William Hill voices concerns over Ladbrokes-Coral merger

19 February 2016

William Hill has hit out over the proposed merger of Ladbrokes and Gala Coral, stating that the deal would lead to a “substantial lessening of competition” in the UK gambling market.

In a submission filed with the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), William Hill urged the watchdog to reject the proposal and maintain the current level of competition in the industry.

Last month, the CMA, which rejected a similar proposal from Ladbrokes and Gala Coral in 1998, said it expects to rule on the planned merger by June 24 after opting to proceed with a ‘fast track’ investigation of the agreement.

Should the merger go ahead, Ladbrokes and Gala Coral would create a combined entity worth approximately £2.3 billion (€3 billion/$3.3 billion), with a network of 4,000 retail points across the UK.

However, William Hill has said that such a move would damage the UK market through uncompetitive concentration for punters.

Ladbrokes and Gala Coral have responded to criticism of the planned merger by stating that the UK betting landscape has transformed in recent years due to the growth of iGaming usage.

William Hill addressed this argument in its filing by stating that such services “would not form a sufficiently strong constraint” on the new, combined entity to “eliminate or even significantly mitigate the loss of competition resulting from the merger”.

Last month, Andrea Coscelli, executive director of markets and mergers at the CMA and the decision-maker in the Ladbrokes-Gala Coral case, admitted that there were concerns over the impact that a deal could have on competition in the market, and the regulator would consider this during its investigation.

Coscelli said: “As the second and third largest bookmakers in the country in terms of betting shops, the merger could affect competition in the very large number of areas where their shops overlap.

“As such it warrants an in-depth investigation so we can look in detail at these and other potential competition concerns.”

Related article: CMA to rule on Ladbrokes-Coral merger before June 24