What Happened to Stan James?
Stan James used to be one of the most-loved British betting brands around back in the day. Having been around for a few decades, Stan James was known as a quality British bookmaker.
But in recent years, the Stan James brand has disappeared, leading to a lot of upset customers. So what happened to Stan James? Our full guide to the British betting brand has all the details.
Stan James: A Brief History of the Betting Brand
The history of Stan James can be traced back all the way to 1973 when its first betting shop opened in Wantage, a relatively small market town that can be found in Oxfordshire.
While many may assume that Stan James was founded by a man of that name, that is not actually the case. The first shop was a joint venture between Steve Fisher and James Holder.
The name Stan James actually came from an amalgamation of names: the ‘St’ came from Steve, the ‘an’ from his wife Anne and James from the other partner in the business.
But the launch of the Sky Sports broadcasting company changed matters, bringing a whole host of other sports into living rooms across the country, with Stan James spotting an opportunity.
The company placed ads in popular publications such as the Life and the Post, but it was arguably the decision to start featuring live odds via Teletext that skyrocketed the firm’s fortunes.
Teletext was groundbreaking technology in that era, giving sports fans a chance to keep up with all of the latest scores long before the advent of the internet changed the world.
The telebetting services offered by Stan James were soon copied by a lot of other British betting brands, but the company’s place in the annals of bookmaking history was secured forever.
Stan James also ran betting shops on high streets up and down the UK. At the height of the company’s power, it had nearly 100 stores open, while the StanJames.com brand ran online.
Like a lot of companies in the industry, mergers and acquisitions helped to grow Stan James. In December 2007, Betdirect bookmaking company was bought from 32Red for £5.75 million, leading to a major merger a couple of years later.
Deals with Austrian BETKICK Sportwettenservice GmbH helped to forge a push into continental Europe and it seemed certain to say Stan James would remain a top British betting brand.
What Happened to Stan James?
The rise of the internet changed the world of online betting for good, including for Stan James.
Talk of a takeover started to build in the early 2010s. In 2015, it was finally confirmed that a deal had been struck with Unibet Group, one of the largest companies in the online betting world. The acquisition price of £19 million may have seemed like a snip to many people who loved the Stan James brand, with the deal including full rights and ownership of the betting company.
Denis Kelly, who was the chief executive of Stan James Online at the time of the takeover, said the company was “delighted” to be brought into the fold at Unibet thanks to the move.
“There is a substantial market opportunity in the UK following the re-regulation,” Kelly said in a statement. “Through the combination of Unibet’s expertise in marketing and financial strength, together with Stan James’ high quality sports and racing betting offering aimed at the UK market, I am confident that we can increase substantially the combined Group’s market share in the UK. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the shareholders of Stan James for their strong support of the business.”
Unibet’s chief executive Henrik Tjarnstrom explained the deal to buy Stan James was part of the company’s aim of branching out further into the growing UK online betting market. “Stan James as an operator is one of the most well-respected in the UK market with particular strengths in horse racing and other British sports,” he said. “Stan James has had a long presence in the British market where there are few companies of this size available for acquisition. Since Unibet has only recently targeted the UK market there is little overlap between our respective businesses. Over time we see a significant potential to increase the breadth of the Stan James product range, such as live streaming, casino and improving the mobile offering.”
Many people who were customers of Stan James wondered what the impact of the takeover would be, but for a few years, things continued much as normal with the Stan James brand. Indeed, Stan James was still a firm fixture on the high street and the number of Stan James shops kept growing with 37 betting shops snapped up from Ladbrokes and Coral in 2016.
However, in February 2018, all online Stan James accounts were transferred to Kindred Group, which was the new name for the Unibet group. This meant that in effect, the Stan James brand no longer existed online. Meanwhile, under the terms of the takeover, Stan James had to come up with a new brand within a certain period, with about £1 million spent on changing the name to Megabet. There are still some Megabet betting shops on UK high streets, but most of the company’s stores can be found in the northeast of England and it is no longer a powerhouse.
Nowadays, the old Stan James brand is a big part of one of the world’s largest online gambling sites, with the Kindred Group a giant in the industry, boasting some 12 million players. As well as Unibet, the Kindred Group comprises 32Red, bingo.com, Highroller and Maria Casino.
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