Irish betting group BoyleSports has revealed that they are interested in buying some or all of William Hill’s betting shops in the UK.
William Hill’s 1400 remainder shops are being sold by Caesars Entertainment, which has acquired the group but signalled it will offload the UK business and focus on its American operation. Analysts have suggested the UK business could fetch as much as £1.5bn.
“BoyleSports would certainly be interested in acquiring some or all of William Hill’s UK shops, or indeed any other opportunity that makes sense for our business. The sale of the William Hill estate presents us with a rare opportunity to achieve the retail scale we have been targeting,” BoyleSports said in a statement.
BoyleSports has long eyed a major expansion into the UK, and as far back as 2008 made a move to buy the UK’s then state-owned Tote but lost out to BetFred.
The BoyleSports statement said: “We have made no secret of our ambition to be one of the principal operators on the UK high street and believe that our retail and digital offerings represent a best in class safe and enjoyable proposition for the betting public.
“We already have 21 shops in the UK and two in the Isle of Man, along with our 45 shops in Northern Ireland and our recently upgraded online betting site gives us a sizeable foothold in the UK retail and online markets.”
Back in January 2020, when BoyleSports acquired the NI branches, its commercial director, Conor Gray, said he would spend £4m revamping stores and investing in technology.
“We’ll give the shops a serious revamp in their technology, their screens and their look and feel, their signage, lighting and air con. It’ll be a fairly aggressive redevelopment,” he said.
“William Hill viewed Northern Ireland as non-core and, as a result of that, the shops probably didn’t get the love and attention they warranted.
“They have 1,600 retail outlets in the UK so 33 in Northern Ireland wasn’t playing to their agenda. The shops have suffered over the last number of years from lack of investment, direction, and attention. Therein lies the opportunity that we see”.