Fred Done reputedly got hooked on betting when he had a successful bet on England to win the World Cup in 1966 with a stake equivalent to 10 weeks’ wages. It’s from the other side of the counter that he and brother Peter have made their fortune, however, buying their first betting shop in 1967. Neither had left school in Salford with much of an education but they learned the betting trade from their father, an illegal bookmaker, and today Betfred is the UK’s largest independent bookmaker with an annual turnover of more than £4bn and employing almost 10,000 people. They’ve forged a reputation for offering customers a little bit extra and, earlier this week, 69-year-old Fred was named the UK’s entrepeneur of the year.
In many ways Fred, the public face of Betfred, is a stereotypical entrepreneur. He had nothing to lose by taking risks when setting up business. Maybe that’s why it took so long for the Done Brother to expand out of Manchester. They’d made money by remaining local. However, the brothers realised that their formula of free bonuses and friendly banter were relevant to other areas and after taking 30 years to acquire 100 betting shops, the next 500 only took a further eight years.
Betfred are almost unique in that they still believe a high street presence is crucial to business and while others retreat more and more behind cursor and keyboard, the firm still fiercely protect the betting shop atmosphere. Last year, Betfred paid £265m for the Tote, beating off 20 rival bidders in the process, and they are now established as a major player. As are Paddy Power, who have announced some excellent news for the beleaguered Irish economy.
The Celtic Tiger may have gone into hiding but the Dublin-based bookmakers are fighting back with the creation of 600 new jobs at its HQ in the Irish capital. The posts will be in e-commerce, social media, risk marketing and online marketing to support a further expansion in its international online activities. Paddy Power are also looking to test out the waters with regards to betting office opening hours in England. One of their Newmarket branches has applied to extend its hours of operation from 7am to 12 midnight. So far there have been no objections – we await further developments.