888 Holdings Announces $3B Deal to Acquire William Hill’s Non-US Assets

Posted on: September 9, 2021, 03:35h. 

Last updated on: September 9, 2021, 02:32h.

The worst-kept secret in gaming is now official. On Thursday morning, 888 Holdings confirmed it has agreed to purchase William Hill’s non-US assets from US casino giant Caesars Entertainment Inc., beating the private equity firm Apollo Global Management to the punch.

William Hill
William Hill is one of the most prominent betting brands in the UK, with 1400 retail outlets. Crystal Ocean races above. (Image: Mark Cranham/Racing Post)

The price, previously reported as “at least” £2 billion, is £2.2 billion ($3 billion). 888 said it expects the transaction to be completed during the first half of next year.

The deal will allow Caesars to recoup more than two-thirds of the US$3.7 billion it paid for William Hill in April. Caesars said at the time it was only interested in the group’s US assets, as it made a play for the fast-growing US sports betting market.

Acquisition of Betting Shops

888 will gain control of William Hill’s branded digital sports betting and gaming operations in the UK and across Europe, including the online casino brand Mr. Green.

The Gibraltar-based company will also acquire – at least temporarily – William Hill’s 1,400-plus land-based betting shops in the UK.

It’s unclear whether digital-only 888 plans to hang on to the retail outlets, or to offload them to another company with an existing presence in the land-based betting sector. UK bookmaker Betfred is hungry for expansion and has expressed an interest in taking them on.

Scaling Up

The UK retail betting sector has become less lucrative in recent years because of diminishing consumer interest in horse racing, the growth of online sports betting, and tighter government controls on products like fixed-odds betting terminals.

But in a March earnings call, 888 CEO Itai Pazner said the retail business “could be an interesting asset,” adding there were “benefits” to owning betting shops. Founded in 1934 as a postal and telephone-based betting service, William Hill opened its first shops in the mid-1960s when they first became legal in the UK.

It was for many years the UK’s leading land-based betting company until it was usurped by the merger of Ladbrokes and Coral, which is now part of the Entain group.

The deal is still subject to shareholder approval, and it will also need a green light from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority.