If I’m being totally honest, I always thought Coral was one of the new breed of bookmakers that really took off with the advent of online betting. It was only when I started betting with them more and subsequently decided to write these reviews that I began to properly research them and discovered that that is far from the truth. Rather a man named Joe Coral decided to become a bookmaker in 1926, initially setting up pitches at race courses. As he earned more money he teamed up with Tom Bradbury-Pratt, a friend of his, and the two began to to run speedway meetings.
As the years went by Coral’s bookmaking endeavour grew and grew until he was able to open up his own shop when the law on such matters changed in 1961. From there things grew exponentially until he merged with another bookie named Mark Lane to form the Coral Leisure Group. I’ll tell you more about their history, including the takeover of the company by Bass plc, later on. For now the key thing to bear in mind when it comes to Coral is that the company merged with Ladbrokes in 2016. Though they are run as separate bookmakers, there are inevitably some similarities between the two.
As I’ve said on my reviews of other bookmakers, I believe the features that they have available to their customers are the most crucial thing for winning over punters. You know any bookmaker worth their salt will offer odds on football, horse racing, cricket, tennis and the other big events. So what are the other things they do that make them a pleasure to bet with?
When you first log on to the Coral sportsbook homepage you’re immediately greeted by live events that you can bet on there and then. No messing about, no having to go searching for it, just straight into a list of the next dog races to go off, the horse race meetings of the day and any other sports that have in-play markets that you may want to bet on. Much as most sensible punters would want, the list is ordered according to the sport’s popularity. That’s why you have football taking centre-stage at the top of the list, with tennis and golf underneath it before it goes for the more random options such as cycling and handball.
The whole thing is set up to be as convenient as possible. Not only are the sports put in order but you can also click straight on to the most popular bets for any given event. With the greyhounds, for example, it will give you the odds of the first few dogs and you can add a bet straight to your bets lip from there. Football games have the odds for a home win, an away win or a draw. With the tennis you can bet on either player, with an option to open a live stream sitting next to the odds, too.
Not all bookmakers list the number of bets available on each event, so it’s nice to see that Coral do. As I look at things right now, at 3pm on a sunny weekday afternoon, I can see there are an additional 22 bets available on the German Hessen Cup match between SpVgg Hadamar and SV WEHEN. Clicking on the game expands each of those bets, so I can consider my options regarding the Correct Score or the Over/Under market. Likewise there are 27 further bets available on the French Open tennis men’s qualifying match up between Tsitsipas and Otte. How many sets will there be? Who will win the most games of Set 2? I can bet on what I want.
As always with this sort of thing, what you think of the depth of the coverage depends entirely on your usual level of interest. If you’re a casual punter who normally tunes in for the likes of Wimbledon or the FA Cup final then you’re going to be more than satisfied with what you see. If, on the other hand, you’re a volleyball nerd who wants to know whether or not the women’s singles match from Abu Dhabi is being shown then you might find things wanting. As someone who is a little more than a casual bettor but a little shy of being a professional gambler, I’m yet to find an event I want to bet on that Coral doesn’t cover.
As I mentioned a second ago, you’ll see a little green symbol next to an event if Coral are offering a live stream on it. Of the six UK and Irish horse racing meetings that are taking place today I can see the symbol next to four of them. In order to watch a race I’ll have to bet £1 on it, but before I do that I can watch a pre-race computer simulation to see which horse the computer thinks will win. If I don’t want to watch live I can instead watch a live simulation of the race, which is a really clever alternative that people will appreciate.
Extrasolar, Meshardal and Secret Missile were predicted to be the first three in the 3.30 at Catterick. Meshardal, Extrasolar and Lackaday actually took the front three spots in real life, if you were wondering. If you want to watch live streams of other sports, such as the tennis I mentioned before, then you don’t need to place a bet on the event but you do need to have a positive balance in your Coral account. Again, just a nice thing that may help you decide whether to log into one bookmaker’s service over another’s. All in all I like Coral’s live streaming more than plenty of their competitors.
Much like with their live streaming, I think Coral handle Cash Out brilliantly. For starters, you can actually Cash Out a bet you placed in a Coral shop, should it be valid for the option. On your betting slip you’ll find a code that you can type in online and it will present you with your options. When it comes to other bets, you’ll notice that your Cash Out option is colour coded depending on whether or not the bet you’re looking at is in profit. A small thing, but helpful all the same.
Another thing that sets Coral apart from some of its competitors is the ability to apply a Partial Cash Out to your bet. This is ideal if you’re the sort of person who likes to, literally, hedge their bets. Say you bet £100 on Liverpool to beat Everton and the Reds are 1-0 up with 20 to play. You might fancy your chances of winning, but Everton might have taken control of the game. In that instance you could Cash Out £50 worth of your bet, leaving the other £50 to run on. I really like it as a function and use it quite regularly.
So, the live streaming is good, the in-play betting is decent enough and the Cash Out option is up there as one of the best in the business. Now you’ll be wanting to know how Coral’s coverage is when it comes to the actual sports that you’ll be wanting to bet on. Look no further, here’s what you need to know:
It’s certainly true that Joe Coral’s first love was horse racing, followed by greyhound racing and speedway. That was back in the day when betting on football wasn’t a thing, however, so much has changed since then. Given that football is the most popular sport in the world, it’s not a major surprise that they’ve upped their game significantly when it comes to how they cover it.
Unlike some bookmakers that have links to individual sports right along the top of their homepage, you have to work ever so slightly to find your way to Coral’s football section. There’s a link on the lefthand side and clicking on it will take you to a page filled to the brim with information about games that you can bet on. If anything I actually think it’s a little too busy, listing as it does the in-play games followed by select matches that are coming up that day.
When I say ‘select matches’ I mean it, too. At the time of writing there a quick links to odds for games that will be taking place later today in over 20 leagues, with a further 21 leagues available for selection should I choose to do so. I say that because I’m not sure I’d have a clue what I’d be betting on in a Swedish 2nd Division Norra Svealand game, but then I’ve bet on weirder things in my life.
I should also point out that Coral aren’t claiming to cover these matches just to pay them lip service. the Copa Libertadores match between Emelec and FBC Melgar has 141 different bets on offer to me, whilst there are more than 40 markets available for the Latvian Second League game between FK Progress/AFA Olaine II and FK Monarhs-Flaminko, at least one of which teams’s name must be made up. The layout of the site isn’t amazing, but as I said in my intro Coral’s football coverage has come on leaps and bounds.
When all is said and done a bookmaker can cover every single game of football on the planet up to and including a kickabout in the local park, yet if their odds are rubbish you’re unlikely to place a bet with them. The merging of Coral and Ladbrokes means that the two companies’s odds are often similar if not identical, but that’s no bad thing when you consider that Ladbrokes’s odds were perfectly fine. They’re rarely market leading across the board, but then they’re not often well off the pace, either.
Joe Coral’s first love was horse racing. That was where he saw the money in his bookmaking operation way back at the start of it all and the company’s origins have never been lost in the intervening years, despite numerous takeovers and the like. They want their punters to enjoy betting on the horses as much as the company enjoys covering the races.
As with the football, you’ll find a quick link to Coral’s horse racing coverage on the lefthand side of the homepage. Clicking on it takes you to a page that firstly shows you the next races to go off – both real and virtual – as well as the card for the day. You can select to see either the UK and Irish racing or the international options, with further links to Easy Picks, the Tote, the US Tote, Specials and Future races. Scroll down further still and you’ll find short descriptions about highlighted races that punters are going to want to know about. Click on those descriptions and you’ll see the full ante-post market for the race in question, which is great for early bettors.
Coming up tomorrow as I write this there are races from Bath, Worcester, Musselburgh, Pontefract, Leopardstown and more that you can bet on through Coral. That’s just the UK and Irish racing, add in international courses and you’ve got a whole new set of options. Pimlico, Gulfstream, Belmont Park, Remington Park and others beside enter the list, meaning that your options are plentiful. Other bookmakers, especially those that specialise in horse racing, might well offer more options of random places. For the majority of punters, however, Coral’s options will more than suffice.
All decent bookies have a Best Odds Guarantee and Coral are a decent bookie, so it’s not a surprise to see that they have one too. That definitely gives punters a good bit of piece of mind, but you don’t need to worry too much. Coral’s odds are fairly decent in their own right, occasionally doing better than their partner in crime Ladbrokes. One thing that is good to know is that they tend to have the best odds or joint best odds on the longer horses in most races that I’ve looked at. Given that ‘long-odds horse’ doesn’t mean ‘no chance horse’, I have often taken advantage of that.
Sometimes you have a look at a bookmaker’s list of sports that they offer coverage for and it seems to go on for ever. I’ve definitely been on at least one bookie’s homepage and had to Google something to find out if it was even a sport rather than a typo. That is not a problem that I had with Coral. Here are some of the lesser-known sports that they offer bets on:
- Aussie Rules
- Ice Hockey
Not exactly a sign that the researchers have been having to pull all-nighters in order to get some odds together. Now personally I’m easily pleased, never claiming to be anything other than a mainstream sports fan. Not everyone is as simplistic as I am, however, so I wouldn’t be shocked if a few of you were a bit disappointed with Coral’s listings.
High Street Betting Shops
As one of the oldest established bookmakers in the business, it’s no surprise that Coral still have a heavy presence on the high street. It’s one of the things that keeps the company tied to its past in the best of ways, keeping its traditional base of customers happy. There are around 1800 stores that come specifically under the Coral branding, though the company’s merger with Ladbrokes in 2016 resulted in the new heavyweight of the bookmaking world boasting around 4000 shops in total.
Joe Coral was amongst the first group of bookies to open a high street store when it became legal to do so back in 1961. Within a year he’d expanded his empire to boast twenty-three different high street betting shops throughout the United Kingdom. The company continued to grow and expand over the following decade or so, meaning that by the end of the 1970s there were hundreds of Coral shops on roads up and down the country.
In 1981 Coral was bought by Bass, with the shops becoming incorporated into the existing shops owned by Bass but keeping the Coral branding. It wouldn’t be the last time that the company changed ownership, of course, and by the 2010s the number of shops in the UK had grown to more than 1800. Ladbrokes had been attempting to merge with Coral since the middle of the 1990s, so it wasn’t really a surprise when they finally achieved it around two decades later.
If you cast your mind back to the beginning of this piece you’ll remember that I told you about Joe Coral teaming up with Mark Lane to form the Coral Leisure Group. It was an exciting time for Joe, with this new venture leading to the company acquiring the likes of hotels, casinos, social clubs and holiday camps. In 1981, ten years after the merger with Lane, Coral was sold to Bass plc and became part of the wider Bass Leisure business. Another decade on and Bass purchased all of the bingo clubs belonging to Granada Theatre Limited, combining them with the Gala social clubs to create the bingo behemoth that would be known as Gala Bingo.
By the middle of the 1990s Ladbrokes had decided to try and take the Coral bookmaking enterprise off Bass’s hands and a merger was proposed. Unfortunately it was referred to the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission and the merger was denied. At the start of 1999 Morgan Grenfell Private Equity backed a management buy-out of Coral, which Bass agreed to. Later in the year a company called Eurobet bought Coral and a new company named Coral Eurobet was formed. In September of 2002 Charterhouse Development Capital backed another management buy-out and things remained much the same then until Ladbrokes was finally able to buy Coral in 2016. Jim Mullen, the CEO of Ladbrokes, became the new Chief Executive Officer of a new company called Ladbrokes Coral and that is where things are currently at.