The gentleman bookmaker reluctantly took over the family firm after the death of his father in 1974. It's now a global brand, and Chandler – credited with leading the UK betting industry offshore in 1998 – is a Sunday Times Rich List ever-present. He has just rebranded the company BetVictor
My father had a spirit of openness and fairness, a love of life and an approach of 'enjoy yourself and you'll do well', and I think that's something I've inherited.
Working for your father is a hard thing to do. I think early on it's best to make your own way and come back after having some outside experience first.
When my father died, I took on the company with some trepidation. I didn't know where we stood. It was a case of needs must – I had two young sisters and a mother to provide for. There was no other choice.
The telling moment was a meeting with an accountant. He sat me down and said 'do you realise the business is insolvent?' I asked what he meant. And when he explained, I said 'can we get out of it?' And he said, 'yes'. With a bit of help from Allied Irish Bank we turned the business around.
We felt the effects of recession. My father had invested heavily in property in the late Sixties and prices had fallen. I sold off the shops that were hard to manage and we focused on our main business – a credit business with high-rolling customers. We attracted a new breed of entrepreneurs who liked to gamble.
The big turning point was Ascot '77. It was jubilee year and we started to make substantial profits. I provided a personal service to wealthy customers, socialising with them. We've got clients I recruited in '77 who are still betting with us today and, in some cases, their offspring too.
I've developed some very good friendships with people who started off as customers. There's not the enmity that people imagine between punter and bookmaker.
We all make mistakes. I learnt to never chance too much on one throw of the dice. At the Gold Cup in 1986 I thought Dawn Run wouldn't win and took too big a position. Afterwards I bought [jockey] Jonjo O'Neill's boots and whip as a reminder.
I'd always believed there was a market outside the UK, and that was proven by the 1994 World Cup – we saw the emergence of Far Eastern players who wanted to play on soccer in big sums.
I did a deal in an hour. Wespentayear searching for a place we could operate [internationally] from – then I found out there was a dormant bookmaking licence in Gibraltar. We went over... it's one of the best deals I've ever done.
A light went on in my head in 1998, when my wife at the time said 'if Irish bookmakers are allowed to take bets in the UK, why can't you take UK bets from Gibraltar'? We saw counsel within a couple of days and that was the catalyst for taking the [UK] business offshore. [Competitors soon followed, and Gordon Brown scrapped gambling tax in his 2001 budget.]
Technology has changed our business more than anything else. We did fall behind two or three years ago. Our technology base was creaking and we had to rebuild completely. But the outcome is a base that is probably the most advanced in the market now – our mobile product is better than anyone's.
I like working with the younger people coming through the business, and hearing their ideas. I believe very much in teams and that like-minded people can learn a lot from each other.
Renaming the company BetVictor, in the UK, was a hard decision. But looking at the business – what comes from the UK and from outside, it is right to consolidate [BetVictor is already used abroad]. Having hoardings at football grounds with Victor Chandler on doesn't benefit us with Far Eastern viewers.
It's easy to switch off from work when you've got young children because they're so demanding. My eldest is seven – you have to focus completely. I'm also lucky enough to have a few horses I ride, look after and breed. Those are the relaxing things that take you away from everything.
I'd stop doing it if I didn't enjoy it. But at the moment I still wouldn't know what to do with myself in the morning if I didn't have the pleasure of it all.