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Are Entain Planning a Takeover of BoyleSports?

BoyleSports LogoAlthough formal details are sketchy, it has been strongly rumoured that Irish betting firm BoyleSports has been the subject of a takeover bid.

The company, which is Ireland’s largest independent chain of bookmakers, is thought to be worth in excess of $200 million (£176 million), and it is understood that shareholders are willing to entertain offers.

According to the Irish Independent, it’s Entain that have been identified as a potential suitor of the firm, which was founded 40 years ago and now has more than 300 betting shops to their name, alongside a well-visited website and app.

BoyleSports could become a prime target for a buy out if the UK government continues with their plan to overhaul the betting industry via their Gambling Act white paper.

Although a UK Gambling Commission licence holder, BoyleSports is headquartered and operates out of the Republic of Ireland, and would therefore be free of some of the limitations that could be placed upon UK-facing firms.

But BoyleSports have expansion plans of their own, and have reportedly targeted the African market – and South Africa and Kenya in particular – as a major area of growth in the years ahead.

And they aren’t turning a blind eye to the domestic market either: BoyleSports have opened some 20 new betting shops in the UK in 2022, which is a marked reversal of the general downturn in high street activity in the sector. Mark O’Neill, the firm’s CFO, has said that they ‘firmly believe’ in the future of retail betting.

As well as their own new shop openings, BoyleSports have acquired the rights to a number of independent firms in recent years, including six shops previously owned by Wilf Gilbert and a further 18 acquired during their takeover of Irish operator Bruce Betting.

Irish Tug of War

Irish Flag Against Office Building

If Entain is revealed as the potential buyer of BoyleSports, it would set up a heavyweight collision in the Irish betting market.

Flutter, their rival gambling sector behemoth, owns and operates Paddy Power, the de facto number one bookmaker in Ireland.

But BoyleSports is the largest independent outfit, and if they were taken under the Entain umbrella it would hand the Coral and Ladbrokes owner a large slice of a market thought to be worth more than €1.1 billion annually.

BoyleSports has been earmarked as a contender for a takeover approach since founder and CEO John Boyle stood down from his role in 2017, although at the time he signalled his intent for the company to carry on under new leadership.

If Entain do press on with the ‘sales process’, to use the words of the Irish Independent article, then they do so at a time when the gambling sector in Ireland is facing upheaval of its own.

The country has launched its own legislator, the Gambling Regulatory Authority, who will be tasked with updating the Irish Betting Act, which incredibly has sat untouched since 1926.

That is a move that is expected to lead to tighter regulation on free bets, VIP schemes, advertising and online spending, which could diminish BoyleSports’ inherent value.