The Stars Group has finalized its $4.7 billion acquisition of UK online sports powerhouse Sky Betting & Gaming (SBG), a transaction that now makes it the largest publicly-traded online gambling company in the world, according to Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi.
The PokerStars parent, formerly known as Amaya, announced its intention in April to acquire the company, which owns the Sky Bet, Sky Vegas, Sky Casino, Sky Poker and Sky Bingo brands, as well as sports betting odds comparison site Oddschecker.
Ashkenazi said the deal “dramatically improves The Stars Group’s revenue diversity, creating a balanced spread across poker, casino and sportsbook with a broad geographic reach.”
Stars to Light Up Sky
But it’s SBG’s betting vertical that interests the Stars Group. While its core offering of online poker has plateaued in recent years, sports betting continues growing globally and the gradual opening up of the US market will offer huge opportunities to a company of The Stars Group’s scale and ambition.
SBG’s sports betting platform, Sky Bet, has the largest active user-base in the UK, which is the largest regulated online sports betting market in the world.
Prior to its acquisition, SBG was owned by the UK satellite broadcaster and telecoms giant Sky, which is part-owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Sky sold most of its equity in the SBG to investment group CVC in December 2014 for £800 million ($1.06 billion), retaining 20 percent.
Sky Bet’s growth has been driven largely by its relationship with Sky TV, which until recently held the exclusive rights to broadcast Premier League soccer in the UK, but it’s unclear whether this relationship will survive the takeover.
Eighty percent of SBG’s revenues are generated by mobile, largely through soccer in-play betting apps and the synergy between Sky Bet and live Premier League soccer has been crucial to its success.
Last year Sky Bet’s revenues grew by 38 percent to £516 million ($685 million), with a 31 percent surge in customers, to 2.6 million. Pre-tax profit was £146 million ($194 million), up 38 percent on the previous year. In H1 of this year, it reported revenues were up an incredible 58 percent, to £210 million ($279 million).
Sport Betting Splurge
This is the second sports betting acquisition of the year for The Stars Group. In March, just six months after it was forced to pull the plug on PokerStars in Australia due to a change in gambling laws, it became a majority shareholder in Australian online sports book CrownBet. Just days later, CrownBet acquired William Hill’s Australian operations.
The Stars Group is a company that has grown from relative obscurity to an online gaming behemoth through a series of eye-popping takeovers, not least the highly leveraged $4.9 billion purchase of PokerStars in 2014.
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