The MT Interview: Victor Chandler

Born into a bookmaking family, he found himself suddenly in charge of his father's failing business, with no experience and a widowed mother and sisters to support. The 'Indiana Jones of gambling' now runs a billion-pound business from Gibraltar and lives the high life.

by Matthew Gwyther

It's a funny old place, Gibraltar. If you arrive in town by air, you touch down on a runway that can only be used when the busy main road it crosses is closed to allow the plane to land. And it's not a landing for the nervous flier. One false nudge on the easyJet joystick amid the capricious cross-winds whipping around the 426metre (1,400ft) high Rock and you'd be in the drink.

Wedged in the narrow western entrance to the Mediterranean, Gib is one of the most densely populated spaces on the planet, with 30,000 souls holed up in less than three square miles. A stone's throw from the airport runway is Spain, which ceded the Rock to the British at the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and has spent most of the time since tetchily trying to get it back. Its border post is staffed by officious Spanish who, if they are in an especially bloody mood, can make going backwards and forwards by car a very tedious business indeed. But, hey, it's an advance from the 1970s under Generalissimo Franco, when the border was shut, isolating Gibraltar completely.

Most legendary among the oddities are, of course, the apes - the only wild monkeys in Europe. The myth says that as long as they survive, British rule in Gib will endure. (Not much chance of that changing at the moment: a referendum in Gibraltar in 2002 yielded a 99% vote against London sharing sovereignty with Madrid.) The 230 free-spirited Barbary macaques routinely amble down the Rock and into Gibraltarians' houses to steal food and to goose unsuspecting tourists.

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