While Betfair won awards
and Betdaq tried to follow suit, smaller brethren play121, iwageru,
garywiltshire and a host of others either folded or quietly left the
Byline: TONY SMURTHWAITE
>IT is the end of an epochal, whirlygig era, not only for online
betting, but for netprophet.
Gary O’Halloran Issued closure statement
. Yet for all that, here was a
market deeply attractive to punters, old and new, who hitched along for
a ride that was memorable, magical, educational, and with Luvbet leading
So where is the next turn in the road for punters seeking a
diversion? The online betting bus has, in many ways, reached the
terminus. It’s time to get off.
Luvbet’s founder, the thick-vowelled Cork bookie Gary
O’Halloran, put it eloquently enough. They offered their
early prices, you knew that if you were a minute or two slow you’d
have missed them, or that payouts somehow eschewed the technology and
arrived by cheque.
Those early days of Luvbet were the revolutionary ones of the first
tax-free, offshore websites. Nonetheless, even for this `niche within a
niche’ the same pattern has been followed.
Punters owed hard cash will pick other epithets for the unannouncedclosure. Many had predicted from the start that the market would
consolidate around the huge High Street multiples and so it has proved,
with only Blue Square having really prospered – and even then with
whispers over liquidity. Firststake
tried hard but failed, Betachance followed disgracefully and Betsmart
folded. The past few months have done for
netbetsports.com and caused problems for betworld.com and
“I deeply regret the consequences visited upon Luvbet
clients,” he wrote, “many of whom have become close personal
Yet the landscape was changing. The Luvbet collapse is a shocking one and it highlights onceagain the absence of a safety net for internet punters who do their bitto finance horseracing.
Yet using luvbet was always a two-way contract. Betting shops charged nine per cent,
telephone services charged the same, most websites did too.
O’Halloran’s project has lasted a full three and a half
years, lingering while others steadily fell by the wayside. A hi-tech online startup
could have hardly have had a more incongruous, rustic-sounding master,
yet O’Halloran was saddened at having to compose the heartfelt
closure statement which framed the site’s home page on Wednesday
The shock closure on Wednesday evening of luvbet.com – the exact
timing, 5.25pm, lent the announcement a stark drama – brought a sense of
closure to a period when punters relished a revolution in betting.
Tax-free bets, endless choice, vibrant competition, rapid technological
developments – punters had never had it so good.
The glorious exception is the betting exchange, led by the
ubiquitous Betfair. Maybe a few business lessons ought to have been
learnt from Bill Gates, but Luvbet was the pioneer that became
unabashadly admired, knockbacks and all, by its customers.
All that was really happening was a new-born market accelerating
through its rites of passage to maturity. Luvbet and a few others spotted a
niche on the information superhighway and went for it
`helter-skelter’, and it was not long before the white home page
festooned with small red hearts drew a growing band of devotees.
For a phenomenon that burst on to the scene and quickly generated a
substantial fan club, Luvbet is far more deserving of an hagiography than Gareth Gates
They have a
payroll of 1,700 people, mainly in Stoke, plus another 800 at Stoke City
FC, which the company owns, and are the biggest local employer outside
the council, a much-needed boost in an area where jobs are scarce
compared to the days, just after World War II, when some 80,0 people
worked in the pottery industry.
It’s a starkly different approach to that adopted by the more
showy online betting success story of the 21st century, Betfair. If it gets revived in 30
years’ time Denise Coates may well feature.
So did it ever rankle with Coates, 44, that Bet365 attracted far
less publicity during its upward curve? “Not at all,” she
insists. This paper recently
ran a series called Legendary Bookmakers. Meet Denise Coates. They were always set up for a flotation and
if that’s your strategy then it’s crucial you attract the
attention of the business world and beyond.
It’s worked so far. She owns 50.1 per cent of this hugely successful
business and is, by any criterion you may care to use, the boss.
That so little is known about someone who heads up what was, until
the merger of Bwin and PartyGaming in 2009, the world’s largest
online betting and gaming company is down in small part to the
misconception that Peter (her father) and John (her brother) are in
charge and mainly because she feels no inclination either to dispel that
idea or give interviews per se.
“As flotation was never an aim of ours we have been able to
just focus on the business itself.”
. “Betfair came up with a unique offering and their
corporate PR was excellent. Having started trading ten years ago, just
as many other start-ups were beginning to realise the dotcom gold rush
wasn’t going to be quite as easy as they’d hoped, Bet365 now
make annual profits of more than pounds 100m and rising. Isn’t she something to do with Bet365, the
company owned and run by Peter Coates, or is it John Coates? It’s
actually Denise. Both
firms started out as tiny acorns in 2001 but Bet365, after a far more
difficult infancy, is now the dominant operation in terms of profits
and, it could be argued, potential.
What, you may ask, makes her deserving of such an accolade? You may
vaguely know the name. It’s not that she’s some Garbo-esque recluse, simply
that she’s got a business to run and, if truth be told, no
particular need to try to impress anybody.
Annual turnover exceeds an Continues page 14
Byline: Bruce Millington
MEET a business phenomenon. Instead, she’s happy to pull the strings in Bet365’s
headquarters, on an industrial estate in Stoke-On-Trent, and grow the
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