Following its merger with the Gala Coral Group to form Ladbroke Coral, in July 2015 Ladbrokes was the biggest bookmakers in the UK. It has been operating for over a century, with its founding in 1886, and in that time, the company has had to contend with a rapidly evolving marketplace as well as the massive paradigm shifts in both society’s and individual’s approaches to and views on gambling. For the most part, the company has been successful in meeting these challenges head-on and has proven itself to be adaptable to new circumstances. This is something that goes right back to the company’s early days; just as Ladbrokes had its first taste of real success, the first, and then second, world wars conspired to create unfavourable economic conditions in the United Kingdom and in 1956 the company was sold for £100,000 (£2,290,700 in today’s money).
Photo by Lucy Fisher
Since the beginning of the 1960’s, the company has continued to grow, barring its downgrading from the FTSE 100 to the FTSE 250 and a disappointing year for its e-gaming division in 2013, this growth has been sustained and despite the blips has followed a general upward trend.
Almost all industries have undergone a rapid transformation since the turn of the century and the rise of technology. In particular, smartphones have become ubiquitous and mobile data networks have increased their coverage while reducing prices. It is now possible to shop, gamble, and order food while on the go. James Mullen, the current CEO of Ladbrokes, earlier this year said of the importance of technology to Ladbrokes; “Without it, we have no customer proposition…We control the bits of tech we want to control, and we use the best third-party technology when we feel our tech is not as good and theirs is better.” The results of Millen’s approach to e-gaming speak for themselves; since 2013, when the company took less than half of what it was projecting form digital sources, Ladbrokes has undergone consistent year on year growth in e-gaming profits.
In 2015, Ladbrokes embarked upon a three-year marketing strategy. Part of this strategy involved the aforementioned refocus on the group’s technology strategy, as well as a marketing drive to increase footfall in its traditional brick and mortar stores. Since the 1960s when betting shops were formally licensed and regulated, advertising regulations have changed, tending towards becoming more restrictive as the evidence of gambling as an addiction has manifested. Ladbrokes has been successful in its marketing endeavours and has reported higher rates of footfall than at any other time since opening its e-gaming division.
Terminals are a form of gambling machine found in some high-street betting shops. They aim to take various casino and other gambling games and render them digitally. These terminals, virtual roulette being the most popular, now account for around 40% of all the money taken by bookmakers. This has meant that many high street betting shops now more closely resemble virtual casinos.
Ladbrokes has proven itself to be a resilient and adaptable company that has successfully risen to all the obstacles it has encountered thus far. Based on its performance over the last few years, it is showing no signs of slowing down in its ambition or its growth.