Bookmakers Ladbrokes and Coral must sell up to 400 shops to proceed with a planned merger, the UK's competition watchdog has ruled.
Ladbrokes and Gala Coral Group are the UK's second and third largest bookmakers by number of betting shops, operating a total of 4,000 shops across Great Britain, with a further 77 in Northern Ireland.
The Competition and Markets Authority today ordered the sales after finding the deal could result in a substantial lessening of competition in some areas, and raising fears of a worsening of offers to customers.
The sales must be substantially completed before the merger can go ahead.
Martin Cave, who chaired the Ladbrokes/Coral inquiry, said: “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.”
Responding to the report, both Ladbrokes and Gala Coral welcomed the CMA's findings, and said they hope to complete the merger in the autumn.