Boylesports looks to expand Northern Ireland operation as two stores to open
Irish betting chain Boylesports - founded by Armagh man John Boyle - is to open two new stores in Northern Ireland.
Boylesports which has 210 stores in the Republic, is buying two independent bookies in Mill Street in Newry and in Crossmaglen.
The expansion comes after Mr Boyle revealed he's looking into acquiring more than 600 stores in Great Britain which could be shed by a merger between Ladbrokes and Gala Coral.
For the deal to go through it is likely the competition authority will demand the betting giant casts off hundreds of betting shops in the UK.
It would be Boylesports' first foray into Great Britain.
Mr Boyle said: "Betfred and William Hill will also be looking strongly at this, but I'm hoping that as a new competitor to the UK market, Ladbrokes Coral might prefer us rather than making the bigger plcs stronger."
His first bookmakers was in Markethill, where it remains. There is also a Boylesports in Camlough and one in Hill Street in Newry.
Now the business has acquired a second Newry bookies and one in Crossmaglen.
Mr Boyle said both would be rebranded as Boylesports.
"We're already in Dundalk, so Newry is the next big town.
"We're taking Crossmaglen because we're already in Castleblayney, Carrickmacross, all the roads leading into Cross, this is just another link."
He said he is interested in acquiring other stores in Northern Ireland.
He said: "We're now putting it out that we want to buy shops in the north.
"If any privately-owned shops or groups come up for sale in the future then we would be a bidder.
"The plan is to cover the whole country. We estimated in the south we would be able to cover 250 stores easy, now we're at 210.
"Then you've got to start looking at your next step and I've got to look three to five years ahead."
He said acquiring the stores likely to be disposed of in the event of a Coral/Ladbrokes merger was "my dream".
"I'd be looking at the competition and at who I'd want to get the stores. William Hill already has 2,500 stores, so it would push them over 3,000.
Betfred has 1,200 so I don't think [Ladbrokes Coral] is going to want them to go up to 1,800.
Boylesports was established in 1982, and Mr Boyle opened his first shop in the Republic in 1989. He said at that time, the cost of obtaining a betting licence drove him south, where there are fewer restrictions. He said: "In the north you have to go to court and prove going into any area that it warrants a new betting shop. It's very costly and you could invest £30,000 in fees and the answer would be no. But in the south, the answer always was yes. People travel the whole island so you have customers there, and it would be exciting for us now as a company to pick up shops in the north."