Victor Chandler, often referred to as the “Godfather of Gambling” or the “Indiana Jones of Gambling,” was born into a family of gamblers. Inheriting a bookmaking firm from his father, Chandler was one of the first bookmakers who decided to take his operation offshore and utilize the internet to expand his business.
To learn more about Victor Chandler and how he was able to turn his father’s dying business around, please feel free to read through this detailed biography!
The Early Years
Victor Chandler was born on April 18, 1951, in Essex, England. His great-grandfather was known for being a successful horserace bettor. His grandfather was known for opening the Walthamstow Stadium dog track in 1933 and BetVictor in 1946, both of which were very popular gambling-based companies. His father took advantage of the legislation change in 1961 and opened a chain of betting shops that were located all over England and the United Kingdom, also naming them BetVictor. With the love of gambling running through his blood, his family was eager to see if he too would dabble in the gambling industry.
Many of Chandler’s childhood memories actually revolve around gambling. His father would often take him to the Brighton, Fontwell, and Plumpton horse tracks, allowing him to place his first bet at age 8. He didn’t win the first bet he ever placed, but he did enjoy getting to bet alongside his dad. When they weren’t at the race track, his family’s idea of spending quality time together was playing five-card stud poker and seven-card rummy around the dinner table, with the winner of the game earning themselves a British pound or two.
Chandler attended the Highgate School but got kicked out after being caught climbing out of a window to skip class for the third time in a row. Luckily, his father was able to strike a deal with the headmaster of the Millfield School, who agreed to let Chandler join under the assumption that his father would forgive some of his gambling debts. Chandler’s father was constantly striking up deals like this to keep him out of trouble.
Despite a few suspensions and poor academic performances, Chandler was able to graduate from the Millfield School in 1969. He did not pursue a career in gambling right away. Instead, he moved to Switzerland to attend the Swiss Hotel Management School, as it was his hope to become a caterer. He enjoyed most of his classes, as they were all very hands-on. Still, he couldn’t get himself to attend them on a regular basis, so he was eventually kicked out of the program.
His backup plan was to move to Spain to become a real-estate agent. He got the proper training for the job and even sold a few houses for a decent profit. Things were looking promising for Chandler until he received a phone call informing him that his father had a very aggressive cancer. He immediately packed his bags and headed for home; his father passed away shortly after he arrived.
Taking Over the Family Business
Chandler moved back home to take care of his mother and 2 younger sisters, who were still in high school at the time. He agreed to take over the family business, even though it was in serious financial trouble. After about two years of cutting back expenses and looking for ways to expand the company, Chandler was ready to quit.
He received an offer from Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Enterprises but backed out of the deal last minute, as he didn’t think it was enough money to justify selling his father’s business. He decided to persevere, and soon enough, BetVictor slowly but surely started to pick up more clients. By 1997, he had made £100,000 in pure profit and was finally able to pay off all of his father’s previous debts.
Speaking of debts, one of the most difficult aspects of his job was collecting the debts that were owed to him. Chandler was known for allowing punters to place any size bet they wanted, which meant they would sometimes lose hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time. Occasionally, those who owed him money would flee to avoid paying up on their debts. On several different instances, Chandler was forced to pay a private investigator to hunt those clients down.
Taking His Business Offshore
When Chandler heard that the United Kingdom was raising their betting tax to 9%, he knew he would have to move BetVictor offshore to save money. He looked into a variety of different countries, including Antigua, Guernsey, and Jersey before finally settling on Gibraltar. Chandler explained his decision by saying, “Cyril Stein [of Ladbrokes] told me there was floating license in Gibraltar with the number 001. Ladbrokes had license 002. I came and bought it because I thought it had value.”
He bought the license in 1996 and had the company completely moved over there just 3 short years later. Once in Gibraltar, BetVictor really started to take off. Other bookmakers saw his success and decided to follow in his footsteps, moving their companies offshore as well. When Gordon Brown was elected into office in 2001, he abolished the tax in hopes that those companies would move back. Unfortunately for him, not many of them did.
Making Some Necessary Changes
It was around this time that the internet started to increase in popularity, causing Chandler to wonder how it would impact his business. Anticipating that the internet was here to stay, Chandler decided to make his business available online. BetVictor became one of the first fully functional online sportsbooks, attracting people from all over the world.
BetVictor went through a series of name changes to see if the name of the company would affect the number of people who visited the site. Chandler tried out “VC Bet” and “Victor Chandler,” before realizing that the original name “BetVictor” actually attracted the largest clientele.
Chandler was constantly looking for ways to expand his company, realizing that sponsorship was one of the best ways to do so. BetVictor sponsored several different sporting events over the years, including the Clarence House Chase at Ascot racecourse. The total distance of the steeplechase race was just a little over 2 miles, and any horse over 5 years of age was eligible to run. This race allowed BetVictor to get their name out there. Each year after the race took place, BetVictor saw a significant increase in traffic to their site. Other events BetVictor has sponsored include the Welsh Open Snooker and the World Matchplay Darts, which also lead to an increase in traffic.
In 2014, Chandler decided it was time for him to retire. He stepped down from his position of CEO at BetVictor, selling the business to successful racehorse owner Michael Tabor. The exact amount of money he sold the company for was never released to the public, as per Tabor’s request. At the time he sold the company, it was serving over 160 countries and bringing in over $1 billion annually.
Chandler’s love life is somewhat complicated. He married a Korean woman named Susan who he met in the late 1990s. When they got together, she had already had a son, who Chandler happily adopted. They never ended up being able to have any kids of their own, which was somewhat disappointing to them both. After about 20 years of marriage, Chandler and Susan started having difficulties. They went to therapy, but their constant bickering and unwillingness to compromise ultimately lead to their divorce.
While Chandler’s marriage was on the fritz, his cousin’s marriage was also suffering. Chandler and his cousin’s wife turned to each other for comfort during that difficult time. Once they had both officially gotten divorced, they started dating. This, of course, caused tension between Chandler and his cousin, who still won’t speak to him nearly a decade later.
Chandler has made some interesting friends over the years, including the famous painter Lucian Freud, who he initially bonded with over their love of horseracing. Freud painted Chandler’s portrait, eventually calling it, “Man in a String Chair.” This piece was very popular, as Freud was able to sell it for over 4.5 million pounds. The auctioneer to who sold the piece described it this way: “Man in a String Chair succeeds both as a frank and perceptive portrait and as a timeless representation of our modern age.”
During his free time, Chandler loves riding horses on his ranch. He owns over 25 horses and spends an average of 12 hours per week riding them. He once explained in an interview that, “Seeing the horses is the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night.” He makes spending time with his horses a priority.
Victor Chandler was destined to be a part of the gambling industry, having come from a long line of gambling enthusiasts. Forced to take over BetVictor after his father passed away, Chandler worked hard to take his father’s failing business and make it profitable again. Thanks to his willingness to take risks and change with the times, BetVictor became a billion-dollar enterprise. Even though Chandler is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of BetVictor, his crucial role in making it one of the top competitors in the industry will never be forgotten.