Michael Eskander is the owner of Betstar, a leading sports betting portal. Michael immigrated Down Under in 1966 and worked in a various fields before earning a bookmaker's license in 1984. Along with son Alan, the duo has become the biggest on course bookmakers in Melbourne.
It should come as a surprise to no one that the online bookie environment shifts with blink-and-you’ve-missed it rapidity.
Since we wrote the below (see bottom of article) piece about Melbourne rails bookmaker Michael Eskander, so much has transpired that it is difficult to trace precisely, so here is an update for anyone who follows the twists, turns and shifts of the interesting racing personality and well-known bookmaker Michael Eskander represents.
Michael Eskander's Wagering Empire
If it could be said that there was a silent Eskander in the Eskander wagering empire, it could be said that at one time, it was Michael’s son Alan.
That seems to have shifted toward Michael being the silent one, having brought his son and protégé to the forefront as the years went by.
It was Alan who was widely quoted in 2014 when the Eskander’s online bookmaking agency, Betstar, was sold to the British wagering giant known as Ladbrokes.
Laddy’s got one of the few remaining Australian-owned operators for the bargain price of between $20 and $25 million. The exact purchase price was not disclosed, but the bargain aspect of the sale is apparent when it is known that Betstar was turning over around $300 million per year.
Earlier that year, Ladbrokes had swallowed Bookmaker.com.au for about the same price paid for Betstar. The Betstar wagering portal is still run as a distinct entity as of late 2020, but the odds and markets displayed are identical to those of Ladbrokes and bookmaker.com. The primary difference between the three is the promotions on offer.
It seems to be an instance of join up or be crushed when the big international corporate bookmakers start throwing their weight around.
Offshore Bookmakers Are Coming Into Australia
In an article appearing on the website of SmartCompany, Alan Eskander told the publication, “The environment has been changing quite dramatically over the past five years or so. Offshore bookmakers are coming into Australia and investing enormous amounts of money.
While Eskander would lament the difficulty of running an Australian family-owned business in the face of the threat of the big corporate bookies, with possibly a hint of resignation in his voice, he was positive that Ladbrokes was a good choice to carry on the business Betstar represented.
“Now is the right time not only for the Betstar shareholders but the members,” Eskander said. “I’ve put my heart and soul into this business for a long time and I take comfort that Ladbrokes is going to extend on what we’ve already built for the Betstar members.”
Australia is a happy hunting ground for bookies armed with enough cash to snap up the domestic agencies. Estimates of Australian wagering place Australians at the top of the table when it comes to gambling. Those estimates, adjusted for population, show Aussies spending over $1200 per year on all forms of wagering.
Those same estimates claim that around 50 percent of the turnover is done with online bookies.
Further down, an account of an incident involving Eskander Sr. and notorious punter 'Fast Eddie' Hayson was one of the reasons Eskander has such a high profile.
That incident pointed out that without the flashy bookies, flashy punters such as Hayson would probably not receive the attention that seems to find them like a magnet finds iron filings.
Rosehill Gardens Betting Ring
Michael Eskander was again in the news for negative reasons for an incident in the betting ring of Rosehill Gardens in late February of 2009.
Eskander apparently took umbrage with something done by fellow rails bookie Rob Waterhouse. Racing NSW stewards seemed mostly upset over Eskander’s word choices, which included offensive and threatening language. The Racing NSW stewards also seemed to express the view that it was not the language and the manner in which it was delivered so much as the fact that Eskander could be heard by other bookies and members of the public.
Michael Eskander pled guilty to a charge of behaviour detrimental to the image of racing.
By co-operating with the stewards, entering a guilty plea and showing contrition for his behaviour, Michael Eskander was given a light fine and suspended for 12 months. It could be described as a gentle slap on the wrist by a hand wearing a padded sparring glove.
Melbourne's Leading Rails Bookmaker
Michael Eskander is still one of Melbourne's leading rails bookmakers.
Michael Eskander is a familiar face at the Australian Racecourses despite having a powerful online presence in sports betting.
Ever since he was granted his first bookmaker's license in 1984, Eskander has been fielding on the Rails at the racetracks across Australia. Along with his son, Alan, he runs Betstar, a corporate bookmaking operation based in Darwin. Prior to joining forces to run Betstar together, the two men had been operating independent of each other.
Michael Eskander is the owner of Betstar, a leading sports betting portal. Michael immigrated Down Under in 1966 and worked in a various fields before earning a bookmaker's license in 1984.
Along with son Alan, the duo has become the biggest on course bookmakers in Melbourne. Their online bookmaking operation is based in Darwin, attracting punters from around the globe.
Apart from horse racing, Betstar offers competitive odds on international sports such as soccer, football, tennis, rugby league, motor sports, cricket, and much more. Punters have a choice of internet and telephone betting.
Over the years, Michael Eskander has developed a great reputation as one of the highest profile bookmakers in Victoria.
Betting operations are conducted all through the week in his Flemington office. Government legislation had forced father and son to move their Betstar operation to Darwin in 2007 after government legislation issues in Victoria.
Darwin-based bookies on the other hand were able to pursue online betting without any restrictions.
However, Lisa Eskander, the daughter of Michael continued the family bookmaking business in Victoria while the father and son duo were able to take with them over a $100 million in turnover, staff, and jobs from the industry in Victoria.
BRW Fast 100 Company For 2009
On the eve of the 2008 Melbourne Cup Carnival, Betstar was deemed as a BRW Fast 100 Company for 2009, due to its rapid growth.
Betstar customers receive regular updated odds and other information. The betting site is renowned for its feature doubles such as the Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup double. Recently included in the range of betting is politics, competitive eating competitions and Triple J's hottest 100.
Some of the popular products offered on Betstar are Home Tote +5%, Middle Tote, Vic Tote +5%, Top Fluctuation, and Fixed Odds.
Known to accept high-end bets, 'Fast Eddie' Hayson was one of Michael Eskander's clients although the fearless punter was known to place the largest bets with Tom Waterhouse.
It was alleged Michael Eskander pursued legal action against Hayson for the recovery of over $300,000 in the Victorian Supreme Court. He was a vocal crusader against the advertising restrictions imposed on bookies from other states from advertising in Victoria and New South Wales.
The ban was lifted in 2008 by Victoria's racing Minister Rob Hull and Kevin Green the NSW Minister for Gaming and Racing. This brought back the prospect of sponsorship for major events along with huge sums of money into the industry.
Suspended For 12 Months
Michael Eskander was recently in the firing line by Racing NSW, where an inquiry into a verbal altercation with fellow rails bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse resulted in a fine of $5000 imposed on him. Michael Eskander was allegedly charged with misconduct that was detrimental to the image of racing.
He pleaded guilty of confronting Waterhouse in an aggressive manner during the fifth and ninth race of the day. He was fined $2500 and was suspended for 12 months on condition that he did not breach the rules within the specified period.
An astute businessman, Michael Eskander always maintained the fact that joining corporate bookies was a good idea since there was no way of beating them. For him, that was the best way the NSW racing industry could get a larger chunk of the wagering dollar. Finding creative ways to tap into the money generated from outside the tote system is essential.
Being in the business for many years on the Melbourne and Sydney rails, people continue to listen when Michael Eskander speaks