World's largest online betting firm created by Paddy Power owner

Flutter Entertainment to buy The Stars Group, owner of Sky Bet, in £10bn deal

Flutter Entertainment, the owner of Paddy Power and Betfair, is to buy The Stars Group (TSG), which owns Sky Bet, in a £10bn deal which will create the world’s largest online betting company by revenue.

The deal, agreed with one eye on the new and rapidly expanding US market for sports betting, will give Flutter shareholders a 55% majority of an online gaming group that would have had combined revenues of £3.8bn last year.

Investors gave their immediate approval to the all-share takeover, which is expected to create £140m of cost savings per year, sending shares in Flutter up by 20% to £91.96. It will involve a commercial tie-up with the US broadcaster Fox Sports, run by Rupert Murdoch’s son Lachlan, which is already the US betting partner for the Canadian-based TSG.

Fox Sports will gain the right to acquire 18.5% of Flutter’s US fantasy sports business FanDuel at market value from 2021.

Flutter bought FanDuel last year as it sought to establish a US bulkhead in the wake of the supreme court’s decision to legalise sports betting, a ruling that triggered a race between UK bookmakers to enter the lucrative new market.

Peter Jackson, the chief executive of Flutter, will lead a combined business serving 4 million gamblers in 100 markets.

He said the takeover would “turbocharge” the company’s strategy of expansion into new markets while retaining a leading position where it is already well established, in the UK, Ireland and Australia.

“We believe the combination of Flutter and TSG will deliver substantial value for shareholders,” he said.

“We will have an exceptional portfolio of leading recreational brands and best-in-class products on industry-leading technology platforms.”

Flutter’s chairman, Gary McGann, said the combined group would also be a “strong voice in the promotion of responsible gambling worldwide”.

In its previous incarnation as Paddy Power Betfair, Flutter agreed a £2.2m penalty for responsible gambling failures last year, a settlement that relates in part to an ongoing legal battle with the victim of an alleged theft by a problem gambler.

It was one of the few UK high street bookmakers to support the government’s reduction in stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2.

It was accused of trying to bypass the restriction after a Guardian investigation found it had developed a game that mimicked the roulette-style machines while technically abiding by FOBT curbs.

It was eventually forced to withdraw the game by the Gambling Commission.

Analysts said the takeover of TSG would soup up Flutter’s efforts to conquer the US and could signal fresh consolidation in a sector that has already witnessed a succession of mergers.

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“This will enable Flutter to capitalise upon the relaxation of American laws on sports betting, which is now legal in 11 states, with seven more primed to announced a launch date,” said Russ Mould, the investment director at stockbroker AJ Bell.

“It will also enable the company to diversify further beyond the British and Australian markets, where it is the leader in online punting. Both arenas are relatively mature, tightly regulated and extremely competitive, even after a several rounds of consolidation in the industry.

“The latest deal in the bookmaking and gambling business may also prompt speculation as to which firms will be next to acquire – and which firms will be their targets.”


Rob Davies

The GuardianTramp

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