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Online Betting Giants Plant Flag On UK High Streets

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DraftKings has made a $20B offer to buy the company that owns Ladbrokes and Coral, which have 3,000 betting shops.

Betting shops are a ubiquitous sight on UK high streets big and small, but they have had a tough time of it of late, closing in their thousands. Now, a pair of merger deals means that online gambling giants will decide on the property strategy of three of the largest chains.

Earlier this month, 888 Holdings confirmed it had reached a deal to buy the non-U.S. business of William Hill, one of the oldest names in UK betting, for £2.2B. The deal includes William Hill’s network of 1,400 UK betting shops, which 888 said it plans to retain. The company’s store footprint dropped by more than 900 from 2,333 in 2018. Like many UK betting firms, it has closed stores as profits were hit first by a 2019 change in the rules on fixed-odds betting terminals, with the maximum stake reduced from £100 to £2; and then, by the coronavirus pandemic.

A second M&A deal could give another online giant a major UK high street presence. U.S. firm DraftKings has made a $20B offer to buy Entain, the UK-listed gambling company that owns the Ladbrokes and Coral brands. Those two have a network of more than 3,000 UK betting shops, as well as a major online business. 

If a deal goes through, landlords will be watching with interest to see whether DraftKings sees bricks-and-mortar betting shops as an integral part of the company’s future.