Without question, Gala are known as being one of the biggest names in bingo. Created in 1991 as a division of Bass plc, the company has undergone numerous changes over the years. Nowadays it is part of GVC Holdings, which is the company that also owns Ladbrokes and various other betting companies. Here we’ll look at Gala in a little bit more detail, exploring their place in the world of gambling in a little bit more detail.
Who Are Gala?
Created by Bass plc in 1991, Gala actually traces its history back much earlier. Bass Leisure was one of the first companies to offer bingo halls throughout the UK. By 1983, they had twenty-two bingo halls under the Coral brand, with a further twenty-four bingo halls operating within Pontins holiday camps.
1983 is an important year because its when Bass plc decided to go bigger on their links to bingo, acquiring eighty bingo clubs from Thorn EMI at a cost of £18.2 million. In 1988, the total number of bingo halls on offer from Bass Leisure stood at seventy-two, but they then spent £23 million buying another thirty from Zetters Leisure.
Granada plc’s chain of seventy-four bingo clubs was added to the Bass Leisure portfolio at a cost of £147 million, ensuring that the company was tied with the Rank Organisation as the biggest bingo operator in the UK. Bass Leisure then worked with Interbrand, an American marketing consultancy, to come up with a new brand for the organisation and Gala was decided upon.
Gala Launches in 1991
Launched on the seventeenth of October in 1991, the name was created out of letters from both Granada and Coral. The one hundred and thirty clubs were purchased from Bass by a management buy-in in 1997 at a cost of £235 million. In the years that followed, Gala began to buy other bingo clubs in order to increase the company’s portfolio, including seventeen from Ritz in 1998 and twenty-seven from Riva Bingo Clubs in 2000.
Gala began to expand buying just being a bingo club in 2000 when the company bought twenty-six casinos from the Hilton Group at a cost of £235 million. In 2003, Candover and Cinven bought the company for £1.24 billion and within two years Permira had bought a stake that resulted in it being revalued at £1.89 billion. That was the same year that Coral Eurobet was required by Gala for £2.18 billion, leading to a name change to Gala Coral Group.
At that point the company was the third largest bingo operator and bookmaker in the country. More bingo clubs and casinos were added in the years that followed, including the addition of more than four hundred betting licences in Italy in 2006.
Connections to the Rest of the Betting Industry
As you can probably imagine from reading the above, Gala Coral Group had numerous connections to other parts of the betting industry thanks to their various takeovers and buyouts. By 2011, when the company made a decision to move a large part of the business to Gibraltar, it owned more than thirty casinos and nearly two thousand licensed betting offices.
The total number of bingo clubs peaked at one hundred and seventy-four, but in 2007 a smoking ban was introduced in the United Kingdom and numbers began to decline. In July of 2015 a decision was taken to allow the the company to be bought out by Ladbrokes, its larger rival. The one hundred and thirty bingo clubs that were part of the Gala Coral Group were not part of the deal.
The bingo clubs were bought by Caledonia Investments for £241 million in December of 2015. This deal did not include GalaBingo.com, which remained with the newly formed Ladbrokes Coral. This can lead to confusion because the Gala Bingo that you can see on the high street isn’t actually linked to to Gala’s online bingo site. It boasts the same branding because of an agreement between all parties.
In March of 2018, Ladbrokes Coral was bought by GVC Holdings, leading to the high street shops deciding to rebrand as Buzz Bingo in order to remove the link to Gala that would allow the company to also launch a more comprehensive online side to the business. GVC Holdings also have a number of other brands as part of their portfolio, including the following:
- bwin – The company’s main sportsbook that is big all over Europe and also offers a casino and online poker
- Sportingbet – Established in 1998 and bought by GVC Holdings in 2013, the Spanish and Australian operations were bought by William Hill
- Betboo – Created in 2005, it’s aimed at South American bettors and was bought by GVC in 2009
- Gamebookers – A full-service sportsbook that was bought by GVC in 2016
- partypoker – One of the world’s biggest online poker sites, it was launched in 2001 before being acquired by GVC in 2015
- Foxy Bingo – Launched as an online only bingo site in 2005, it was part of Cashcade, which was bought by GVC as part of the deal for bwin.party digital entertainment in 2017
That list is far form exhaustive, but it does give you an idea of the sort of companies that GVC Holdings are responsible for. To put it another way, there are very few betting markets that Gala aren’t linked to thanks to the company’s acquisition by GVC Holdings.
What Gala Offer
Given the link to so many other online betting companies, it’s not exactly a shock that Gala offer more than just bingo to their customers. There are physical Gala bingo clubs around the country that you can attend, which are separate and distinct from the now re-branded clubs that are run under the Buzz Bingo name.
If you’re looking purely online, though, then you’ll be able to play countless different bingo games as well as head to a fairly comprehensive slots and games section of the site. Here you’ll one able to experience most of the popular slot machines on the market, so Gala are able to stop you from feeling the need to vacate it for an online casino.
That fact is further confirmed by the presence of an actual online casino on the Gala site, which has a pleasant combination of computerised table games as well as live casino versions of the same things. This includes the likes of blackjack, roulette and baccarat.
Finally, Gala’s website offers users the chance to get involved in slingo. This might sound a bit odd, but it’s essentially just an area of the site that allows users to play games that are a combination of bingo and slot machines, hence the portmanteau of a name.
Whilst you can’t place bets on sporting events with Gala, that’s not the sort of thing that most of the people interested in bingo will be wanting to do anyway. On top of that, GVC Holdings have plenty of other sites that can offer you exactly that.