Boylesports opens five new betting shops for Cheltenham
Bookie is in active talks about a retail presence in Britain, writes Gavin McLoughlin
Bookmaker Boylesports has opened five new shops to coincide with next week's Cheltenham Festival.
Two are entirely new and three have been acquired from independent operators.
The shops are located in Ballyconnell, Cavan, Nenagh, Birr, and Athboy.
The company has been aggressively pursuing acquisitions as it seeks to position itself as a challenger to its listed rivals.
"We're quietly confident that we'll be able to increase our overall number of stores by at least 10pc in 2017. The stated aim of John Boyle over the years has been to grow our retail network to 250 stores, and with 10pc growth we'll have in and around 225 stores," Boylesports chief financial officer Mark O'Neill told the Sunday Independent.
He said the company wants its retail offering to complement its online offering, and has been investing in iPads and self-service terminals for customers to use in-store.
"Some people would say everything is going online but we see our shops as an opportunity for customers to enjoy a digital experience and that social experience that is key to our business as well."
The company has been looking to establish a foothold on the high street in the UK after missing out on a bid to acquire shops that Ladbrokes and Coral were forced to sell after their merger.
Now it is looking to acquire shops from smaller players in British regions.
O'Neill said the company was "actively in talks" to buy stores in some larger population areas.
"Our aim would be we'd have a presence on the high street in the UK, by the end of 2017 at the latest," he said.
The Cheltenham festival is arguably the blue-riband event for horse racing in these islands.
Irish fans travelling to Cheltenham spent €22.3m across travel, accommodation, tickets and entertainment at the festival last year, according to a recent study.
The report carried out by the University of Gloucestershire on Cheltenham Racecourse's behalf said Irish fans bought almost a third of the tickets sold (57,375).
The number of Irish people booking tickets for Cheltenham had increased by more than a fifth since 2010, the report said.
"The festival is one the biggest and most successful sporting occasions of the year involving Britain and Ireland. Over the years, it has become synonymous with Ireland through the participation of its great horses, trainers, jockeys, owners and staff," said Ian Renton, regional director for the South West region of the Jockey Club, the organisation that runs the racecourse.
"This is the first time we have studied the economic impact of Ireland's participation and the results demonstrate the very significant ongoing role played by Irish fans to the success of the festival," he added.
Sunday Indo Business