Irish bookmaker BoyleSports has acquired 35 William Hill betting shops, mostly located across Northern Ireland, for an undisclosed amount as the independent operator has been looking to expand its estate.
It is believed that BoyleSports has paid between £10 million and £15 million for William Hill’s 33 betting shops across Northern Ireland as well as two shops in the Isle of Man. This has been BoyleSports’ largest acquisition to date and makes the company the biggest operator of betting shops on the island of Ireland.
BoyleSports currently operates 259 shops in the Republic of Ireland and six shops in Northern Ireland. The recent acquisition will significantly strengthen the independent bookmaker’s foothold in Northern Ireland where tough licensing conditions make it difficult to open betting shops up from scratch.
BoyleSports, which hails from Dundalk, Ireland, has been on the acquisition trail for the past several years. Last year, it purchased the 18-shop Bruce Betting chain as well as five Mulholland Bookmakers shops in Galway to expand its presence in its motherland.
It also acquired independent chain Wilf Gilbert’s 13 betting shops in the English Midlands to mark its debut in the UK retail betting market. BoyleSports has said that the recent transactions were the result from its strategy to focus its attention on expanding its operations outside the Republic of Ireland due to the government’s decision to double betting duties.
The betting shop operator has also revealed plans to build a 100-shop estate in the UK, despite tough operating conditions resulting from the recent cut of the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals to £2 from £100.
Betting Shops Closures
The clampdown on the controversial gambling machines that have been blamed for a surge in gambling addiction across the UK has prompted some of the largest operators of betting shops to consider closing some of their locations.
William Hill itself flagged plans to close about 700 betting shops in 2019 after the maximum stake on FOBTs was cut by the government. The gambling operator used to rely heavily on revenue from its retail operations, but has been looking to improve the performance of its digital arm and to expand its regulated US sports betting presence to offset the losses it has and would suffer from the FOBTs clampdown.
William Hill entered Northern Ireland’s retail betting market in 2005 through the acquisition of Stanley Racing. While UK betting regulations do not apply in the Northern Irish market, local operators had moved to voluntary reduce the stakes on gambling machines to mimic the restrictions implemented elsewhere across the UK, which explains William Hill’s decision to exit that market.
While the acquisition of the 35 betting shops takes immediate effect, BoyleSports said that it will take operational control of the facilities after 30 days, allowing itself enough time to engage with the 220 new employees and make sure their transition is effortless.
Source: BoyleSports buy 35 betting shops from William Hill as retail expansion continues, The Racing Post