Boylesports is close to acquiring an unnamed UK bookmakers chain and is likely to finalise the deal in the first quarter of 2019.
It is understood the Dundalk, Co Louth-head- quartered betting firm is in talks with a number of independent British bookie chains, and that a takeover deal, with at least one, is likely in the coming months.
The company is looking to have around 100 shops in the UK, mainly in regional areas with London not a target market.
The early 2019 deal is expected to be the acquisition of a small independent bookmakers’ chain in northern Britain, which will create the basis for future growth.
Boylesports has an online presence in the UK, showing strong revenue growth in recent years, but has been looking to establish an outlet network there for some time.
Earlier this year, the company said it expected to have a significant presence in the UK within the first half of 2019.
It said it hoped to develop a UK retail business by feeding off its already strong online brand awareness in the UK.
Boylesports lost out, in 2016, to British players Stan James and Betfred in a bid to buy more than 350 UK-based shops being offloaded to make way for this year’s merger of Ladbrokes and Coral.
The bigger players in the UK market, including Paddy Power-Betfair, Ladbrokes-Coral and William Hill, have begun looking at the burgeoning US market as a means of relieving the effect of growing regulatory pressures in the UK.
Analysts have suggested Paddy Power could take a 3% to 6% hit to annual earnings from the move to slash the maximum allowable stake per bet punters can gamble with when playing in-shop fixed-odds betting terminals in the UK, from £100 to £2.
Conversely, Paddy Power’s expansion into the US which is loosening its betting restrictions could add €240m to its annual earnings by 2023, the market believes.
That fixed-odds betting terminals change is due to come into force in UK betting shops in April which is six months ahead of plan.
The betting restrictions are expected to result in a fresh wave of consolidation in the British betting market as independent players come under more financial pressure as a result.
Boylesports is understood not to be interested in the US or Australia where Paddy Power is online market leader with its Sportsbet subsidiary.
However, it has previously stated an interest in extending its online offering to emerging markets in mainland Europe, Asia and Africa. It is understood no progress has been made on that growth strategy as yet.
It is also believed Boylesports hasn’t yet reached saturation point in Ireland despite a raft of acquisitions earlier this year bringing its total shop numbers here to around 250.
There are approximately 200 independent betting shop players still operating in the Irish market.
The company’s Irish- generated retail revenues saw double-digit percentage growth last year not too far shy of its online gains.
Boylesports has previously said despite a preference for phased growth and a regional UK focus, the Ladbrokes shop bid experience, which reportedly saw Boyle’s bid more than what the shops eventually sold for, would not put the Irish company off looking at bigger deals if they should arise.