Saturday 24 March 2018

Boylesports set to lose out in British bookies sell-off

BETTING MAN: John Boyle, who founded Boylesports in 1982, is on expansion drive Picture: Damien Eagers
BETTING MAN: John Boyle, who founded Boylesports in 1982, is on expansion drive Picture: Damien Eagers
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

Irish betting chain Boylesports 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 (€2.5bn) merger between Ladbrokes and Gala Coral.

Boylesports made a €118m bid for the shops earlier this year but industry sources believe the company will be unsuccessful when the winning bidder is announced shortly.

Boylesports, which was founded by Armagh man John Boyle in 1982, and Betfred were the frontrunners in the process, with the Irish company 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 UK's Competition and Markets Authority gave the green light to the Ladbrokes and Gala Coral sell off in July. However, he 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.

In 2008, it was interested in buying the UK's Tote business for over €500m.

The company has over 200 shops in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

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

Boylesports has previously made a €25m bid to acquire Ladbrokes' Irish arm, but the bid was rejected by an examiner appointed to the business. 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 company.

Betfred, based in Warrington in the UK, operates 1,370 betting shops.

The chain has ambitious expansion plans and in 2011 bought The Tote business in a deal worth £265m.

The sale of the Ladbrokes and Gala Coral betting shops comes as regulation of the sector tightens up the UK. Earlier this month, a review into fixed-odds betting terminals was announced over the concerns about losses being racked up by punters on the machines. Campaigners claim they are highly addictive and fuel problem gambling.

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