Belfast Telegraph

Boyle odds-on to snap up surplus GB bookies shops

By Margaret Canning

The Co Armagh man behind BoyleSports has said he's still interested in snapping up bookies shops which are set to be off-loaded as a result of the £2bn merger of Ladbrokes and Gala Coral.

Ladbrokes has about 2,150 outlets in Britain and 77 in Northern Ireland, while Coral runs 1,850 shops in Britain.

The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) last week said the companies needed to sell up to 400 of the shops if they are to merge.

A spokesman for John Boyle, who is from the village of Markethill - where the first BoyleSports was set up - said: "BoyleSports welcomes the finding of the UK's Competition and Markets Authority which requires Ladbrokes and Gala Coral to dispose of up to 400 shops to complete their proposed merger."

He said the sale of the shops represented an opportunity for the company to set up in Great Britain.

"BoyleSports, Ireland's largest independent bookmaker, has a long-stated ambition to create a retail presence of scale in the UK.

"This finding represents a great opportunity to introduce fresh competition to the UK retail betting market.

"BoyleSports would welcome the opportunity to bring to retail customers in the UK the same value and quality service which have been the hallmarks of its Irish business."

He said the company would not get to select the locations where it could pick up shops as it would depend on where the CMA deemed that there was overlap of Coral and Ladbrokes units.

But as there are no Coral bookies in Northern Ireland, it's unlikely that any Ladbrokes stores in the province will have to be off-loaded as part of the merger.

The gambling industry has been subject to a wave of consolidation in recent months.

Paddy Power and Betfair completed its merger - creating the world's biggest listed online gambling business - at the start of February this year.

Last week, Rank Group and 888 Holdings launched a surprise bid for William Hill, Britain's biggest bookmaker.

Rank owns Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casinos while 888 Holdings is an online gambling group.

Ladbrokes trades in Northern Ireland as Northwest Bookmakers, while William Hill trades here as Willstan Ltd.

Belfast Telegraph