Independent bookmaking firm BoyleSports has acquired William Hill's chain of 33 shops in Northern Ireland and two shops on the Isle of Man for an undisclosed sum.
BoyleSports has been on the acquisition trail for some time but this is its largest acquisition to date. It brings its total number of shops in Northern Ireland to 39, and the number of shops on the island to 298.
Across Ireland and the UK, the chain now has 317 shops. The William Hill deal in Northern Ireland and on the Isle of Man is a significant step in BoyleSports' ambition to grow its UK retail network to 100 shops by the end of 2020, according to the company.
Conor Gray, chief executive of BoyleSports, used news of the acquisition to criticise the Government's decision in Budget 2019 to increase betting tax.
"The Government's 2018 decision to impose a 100pc increase in betting duty has, as predicted by all Irish bookmakers, led to dramatic consolidation of the industry, with previously thriving betting companies now permanently closing their doors," Gray said. In November, it acquired Bruce Betting, which has 18 outlets across the country in locations such as Rush, Co Dublin, Bray, Co Wicklow, Maynooth, Co Kildare, and Mullingar, Co Westmeath.
Bruce had previously warned about the implications of the increased betting tax. "Although BoyleSports expects some participation in that forced consolidation to some degree, the increase in betting duty has meant that the focus of future expansion and investment will be outside the Republic of Ireland," said Gray.
"This acquisition complements our existing retail network in Northern Ireland and our retail network in the Republic of Ireland, while also representing a significant step in our long-stated ambition to develop our retail footprint across the UK."
The acquisition takes immediate effect, but BoyleSports will only take operational control in 30 days to allow it to engage fully with its 220 new employees. All of the stores will be rebranded as BoyleSports outlets. All shops will be upgraded.