Business Irish

Monday 26 August 2019

BoyleSports enters UK market with Wilf Gilbert acquisition

Gambling giant secures network of 13 new stores dotted across UK

Conor Gray, CEO of BoyleSports
Conor Gray, CEO of BoyleSports

Michael Cogley

One of Ireland's largest bookmakers, BoyleSports, has entered the UK retail market with the acquisition of 13 stores, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The company has acquired Midlands independent bookie Wilf Gilbert for an undisclosed sum. The deal gives BoyleSports instant access to a network in the UK and it intends to complete further acquisitions which will bring its overall count to 100 shops within 12 months.

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BoyleSports is in negotiations with a number of other bookmaker chains and has invited other regional firms interested in a sale to make contact. The Wilf Gilbert deal follows the recently secured gaming licence it received from the UK authorities.

Chief executive Conor Gray said the acquisition has realised the company's "long-term goal" to bring retail betting to the UK market.

"Of course our ambition does not end with this group of shops. We are looking for other opportunities to grow our estate and hope to add more shops over the summer months and beyond," he said.

"The fixed-odds betting terminal (FOBT) stake-reduction legislation will radically change the UK's retail betting environment," Gray said.

"As a company that has never operated FOBTs, we hope to help drive that change by transforming each of the shops within this group into world-class betting lounges," he said. Gray said stores would feature "state-of-the-art screens and interactive terminals, with comfortable furniture, free refreshments and access to free wifi".

He argued that this would provide "a safe, regulated and an enjoyable experience for both existing and new UK betting customers".

Earlier in the year, the British government introduced strict regulations on FOBTs, which have previously been described as the "crack cocaine" of gambling. The changes cut the maximum stake which can be placed on the terminals - which are electronic slot machines - from £100 to £2.

Industry figures have warned the decision could lead to the closure of up to a third of the 8,500 main street betting shops across the UK.

Outgoing Wilf Gilbert owner Graham Gilbert praised BoyleSports as a business which would "invest to secure the future of our staff". He also tipped the company to "transform" the UK market. The deal will see BoyleSports take on shops in locations including Solihull, Rowley Regis, Coseley, Cradley Heath, Dudley, Gornal Wood, Coventry, Balsall Heath, Netherton, Studley and Smethwick.

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