Mark O’Neil, Chief financial officer of Ireland’s largest independent bookmaker Boylesports, has discussed the company’s plans to expand their retail network within the saturated UK gaming market. While it operates 200 retail shops across Ireland, it is looking to expand in the neighbouring UK market.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Breakfast Business segment, O’Neil explained that despite their failed effort to acquire the betting shops sold by Ladbrokes and Coral as part of their merger requirements which would have given the company a “solid retail platform”, Boylesports still plans to expand within the UK market and is exploring other opportunities.

According to O’Neil, the business plans to open up to 25 retails stores in the UK by the end of 2017 and these comments support an announcement made by founder John Boyle who said that their expansion into the UK retail market has become a “reality for the business.”

“We are looking for the right opportunities that will offer us scale, not just taking over two or three stores, but looking at cities and areas that will allow us to build a network and brand presence with a minimum of twenty to twenty five stores,” said O’Neill.

Despite the company’s growing digital presence, they are continuing to expand their high street outlets as these remain an important part of their strategy. These outlets play a significant role in the social aspect that a visit to the local bookmaker offers and they act as an attraction for new customers.

As part of their focus on increasing brand awareness and building a strong UK presence, they will aim to open a cluster of shops all in one region.

These comments come right after The Cheltenham Festival, an important event for bookmakers and one that attracts a large number of Irish and UK punters.