BoyleSports considers bid for William Hill’s UK betting shops

| By Richard Mulligan
Irish gaming group BoyleSports has confirmed its interest in buying some or all of William Hill's retail betting shops in the UK as new owner Caesars plans to sell its non-US operations.

The group said in a statement that Caesars Entertainment’s desire to offload William Hill’s UK retail portfolio offers a “rare opportunity” to extend its footprint significantly in the market. BoyleSports currently has just 21 shops across Great Britain, along with 45 in Northern Ireland, while William Hill is the country’s largest retail bookmaker.

Caesars is seeking to focus on Hills’ US operation and sell its non-US operations, including 1,400 UK betting shops, following the completion of its £2.9bn (€3.35bn/$4.04bn) acquisition earlier this year. Caesars said last month that it aims to begin the process of selling William Hill’s non-US assets by the end of June with the transaction – which could be worth up to $2bn – to be completed by the end of the year.

A BoyleSports spokesperson said: “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.

“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 represents a best in class, safe, and enjoyable proposition for the betting public.

“We already have 21 shops in the UK which, 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. The sale of the William Hill estate presents us with a rare opportunity to achieve the retail scale we have been targeting.”

Apollo Global Management, which was the main competitor to Caesars for William Hill, has been reported to be among the front-runners to buy the bookmaker’s operations outside the US.

Caesars chief executive Tom Reeg said last month that the group believes its strength lies in focusing on the US business.

“One of my pet peeves when I was an investor was companies that didn’t know what they were good at,” he said. “And I can’t tell you we’re good at running a non-U.S. digital business.

“I can tell you that there are almost certainly people out there that will do it better than us and see opportunity there.

“And I can deploy that capital into businesses that I know will drive better returns to shareholders. So, no, we’ve not had a moment’s pause in terms of selling the non-US business.”

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