Sad Demise of Blue Square Bookies

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What follows is a review of a firm that was run into the ground by its incompetent management:

Blue Square Bookies began trading in 1999 and once provided a substantial UK interactive gambling service. The sports betting markets and games on offer provided near 360 degree coverage with poker, slots and casino as well. Betting media included more than just the internet; there was interactive television, mobile and telephone gambling too.

The introductory offer in the sportsbook was the predictable lure of a £25 free bet for newcomers. You simply needed to place a bet of a fiver or over to receive a match bet up to a maximum of £25.

Prior to 2003, they were part of the Intercapital Group Ltd. In January 2003, the firm was purchased by Rank, whose assets already included numerous bingo clubs and casinos as well as online gaming operations known as Rank Interactive Gaming. The new acquisition and Rank Interactive Gaming were brought together to form, in theory, an enviable force in the online gambling market, with a combined customer base in excess of 740,000. However time would tell that it would not work out that way.

Other Rank Group companies include Mecca Bingo which enjoys the support of some three million members with over 100 clubs located across the UK. Grosvenor Casinos are also owned by Rank. Grosvenor has over 30 UK clubs including six situated in prestigious locations in London.

The primary focus at Blue Square was on horse racing and football markets. One of the most important concerns and frequently the decisive factor when choosing a bookie is often the odds that are on offer. They could be particularly generous on the prices of outsiders. So, if you were looking for value in a long shot, they were once worth a visit. Another bonus was their unique starting prices, which were sometimes better than the industry starting prices. However it was just another ill-conceived contrivance, shuffling the deck chairs as the ship went down.

Blue Square Bookies also helped punters improve their chances of success by providing a racecard online with easily accessible, detailed form which includes video as well as race predictions. There are other handy features to help racing punters which include data on ‘steamers’ (horses that shorten rapidly in price) and long-distance travellers.

One click would give you a list of top track trainers too, although those were listed in order of the total of number of wins achieved at the track rather than the perhaps more helpful successful strike rate at the track. At Folkestone racecourse in Kent, for example, local trainer John Best is beaten into second place only by Richard Hannon for his number of winners at Folkestone since June 2005. When you look at Best’s percentage strike rate at the track in that timescale, many other trainers in the list have a far better record than he does. The same is true of the multi season track jockey table. Provided you had the patience to scroll down, there was excellent information further down the page giving sensibly ordered track statistics for the current season.

Blue Square also gave punters the benefit of good, short format horse racing news that was provided via The Press Association Sport.

They had positioned themselves as key players in the UK football market, providing generous levels of sponsorship in the lower echelons of the UK game. It was typical of the firm’s notable lack of ambition that they chose to sponsor in the land of the minnow. It was all headline and no substance or guts. However they did become renowned for the quality of their football offering and of the betting odds on offer for football matches. On the other side of the coin they also got a reputation for limiting client accounts very quickly and failing to take a half decent bet. Both those things reflected their lack of ambition in other areas and were significant in their ultimate downfall. If you will not accomodate your customers they will leave you and never come back.

The site was extremely UK oriented and there were no language options beyond English, one of several pointers to their parochial and lazy management style. In addition, you could only hold your betting account in one of a choice of seven currencies, less than half the number of its competitors. Little wonder it lost so much ground on those razor-sharp rivals. It begs the question, was someone asleep at the wheel? The answer came conclusively in 2013. Not only had they been asleep, they had run this promising vessel aground. Parent company Rank woke up and decided to abandon ship.

If you were a UK based punter and looking to find the best odds on offer, especially for horse racing or football, Blue Square Bookies was always on your shortlist, so long as you did not want to bet more than a few quid. Ultimately Rank Group Plc destroyed a company that could have had so much to offer in an otherwise booming sector. The stupidly-named Blue Square will be a footnote in betting history and remembered by almost nobody except some rightly disgruntled Rank shareholders.