Up until recently, Gala Coral Group was one of the biggest names in sports betting, bingo, and casino play in the UK, now, thanks to an historic merger, it is a part of the biggest.
Coral was first formed in 1926, and Gala in 1991, together, the two companies created a huge brand that specialised in both land-based and online gambling options.
The Group has three headquarters, Gala Bingo and Casino in Nottingham, Coral in Stratford, London, and Gala Coral Remote Gaming in Woking. However, in 2011, Gala Coral Group followed the lead of many other British based gambling companies and moved a large portion of its business to Gibraltar, this move included the majority of the Group’s remote gaming division.
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Before merging with Gala, Coral went through its first high profile merger in 1999, when it was acquired by Eurobet, and became Coral Eurobet, before being bought again, this time in a buy-out backed by Charterhouse Development Capital.
Gala made their name with bingo clubs, with 130 being purchased by Bass PLC in a management buy-in. Gala then purchased more clubs from the likes of Riva, Ritz, and more.
It was in 2000 when Gala stepped outside of bingo, purchasing 26 Ladbrokes casinos for almost £250 million.
The £2.18 billion deal between Gala and Coral Eurobet occurred in October 2005, creating the UK’s third largest bookmaker, and the biggest bingo operator in the country, before adding ten bingo clubs in Scotland the next year.
Obviously, the gambling industry has stopped being purely land based over the last 20 plus years, and Gala Coral certainly took full advantage of this, with various online brands and sites to their name.
In July 2015, a merger was announced between Gala Coral and Ladbrokes, which, after much complication, was finalised in October of 2016, when Ladbrokes Coral PLC was officially formed.
The new gambling giant is headed up by Jim Mullen, who was CEO of Ladbrokes and took the same role with Ladbrokes Coral after the merger.
One of the largest difficulties that came up during preparation for the merger was by the Competitions and Markets Authority in July 2016, who identified 642 areas where the planned merger would be damaging to local competition, and ordered that between 350 and 400 shops would have to be sold before the merger, worth some £2.3 billion, would be approved.
Due to the size of Ladbrokes and Gala Coral individually, the merger immediately created the largest the biggest bookmaker in the UK, with over 4,000 shops, and more than 30,000 employees.
John Magnier, the Irish business magnate and thoroughbred stud owner, along with his business partner, the racing tycoon HP McManus, have been subtly building up a stake in Ladbrokes since 2007, which is now rumoured to be up to 10%, it also became apparent in 2008, that Joe Lewis, a trader and investor who is also an associate of Magnier’s, had also been building up a stake, now estimated to be at 7%.