Bookmaker will have to sell King’s Lynn shop in merger deal

Merger proposed for Ladbrokes and Gala Coral SUS-160520-094015001

Merger proposed for Ladbrokes and Gala Coral SUS-160520-094015001

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A leading bookmaker will have to sell one of its Lynn shops as part of a merger deal, regulators have ruled.

A new report by the Competition and Mergers Authority (CWA) has ordered Ladbrokes and Coral to sell between 350 and 400 branches nationwide, because of a reduction in choice for punters.

Currently, the firms run five betting shops in Lynn between them.

But the report, which was published on Tuesday, lists the Coral branch in Broad Street as an area where there would be a significant loss of competition if the merger went ahead in its proposed form.

As it is the only Lynn branch in the list, that means the premises will have to be sold to a buyer approved by the CWA.

The combined company will also have to give an assurance that it will not seek to buy the site back for 10 years after the merger deal is completed.

Martin Cave, who chaired the inquiry into the deal, said: “We’ve found that the merger between two of the largest bookmakers in the country would reduce competition and choice for customers in a large number of local areas.

“For these customers, competition comes from the choice of shops in their area and they would lose out from any reduction of competition and choice.

“Although online betting has grown substantially in recent years, the evidence we’ve seen confirms that a significant proportion of customers still choose to bet in shops - and many will continue to do so after the merger.

“We therefore believe that a sale of shops of this scale is needed to protect these customers.”

However, Ladbrokes welcomed the report and said it was still on course to complete the deal this autumn.

At present, Ladbrokes and Coral operate more than half of Lynn’s eight licensed betting shops.

Another of their branches, the Ladbrokes shop in Tower Street, had been included in the list of areas at risk of a loss of competition when the panel published its initial findings in May, but was removed from the final report.

The other Lynn betting shops are run by Betfred and William Hill, who were themselves the subject of a joint takeover approach from 888 and the Rank Group, which owns companies including Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casinos, earlier this week.

Ladbrokes also has branches in Downham and Hunstanton, while Coral has a shop in Swaffham.