Boylesports aims to enter UK retail betting market in 2019
Boylesports is set to enter the UK retail market in the first quarter of 2019 after confirming it is in advanced talks to acquire shops from rival operators.
The company currently has an iGaming licence in the UK, and is one of its Ireland’s 'big three’ high street bookmakers (alongside Ladbrokes and Paddy Power), with 250 licensed betting offices.
Boylesports said it anticipates at least one UK retail deal to be concluded, and the opening of its first brick-and-mortar premises, by the end of March 2019.
“BoyleSports can confirm that it is in advanced talks with a number of groups in the UK with a view to having a high-street presence in the first quarter of 2019,” spokesman Lawrence Lyons told iGamingBusiness.com.
The operator has been planning a move into the UK high street for some years, although the imminent launch comes at a difficult time for retail betting on both sides of the Irish Sea.
The UK retail market is expecting a tough year with new FOBT regulations to be introduced from April which restrict maximum stakes to £2. William Hill said the move could result in 900 of its stores becoming loss-making, while Paddy Power Betfair estimated total group revenue could fall by up to 2.6%.
In Ireland, the industry is bracing itself for the introduction of a new gambling tax on January 1, with the rate doubling from 1% to 2% of revenue. In October Boylesports warned staff in its Irish retail division that it expects shop closures and job losses, and it is believed to be reviewing the viability of all its shops.
In 2016 Boylesports lost out to Betfred in the bid to buy more than 300 UK shops that were sold by Ladbrokes and Coral under the terms of their merger.
Speaking in April, Boylesports CEO Conor Gray said the company still aimed to expand into the UK. In particular he cited the potential impact on its existing digital business.
"It is still an ambition because our data, our history, will tell you if you have a retail presence, it will help your digital business, and vice versa,” Gray said. “So we have an ambition to be in the UK.”