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UK – Ladbrokes and Gala Coral to sell up to 400 bookies to see merger through

By - 23 May 2016

Ladbrokes and Gala Coral will have to sell 100s of land-based betting shops if the Competition and Markets Authority is to agree to their proposed merger.

The Competition and Markets Authority said that between 350 and 400 bookies will have to be sold on to allow the merger of the country’s second and third biggest bookies ‘for the merger to be conditionally cleared.’

Ladbrokes owns 2,154 betting shops in Great Britain and 77 in Northern Ireland, while Gala Coral operates 1,850 UK betting shops. The deal would see the two surpass William Hill to become the biggest bookie in the UK.

The CMA’s Martin Cave said: “We’ve provisionally found that the merger between two of the largest bookmakers in the country may be expected to reduce competition and choice for customers in a large number of local areas. Although online betting has grown substantially in recent years, the evidence we’ve seen confirms that a large number of customers still choose to bet in shops – and many would continue to do so after the merger. For these customers, competition comes from the choice of shops in their local area and it’s they who could lose out from any reduction of competition and choice.”

Ladbrokes said it would agree to the finding and go ahead with the deal: “This is a significant step and our focus now will be on agreeing the shop disposals to satisfy the CMA,” it said.

The combined online traffic of Ladbrokes and Coral would meanwhile make the new entity the third most visited UK sports gambling site in the UK, digital market intelligence firm SimilarWeb has revealed.

Ladbrokes, now the fourth most popular UK site for monthly combined mobile and desktop visits in 2015 would gain the online traffic of sixth-placed Coral in a merger.

Combining the joint combined mobile and desktop traffic would put Ladbrokes-Coral on 22m average monthly online visits, based on last year’s traffic figures. This would see them overtake Skybet in third-place.

However on current figures, the merger would not be enough to unseat industry leader Bet365, which achieved an average of 38mvisits a month in 2015, or second-placed William Hill on 23.2 monthly visits to its site each month.

In a recent report on the online gambling industry, SimilarWeb showed that the top 10 sites saw average growth of 88 per cent year over year between 2014 and 2015, demonstrating the importance of growth digitally in the sector. Ladbrokes Coral have said a key driver of the merger is a “compelling strategy to accelerate online growth.”

The report also highlights the growing popularity of mobile engagement. The share of mobile traffic across the online gambling sector in the UK last year rose to 50 per cent, compared to only 35 per cent in 2014.

Despite being founded only 16 years ago, Bet365 has both the highest amount of online traffic and the best engagement with online customers, with an average user session lasting 11 minutes 35 seconds — nearly three minutes longer than any of its rivals.
The study found that the sports betting industry sees one quarter of all weekly online visits on Saturdays when most major sporting events take place.

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