Stars Group to Expand Its Non-Poker Reach by Acquiring Sky Bet for $4.7 Billion

PokerStars’ parent company The Stars Group is set to buy British betting operator Sky Bet and its sister sites for a reported $4.7 billion.

Sky Bet.

Sky Bet will now become part of the burgeoning empire owned by The Stars Group. (Image: EFL)

Insiders speaking to the UK’s leading newspapers, including the Telegraph and Guardian, say negotiations between the two companies have been ongoing for weeks.

On Saturday, Reuters published a report explaining that the deal was all but finalized and an official announcement was expected on Monday.

CVC Capital Partners and Sky plc will relinquish control of Sky Betting and Gaming, which CVC purchased in 2014 in a $1.1 billion deal that gave the private equity firm a 70 percent stake in the betting operator.

Following the deal with the Stars Group, CVC will reduce its interest to 12 percent, while the remaining shareholders will have a 3 percent interest in the new entity.

Stock Market Gambles

Prior to announcement, gaming industry observers speculated that Sky Bet was looking to go public. Bankers from Rothschild had been hired to examine the potential of a stock market float, with Reuters sources suggesting the move could have raised around $4.1 billion.

While its unclear how far these plans progressed, it seems The Stars Group has seized an opportunity to increase the size of its portfolio and set it down a path to become the largest publicly traded online gambling company in the world.

In February, the company (formerly known as Amaya) acquired a 62 percent equity interest in Australian sports betting operators CrownBet Holdings for $117.7 million.

Less than three weeks later, they announced that Stars Group would be increasing its stake to 80 percent and that CrownBet would be buying William Hill Australia.

In two moves costing $315 million, The Stars Group became one of the largest players in Australia’s online betting space.

Stars Group Moving Beyond Poker

In the UK where Sky Bet has its base, Stars will now become one of the leaders in the market. Unlike its peers, Sky Bet doesn’t own any live betting shops, which means it won’t be affected by the government’s forthcoming regulations regarding fixed odds betting terminals.

The takeover will see the Stars Group increase its presence not just in sports betting, but also in the online casino sector. It also will present Stars its first foray into the UK bingo market.

For poker players, the deal could also lead to changes in the Sky Poker platform.

Although one of the smaller operators in the UK, Sky Poker does have a 24-hour peak of 560 cash game players according to PokerScout. Additionally, the Sky Poker Tour offers a selection of low- to mid-stakes live tournament events across the UK and, more recently, Las Vegas.

Any developments in this area are likely to be low on the list of priorities as The Stars Group will want to continue its push into the sports betting market. But Sky Poker is a site predominately frequented by casual players, which certainly aligns with PokerStars’ recent push to become a more novice-friendly platform.

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