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PokerStars Group merges with Flutter Entertainment: Why, exactly?

All major poker rooms usually belong to a large gambling holding, and of course, any change in those holdings sooner or later have an impact on the online poker industry. Today, two big players (The Stars Group and Flutter Entertainment) confirmed an agreement to merge and create one of the world's largest gambling companies.

PokerStars Group merges with Flutter Entertainment: Why, exactly?

Flutter Entertainment will absorb The Stars Group

In recent years, PokerStars had played a leading role in the online poker industry. Not only because it is the most prominent online poker room in terms of traffic, but also because the company itself has been involved in significant operations.

  • PokerStars was launched in 2011 in Costa Rica — Rational Enterprises;
  • In 2012 PokerStars acquired Full Tilt Poker;
  • In 2014, Amaya Inc. (today is known as The Stars Group) bought PokerStars and its parent company;
  • In 2017, PokerStars acquired PKR.

And today (October 2, 2019), Flutter Entertainment (formerly Paddy Power Betfair Ltd) and The Stars Group confirmed that next year, it will merge into one company; more specifically, Flutter is absorbing The Stars Group.

The history of Flutter Entertainment is also interesting:

  • Founded in 2015 as a result of the merger of Paddy Power and Betfair (Paddy Power Betfair Plc);
  • In 2017 Flutter entertainment acquired Draft, a daily fantasy sports operator;
  • In 2018 Flutter bought FanDuel, a daily fantasy sports market leader;
  • In February 2019 the company acquired Adjarabet;
  • In March 2019, it was renamed Flutter Entertainment.

Both companies have incredible financial results, although The Stars Group is a bit larger than Flutter Entertainment:

  Flutter Entertainment The Stars Group Combined group
Active customers > 6 million > 7 million > 13 million
Revenue £m                           1.873                   1.903                   3.777 
EDITDA £m                              451                      689                   1.140 

Brands owned by each company:

Flutter Entertainment The Stars Group
PaddyPower (UK) SkyBet (UK)
Betfair SkyVegas
Adjarabet PokerStars
FanDuel (USA) FoxBet (USA)
TVG FoxSports Super 6
SportsBet (Australia) Bet Easy (Australia)

One of the strategies unveiled in the press release is the "poker driving expansion into casino and betting," something that coincides with all changes implemented by PokerStars in previous years.

Highlights of the merge:

  • The current Chairman of Flutter, Gary McGann, will be the Chairman of the new company;
  • Dave Gadhia, current Chairman of The Stars Group, will be the Deputy Chair of the combined group;
  • Flutter executives will assume the positions of CEO and CFO: Peter Jackson and Jonathan Hill respectively;
  • The current TSG CEO, Rafi Ashkenazi, will be designated as COO of the Combined Group;
  • The Stars Group Shareholders will receive 0,2253 New Flutter Shares for each TSG share;
  • Flutter Shareholders would own 54,64% of the combined group;
  • In 2018 both companies accounted for an annual revenue of £3.8bn.

The directors of both companies shared their thoughts about the merge:

"The Combined Group will be a strong voice in the promotion of responsible gaming worldwide and will lead industry standards on the protection of customers while building sustainable relationships with them."

Gary McGann, Chair of Flutter

"We have long had respect for Flutter, and believe the combination is a natural next step in the evolution of the business, creating a leader in online betting and gaming with trusted brands, diversified revenues, stand-out technology and the best operational and managerial talent in the industry."

Dave Gadhia, Executive Chairman of The Stars Group

The Combined Group will have a strong position on the global market with the combination of the main assets of each company:

  Flutter Entertainment The Stars Group Combined Group
Countries >100 >100 >200
Languages 10 ≈30 ≈40
Currencies 13 >25 >38
Payment methods 30 >55 >85

Also, UK & Ireland become a top market for both brands accounting almost 50% of customers:

  Flutter Entertainment The Stars Group Combined Group
United States 10% - 5%
Australia 22% 9% 15%
UK & Ireland 59% 38% 49%
RoW 9% 53% 31%

How will the absorption of The Stars Group affect online poker?

Besides operating a wide range of online gaming products (casino, bookmaker, daily fantasy sports) Flutter Entertainment and The Stars Group own several poker rooms:

  • PokerStars
  • Adjarabet
  • Betfair Poker (iPoker network)
  • Paddy Power (iPoker network)

It's clear that at such an early stage, the fate of online poker has not yet been unveiled. But the fact is that online poker will represent about 18% of revenue, making it a priority.

Interestingly, for Flutter having online poker as a main business will be a novelty because today it is not even discriminated in the reports, while for The Stars Group it is the core business with 35%:

  Flutter Entertainment The Stars Group Combined Group
Poker - 35% 18%
Online Gaming 15% 30% 22%
Retail 18% - 9%
Online Sports Betting 58% 32% 45%
Other 9% 3% 6%

The position of the iPoker network is also interesting, as it is going through hard times and could face a similar fate to Microgaming Poker Network that will close in 2020. This is because the two poker rooms involved in the network may migrate to the new poker room after the complete merger.

When will this migration take place?

Most likely, all poker rooms will join forces with PokerStars, which will optimize the cost of maintaining one poker room instead of several and support the decrease in PokerStars' traffic.

For the US market, the brands FanDuel and FoxBet will become the major priority of the combined group, since both are strong brands and have enough experience to compete with GVC and 888. Most likely, PokerStars won't be the leading brand in the US because some states have a "bad actor" clause that may cause some problems.

Concerning the complete merger, the schedule is divided into three stages:

  • Q1 2020: Shareholder documentation published;
  • Q2 2020: Flutter and TSG shareholder meetings;
  • Q3 2020: Final regulatory approvals and completion.

Summary

Three months before the beginning of 2020, the year promises to be crucial for the development of online poker; in just 6-8 months, the online poker market, as we know it, won't be the same; poker players must be ready to adapt to the new era.

In addition to witnessing the disappearance of Microgaming Poker Network and the raise of GG Poker, we will also see how PokerStars will change the parent company again; only this time, it is to create the largest online betting and gaming operator worldwide. Will poker remain a priority? Only time will tell.

Stay tuned on our Telegram channel for more EV+ news.

Vargoso 03.10.19
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