Online gambling operator 888 Holdings has confirmed its interest in William Hill’s non-US operations after recent reports that the race for the British bookmaker has whittled down to just two runners, Apollo Global Management being the other.
888 said on Tuesday that it is in “advanced discussions” with US casino giant Caesars Entertainment, which bought William Hill in April for £2.9 billion, “regarding a possible acquisition of the international business of William Hill.”
When it acquired the legacy betting house this past spring, Caesars said that it was only interested in its US business and that it would auction off its other assets. Aside from its US sports betting arm, William Hill’s operations also include more than 1,400 betting shops around the UK and online casino and wagering platforms in the UK and several regulated European markets.
According to a recent report by The Times, the race for William Hill’s UK and European assets was down to just 888 and Apollo and the online gambling firm was close to beating off the private equity company as it was willing to pay more than £2 billion.
Apollo last year sought to buy the whole of William Hill, but lost to Caesars as the casino powerhouse threatened to end a US-focused sports betting joint venture it had previously formed with the UK betting firm, if it accepted an offer by another interested party.
CVC-Backed Operator Drops from Bidding War
Up until recently, the bidding war, which is now believed to have entered its final round, included CVC Capital Partners-backed German gambling operator Tipico. CVC owned William Hill between 1999 and 2003.
As mentioned above, 888 is believed to be ready to offer £2 billion for William Hill, but it is unclear whether the company sees value in the bookmaker’s network of high street betting shops given the continued Covid-19 forced disruptions in operations and the regulatory crackdown on the highly controversial fixed-odds betting terminals.
888 has most likely set sights on William Hill’s web-based assets and could sell its retail operations to another interested firm.
Caesars was originally expected to fetch around £1.5 billion for the betting operator’s non-US business, but it now seems the company could trouser a significantly higher amount.
William Hill was formed back in the 1930s when its eponymous founder started a postal and telephone-based wagering service. The company launched its first betting shops in 1966, or five years after these became legal as part of a sweeping gambling reform introduced by the UK Government.
This is not the first time a tie-up between 888 and William Hill is under discussion. In 2016, the online gambling firm teamed up with The Rank Group, another major UK operator, to jointly pursue the acquisition of the bookmaker. Takeover talks eventually fell through.
888 said Tuesday that there was “no certainty” the ongoing discussions would result in a deal.
Source: Online player 888 nears victory in race for William Hill’s UK operations, Sky News, September 7, 2021