Casino Life

Apollo in Prime Position for William Hill’s Non-US Gambling Assets

After sealing the £2.9 billion (approx. $4 billion) acquisition of William Hill, US casino giant Caesars Entertainment, Inc. is now looking to offload the non-US assets of one of Britain’s oldest bookmakers.

The Telegraph reported that Caesars is set to put William Hill’s betting shops in the UK as well as its online gambling business up for sale in the coming weeks.

Caesars tabled its offer for the UK gaming and sports betting company last September. The casino operator said back then that once the transaction closes, it would only focus on growing William Hill’s US operations and would auction off the company’s UK and international business.

The British firm and the casino powerhouse had already been working together in the US sports betting market as part of a joint venture formed in 2018.

Apollo in Pole Position to Buy William Hill’s Non-US Assets

Sources with inside knowledge of the matter told The Telegraph that US private equity firm Apollo Global Management and online gambling operator 888 Holdings are “among the likely suitors” for William Hill’s non-US operations.

The British operator runs one of UK’s largest chains of betting shops and also operates online casinos and betting sites in its domestic and in a number of regulated European markets.

Sources said that Apollo could be in pole position in the upcoming bidding war for William Hill’s assets. Back in September, the Wall Street buyout firm tabled a rival offer to Caesars’ to eventually be bested by the casino powerhouse.

However, sources say that Apollo could now be the winning bidder, as it has been extremely active on the gambling acquisition front over the past year, has already tried to buy William Hill, and also has deeper pockets than 888. The latter firm is believed to be itself a takeover target, if reports from earlier this year are to be believed.

A Flurry of Acquisitions

In the months after its failed attempt at purchasing the British bookmaker, Apollo has acquired Canadian casino operator Great Canadian Gaming, has invested €500 million to finance Czech lottery operator SAZKA Group’s bid to seize the UK National Lottery from long-time operator Camelot Group, and has teamed up with VICI Properties to buy The Venetian Resort Las Vegas from Las Vegas Sands in a $6.25 billion deal.

In addition, Apollo already has an asset that industry insiders believe could be paired with William Hill’s international operations.

Late last year, the buyout firm backed Italian gambling company Gamenet in buying IGT’s Italian B2C business. Gamenet paid €950 million in cash. According to The Telegraph, Apollo “would be expected to combine William Hill with Gamenet […]

and make cost cuts.”

Sources also noted that Caesars could also attempt to sell its nine UK land-based casinos. Following the company’s combination with Eldorado Resorts last summer, the management of the enlarged group has focused its attention on growing its domestic business, paying less and less attention to international markets.

According to sources, Apollo has the financial resources and the necessary experience to purchase and grow the nine gambling establishments. However, it is unclear whether it is interested in adding the properties to its portfolio.

It is understood that Caesars was close to offloading the venues to a Canadian casino operator, but talks fell through eventually.

Source: William Hill betting shop empire up for sale, The Telegraph, May 1, 2021

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