar, and we expect to  double that next year.

And are you still focusing on tapping into emerging markets?

We have applied for a licence in Germany and should get a decision soon. We also hope to have a partner in Spain by the second quarter of next year.

You’ve had a few brushes with the authorities but you seem to prefer keeping a low profile. Is that fair comment?

It’s hard to have a high profile when you are not in the UK! I don’t intentionally keep a low profile. I don’t get the chance to go racing as much as I would like. I have a young family (Victor has a stepson and two young sons) and they are my priority.

How do you relax and what’s your main interest outside the business?

I like to ride out four times a week. Seeing the horses is the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night. My wife and kids also ride.

Who’s on your iPod (if you have one)?

I do have an iPod. I like Leonard Cohen and Roy Orbison.

You’ve owned plenty of horses including part-owning Zaynar. How many do you have an interest in at present?

Zaynar is with David Pipe now and currently has a niggly problem. I have a horse with George Baker and one with Les Ayre in Spain. I have a couple of others sprinkled around Spain. I can’t believe the prices that horses go for. I bid £35,000 for one recently and it went for £50k. I would like to buy something for the jumps season but because Zaynar has done so well it is hard to find something as good. I’d also love to own one to run at Royal ascot

And, finally, do you have a favourite betting anecdote?

I went to Singapore where I have a friend who owns 30-40 horses. He took me racing and asked me to take a bet on one of his horses who was running. It was 66/1 and he wanted to have 100,000 Singaporean dollars on it. It felt like a challenge so I took the bet. I started to think: ‘Have I been set up here?’  It was a one-mile race and with one furlong to go the horse was three lengths clear. My friend whispered that it wouldn’t win. But for a few seconds I couldn’t believe it. Then it got swamped and finished last. My friend said it was worth losing the 100,000 just to see the look on my face!





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