The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK has made it clear that Ladbrokes and Gala Coral will need to sell off a large number of betting shops if they want their merger to be approved. The CMA has provisionally ruled that the merger may cause concerns for competition.

Ladbrokes operates 2,154 betting shops in the UK and 77 in Northern Ireland and Gala Coral operates a further 1,850 betting shops in the UK. A merger between the two companies will create a £2.3 billion entity with more betting shops than the current market leader, William Hill.

“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,” announced Martin Cave, chairman of the CMA inquiry.

“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.”

The CMA announced they have identified 659 local areas that could be impacted and would expect up to 400 betting shops to be closed.

The deadline for the final report by the CMA has been expended a further eight weeks to August 19, although it expects that the report may be published by the end of July.

Both Ladbrokes and Gala Coral were pleased that the process is progressing and stated they will continue to work closely with the CMA to ensure the clearance of the merger.