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Ladbrokes and Coral Sportsbook merge creating UK giant

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Ladbrokes Sportsbook (SBR rating A) has merged with bookmaker Gala Coral (SBR rating B+) in a massive $2.3 billion annual deal.

The two sportsbooks began discussions officially last month, though initial chatter began in June.

This consolidation makes Ladbrokes Coral the single largest UK bookmaker, surpassing William Hill (SBR rating A) for the honors. Ladbrokes operates 2,100 walk-in betting shops compared to Coral's 1,845 in the United Kingdom.

Industry insiders believe that regulators will request some of the shops to be disposed of to prevent an unfair monopoly of the UK gaming market.

Ladbrokes Coral have business in Belgium, Spain, Italy, and an expanding online sportsbook business in Australia.

Ladbrokes' Chairman Peter Erskine had the following to say regarding the merger with Gala Coral:

"This is a major strategic step for Ladbrokes which firmly accelerates our strategy to improve the customers' experience and build recreational scale. Ladbrokes and Coral are two highly complementary businesses, with rich heritage and brand presence across the UK and internationally," stated Erksine.

"Together, we will create a leading betting and gaming business combining strong brands with an attractive multi-channel offering and an extensive national and international coverage."

Ladbrokes previously tried to acquire Gala Coral in 1998, but had their plans shutdown by former British trade and industry minister Peter Mandelson, according to a report at Daily Mail.

As far as shareholders are concerned, Ladbrokes will own 51.75% of the new company, while investors in privately owned Gala Coral will have a 48.25% stake.

This merger comes one week to the day after SBR reported that online sportsbook 888Sport acquired Digital Entertainment for $1.4 billion in cash and shares.

What is clear is that with so many regulatory requirements and controversial tax law to boot, the UK market is no place for mom & pop bookmakers, as to turn a profit successfully and maintain in good standing with local law and deal with international (remote) regulations on top of that, significant resources are required.

Online sports bettors who don't have the freedom to walk into a betting shop down the road may at least find some comfort betting with companies that listed on public stock exchanges. The best online sportsbooks – those who carry the SBR rating of A- and higher – can be found using this rating guide filter.