Who’s next on the betting merger merry-go-round?
Well, who saw that coming? Consolidation of bookmakers has been widely predicted, either by their demise, such as Betbright and 188, or through takeovers and mergers, such as Corals and Ladbrokes and Betfair and Paddy Power.
But the deal between Flutter plc (Betfair and Paddy Power) and Stars Group (SkyBet) came as a big surprise.
The deal creates a £10bn global betting colossus and, based on 2018 figures, would have had combined revenue of £3.8bn.
Stars Group, a Canadian based company, is a name less well-know in the UK and Ireland, but last year it acquired Sky Betting and Gaming. Along with the Paddy Power and Betfair brands, the combined operation in the UK will have 38% market share, and 43% of the Irish market.
But it’s the global marketplace, in particular the US, that’s caused the two companies to combine forces in an all-share deal. Last year the Supreme Court legalised betting in the US and European operators have started making inroads in the States.
And size matters across the pond given the enormity of the market. Flutter and Stars would command about 25% of that market.
Back in the UK, the merger is undoubtedly going to be of interest to the Competition and Markets Authority and a likely scenario is that something will have to be put up for sale.
You’d have thought that, with Betfair and Paddy Power already well down the road in terms of a combined enterprise, SkyBet is a candidate for disposal to ease concerns about market domination.
Based in Leeds, it has well over 1,000 employees who now have a worrying time ahead in respect of redundancies.
Past mergers between bookmakers has seen the need to sell off betting shops which have been put up for auction. This deal is much more about online presence and if consolidation is the main byword, then whatever might be put up for sale is most likely to attract an existing player.
Watching other operators taking the plunge has been William Hill, now somewhat dwarfed by its competitions. It courted but did not win other players and is just as much a target as it is an acquirer.
It had been linked with 888 Group but nothing came of the courting.
To put things into context, the market value of Flutter/Stars would be £10.5bn, whilst Ladbroke/Coral is worth £4.35bn. On their own William Hill and 888 are worth £1.63bn and £0.56bn respectively.
One way or another, that’s a situation unlikely to remain unchanged forever.
Maybe someone should offer odds on who ends up with who, providing there’s no insider knowledge.
When is an ad not an ad?
With the start of the football season this year, betting operators began a self-imposed ban on TV advertising during live sport broadcast before the watershed. It was interesting, therefore, to see an “ad-free” football match on TV a few days ago.
The teams lined up in front of the a banner featuring the League’s sponsor (SkyBet). The two teams’ shirt sponsor were betting operators (888 and Boylesports). For the first five minutes of the game, the electronic advertising boards featured the League sponsor’s message. For the remainder of the game the three aforementioned betting operators’ messages were rotated on the electronic boards.
There might be some watching the coverage wondering whether or not betting advertising has indeed disappeared during live coverage of football before the watershed.
♦ Allow me to introduce you to a new member of the Ascot team.
He’s Ziggy and this Saturday was his first day at work. When he’s a little older he’ll be helping to spot undesirables entering the racecourse with illegal substances. He looks pleased with how things went.