Belfast Telegraph

Blow as Boylesports set to be pipped at the post in betting shop sell-off

By Samantha McCaughren

Irish betting chain Boylesports - founded by Co Armagh man John Boyle - is expected to be pipped at the post by British bookmakers Betfred in the race to buy 360 betting shops being sold off in the UK.

Hundreds of betting outlets are being off-loaded as a result of the £2.2bn merger between Ladbrokes and Gala Coral.

Boylesports made a £102m bid for the shops earlier this year but industry sources believe the company will be unsuccessful when the winning bidder is announced.

Boylesports was founded by Markethill man John Boyle in 1982. Betfred were the frontrunners in the process, with Boylesports confirming its interest in the sell-off at an early stage.

William Hill has also been speculated as a possible contender in the sell-off.

The Competition and Markets Authority gave the green light to the Ladbrokes and Gala Coral sell-off in July. However, it found that hundreds of shops would need to be sold off as there were potential competition issues in over 600 locations.

Boylesports described this sell-off as "a great opportunity to introduce fresh competition to the UK retail betting market".

Boylesports is the biggest independent betting chain in the Republic and Boyle has long held ambitions to become a player in the UK.

The company has over 200 shops in the Republic and Northern Ireland. But just four are located in Northern Ireland, with its branches in the province including the original shop in Markethill.

Boylesports had previously made a bid to acquire Ladbrokes' Irish arm, but the bid was rejected by an examiner appointed to the business.

They also rowed back on a European expansion at the beginning of the recession.

The company grew rapidly over the course of the recession, buying several chains including Celtic Bookmakers and Hackett's.

It employs 1,700 people across the firm.

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