When Allied Irish Bank appointed receivers to the 47 shop Celtic Bookmakers group earlier this week it marked the end of the road for yet another seemingly ambitious independent bookmaker .
Celtic Bookmakers had been established for over twenty five years and grew very quickly when the Irish economy was booming around 2004-2005 at one point operating over 60 branches throughout Ireland and a small chain in South Wales .
Celtic had a reputation for offering very generous bonuses and betting offers and would generally match or beat odds and offers that were available from competitors such as Paddy Power or Boylesports . This was great news for punters who were offered some concessions that were so generous it was impossible for the bookie to win whatever the result ! .
It goes without saying that the Celtic bookmakers shops were busy and enjoyed healthy turnover in every shop but at an unsustainable margin . At it’s peak Celtic Bookmakers had an annual turnover of E183M but even when the business was making good profits which was up until 2007 , the cash was not re-invested back into the fabric of the business .
Unlike Paddy Power and Boylesports the Celtic Bookmakers outlets were shabby and old fashioned and provided a very poor facility for customers . The shops did not embrace new technology which was available to betting shops and often were presented in a very amateurish manner . Customers would only frequent these shops because of the generous terms on offer and would generally not stay for their race to race betting .
Furthermore Celtic Bookmakers failed to build an online prescence and operated a loss making telephone betting business for many years . The company opened a number of new shops in poor locations at high rents at the height of the property boom and found that because it’s core business of low margin , high turnover betting was easily copied by competitors with better facilities and better staff it could not pay the rents on many of it’s locations .
Offer led bookmakers can perform financially however . In Ireland both Paddy Power and Boylesports have shown that well managed bookies can still offer great terms and offers for punters and operate great business’s whilst Betfred have grown to over 850 shops in the UK through a well managed strategy of tight security and administrative procedures at the same time as promoting genuinely good odds and good marketing iniatives of their many betting promotions .
What these bookies also share was a clear strategy that retail was only one channel and they needed to be fully represented via as many channels as possible including online and telephone to enable the business to grow to the scale required to allow the offers to be sustainable .
The days of ignoring the internet are over and for bookmakers to ignore online betting is well , asking for trouble !