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Boylesports enters British market with Wilf Gilbert acquisition

Boylesports, the Irish’s second-largest bookmaker, has made its long-awaited move into the British retail betting market with the acquisition of Wilf Gilbert, which operates a 13-shop chain in the English Midlands.

The acquisition marks what BoyleSports hope is a rapid expansion in the UK, with the company aiming to possess 100 betting shops within the next 12 months. The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, with two firms only citing an “undisclosed sum”.

Boylesports, founded in 1982 by John Boyle, is seeking to take advantage of the shakeup among UK’s bookmakers as a result of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) maximum stake restricted to £2 from £100 since April 1. This is expected to reduce the profitability of betting shops however, Boylesports has never operated such terminals, which are banned in Ireland where the company runs 250 shops.

For over a decade Boylesports has maintained its ambitions of establishing itself on UK streets, at one point even proposing a franchise-style approach that is used in some European markets. In 2016 Boylesports pursued a failed £100 million bid to secure 400 betting premises that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) forced Ladbrokes-Coral to offload ahead of their merger.

“With the purchase of the Wilf Gilbert group of shops we have realised our long-term goal to bring to the UK retail betting public the same quality of service and shops that Boylesports’ Irish retail customers have enjoyed for years. 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 stores over the summer months and beyond,” said Boylesports’ chief executive Conor Gray.

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