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LONDON-British bookmaker William Hill has bought 642 betting shops from Stanley Leisure for euro 737 million ($928 million). A statement by William Hill says that the acquisition would boost the size of its portfolio from 1,600 sites to 2,224. That exceeds the 2,000 outlets operated by rival Ladbrokes–owned by the Hilton Group–and makes William Hill Britain’s biggest bookmaker.

The size of the deal means it will have to be referred to the Office of Fair Trading to ensure it does not raise competition issues. Within hours of the deal being announced, the OFT had asked for comments on it.

But a source at William Hill says the company did not anticipate any competition problems arising from acquisition, but it is preparing to sell 30 to 50 of the holdings in case there was a problem. “We think the regulatory risk is minimal,” chief executive David Harding says.

In a conference call, Harding said William Hill has studied the last couple of times the UK’s Office of Fair Trading looked into the betting market. Since then the market has become much more competitive. He added that sites that might be “contentious” will be sold. These are located in areas where there might be an overlap that creates a local monopoly.

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