Ireland's biggest bookmaker Paddy Power has gambled on securing a slice of the lucrative betting market in the north with a £19m (€24m) takeover of McGranaghan Racing.
The deal includes the chain's eight shops in the Greater Belfast area, putting the firm in direct competition with Eastwood Bookmakers which was sold earlier this year.
Fifty McGranaghan's staff will be kept on but Paddy Power revealed it would spend more than £1m (€1.25m) rebranding the shops over the next two months.
Paddy Power chief executive Patrick Kennedy said the McGranaghan takeover was an ideal way to enter the northern market.
"The estate has an attractive mix of different locations and like Paddy Power is a punter-focused business which promotes a very competitive and attractive offering," he said.
The multimillion-pound deal highlights the strength of the gambling market in the north and comes three months after the massive £135m (169m) deal Ladbrokes agreed to takeover Eastwoods.
Ladbrokes also predicted £11m (€14.7m) profits in the first year, with strong growth expected for the following two years.
Paddy Power declined to comment on its profit forecasts. It is understood the huge deal may impact on returns in the first year but the bookmaker insisted it was very confident of strong profits in the future.
McGranaghan Racing was set up in 1952. Three of its eight betting shops are in Belfast city centre, another three in West Belfast and two in the suburban towns Holywood and Glengormley.
Paddy Power already operates 183 Irish betting offices and 58 in London.
Mr Kennedy said: "Over the past decade, punters in Northern Ireland have already experienced significant exposure to the unique brand offering of Paddy Power through our phone and online betting services.
"This opportunity to ground and complement our brand with a bricks and mortar presence is very exciting and we look forward to bringing our unbeatable range of products and service throughout Greater Belfast."