Acquisition of the year?
In the turbulent world of modern business, you wouldn't surprise anyone with the constant process of company mergers. We are constantly providing the details about those that can directly affect the online poker industry, such as the merger of Flutter Entertainment with The Stars Group or Entain with Enlabs.
The most recent one happened yesterday:
On September 9, 2021, 888 Holdings issued the press release on completing the acquisition of all non-US assets of the well-known UK brand William Hill for a total of £2.2 billion ($3.03 billion).
According to media reports, they had several competitors: Tipico, Apollo Global Management, Betfred, and BoyleSports. The latter two brands are owned by the Flutter. But why is it only about non-US assets, and what else does the history of the relationship between these two gambling giants hide?
- According to The Times, back in 2015, the UK company was going to buy 888 themselves for $1.14 billion to increase their influence in the US market. And four years earlier, Ladbrokes, which is currently a part of Entain (formerly GVC, owner of partypoker), had similar plans.
- In April 2021, Caesars Entertainment (which controls more than 20% of the US gambling market) acquired only the US assets of William Hill for $4.04 billion. After that, the entire management of William Hill resigned, and the new owners announced the sale of all WH assets located outside of the "homeland of poker."
- And now 888 Holdings acquired those remaining assets, thus compensating Caesars for 75% of the spring deal expenses. This acquisition has to be sealed during the shareholders' meeting, which is scheduled for the first half of 2022.
The future of poker rooms
This is the first merger for the "Eights"; therefore, it has been called "historical" by Itai Pazner and the entire management of the holding. It is clear that they needed William Hill's huge customer base (2 million active players) to increase their presence in the sports betting markets of the UK (with 1,400 offline betting shops, something that 888 never had previously) and nine other countries, including Canada.
But our primary interest is how this deal might affect the online poker industry and, first of all, the two poker rooms owned by these brands. Since any official announcements on this matter are still to come, we will try to figure out possible scenarios with the help of previous similar cases (for example, when Coral and Ladbrokes, the other UK poker rooms, have joined the GVC Network):
Suppose migration of the William Hill Poker players to 888Poker would ever take place. In that case, it couldn't be expected before the second half of 2022. After all, legal procedures, brand structure reorganization, etc., will require considerable time.
In addition, do not forget about the need to conduct additional negotiations with the iPoker Network (which WHP currently forms a part of) that is the main competitor of the "Eights," according to Pokerscout.
Can we expect more UK players at 888Poker?
Of course, the merger of two gambling companies may lead to transferring of all accounts to one of the poker rooms or establishing a new poker brand, but:
We can notice some effects from the deal way earlier. The sports bettors and casino players from William Hill would join the 888 Holdings ecosystem and try to play poker there.
Still, such a migration process could be prolonged, so the consequences for online poker would be visible in a year at best. As of now, 888Poker's cash games traffic has stuck at the levels of the beginning of 2020, despite many significant attempts to turn the tide:
- Establishing the StreamTeam and changing the current TeamPro.
- Launching a new desktop client and mobile app.
- Running million-dollar tourneys.
- Continued cooperation with WSOP.
The end of 2021 should show the degree of 888poker's competitiveness during the usual peak of poker traffic, but it's too early for the acquisition of William Hill to affect it in any way.
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