Irish betting company Boylesports is in advanced negotiations over its fourth bookmaker acquisition in the UK and is in the early stages of looking at international opportunities for the expansion of its online sports betting division.
The Dundalk-based company’s primary focus remains building up a significant retail presence in the UK.
That includes looking at further shop expansion in Northern Ireland as well as in Britain.
It currently has 60 shops in the UK. Counted among them are its 39 outlets across the North, which include the 35 former William Hill shops it acquired earlier this year.
Its plan is to have around 100 regional UK shops, excluding the London area.
Boyle’s is currently largely concentrating on the midlands region of Britain, with Birmingham its main hub.
The company is also the main shirt sponsor of Birmingham City Football Club.
The company has 19 shops across Birmingham, Coventry and Stoke, and two in the Isle of Man.
While Boyle’s bought out Mulholland Bookmakers in Galway last year and Bruce Betting in Dublin earlier this year, it is unlikely to make any further acquisitions in the Republic due to last year’s doubling, to 2 per cent, of tax on Irish-based bookies’ retail turnovers.
Boyle’s bought its first UK chain last year, acquiring the 13 shops under the then Wilf Gilbert brand in Birmingham before rebranding them.
Boylesports had been eyeing an on-street retail presence in Britain for some time. In 2016 it lost out to UK firms Stan James and Betfred in its bid to buy more than 350 UK-based shops being offloaded to make way for the merger of Ladbrokes and Coral.
Boylesports has been badly impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, with its shops closed from mid-March to the end of June and sports cancellations hampering any online betting growth.
The recent return of live sport helped to a degree but the company said fewer people on the high street means trading is still challenged.
It has had to re-close 22 shops in Kildare, Laois and Offaly due to the reimposition of lockdown measures in those counties.
Boylesports is also in the very early stages of looking at expansion opportunities into regulated international betting markets.
Such a move would see it expand its online sports betting offering, possibly through partnerships in different countries, but still under the Boylesports brand.
It is understood that all relevant geographies – including North America and Asia – are being considered.
Big industry players like Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment and GVC – which owns bookie Ladbrokes-Coral and online gaming sites like Foxy Bingo and Party Poker – are continuing their international spread too.
Last week, GVC – which also owns the Dermot Desmond-founded betting exchange business Betdaq – said strengthening its international business reach is a priority.
To that end, it is looking to take market leadership in the ever loosening US online gaming and sports betting market, where it has a joint-venture agreement with MGM Resorts.
But, as well as growing organically in its existing core markets such as Britain and Ireland, GVC is eyeing further inroads into countries like Germany and Brazil, where regulations are set to be loosened further over the next couple of years.
GVC also expects to hold an online gambling licence in the Netherlands by early 2022.
GVC said revenues at its European retail business – of which its 138 Ladbrokes shops in Ireland comprise a large element – fell by nearly 50% in the first half of the year due to the Covid impact on footfall and sports events.