With the recent Caesars Entertainment and William Hill purchase new, another large online gambling operator has come into the fray. The operator, 888 Holdings has indicated an interest to acquire William Hill’s non-US operations should Caesar Entertainment’s £2.9 billion purchase offer gain shareholder approval.
Though William Hill has already accepted Caesar’s offer, the deal needs to be approved by the majority, about 75%, of the UK bookmaker’s shareholders to close the deal.
Caesars also confirmed that its purchase of William Hill focuses on the bookmaker’s US operations and that it could divest the bookmaker’s UK and international operations to other interested parties. Following this, 888 Holdings’ chief executive officer, Itai Pazner, commented on the matter saying that the company is in a good position to make acquisitions and that a bid for William Hill’s non-US assets could be potentially something for the company.
William Hill first entered the US market in 2012 when sports betting was only allowed in Nevada. The US Supreme Court then lifted the federal ban on athletic gambling in 2018, paving the way for several states to legalize sports betting. In the same year, the UK bookmaker entered into a major partnership with Eldorado Resorts as its exclusive sports betting partner, capitalizing on the new market space. Following that, Eldorado Resort finalized its merger with Caesars Entertainment earlier this year, inheriting 20% stake in William Hill’s US operations.
The bookmaker is a long-running name in the UK’s sports betting industry. It was founded in 1934 and its betting shops are a common sight across the UK ever since. At its peak, the brand had more than 14,000 operating branches but has lessened to around 1,400, as tougher regulation, online service growth, and the COVID pandemic have impacted its profitability adversely. Aside from its brick and mortar properties, the bookmaker is offering online gambling services in the UK and as well as other markets such as Spain and Sweden.
Given 888 Holding’s interest in William Hill’s UK operations, it is important to note that 888 is an online-only gambling company. William Hill’s brick and mortar shops will be of little interest to 888 as it is mainly interested in William Hill’s online operations. Given 888’s purchase possibility, Betfred has expressed its interest in the bookmaker’s betting shop portfolio and has asked whether 888 would consider offloading the betting shops to Betfred if it purchases the bookmaker.
In light of this, Pazner has said that 888 Holdings will follow the William Hill situation very closely as the company is continually looking for any assets that will be relevant for its growth and expansion.
This interest in a merger is not the first time as both companies have discussed the possibility in the past. Back in 2015, William Hill offered £700 million to purchase 888 Holdings. The purchase did not go through as the latter took a higher offer from one of its largest stakeholders. Rank Group. Following that year, the combined 888 Holdings and Rank Group offered to purchase William Hill but that didn’t push through as well.