888 Holdings ‘£2B’ Agreement for William Hill Europe is Real, Say UK Media

Posted on: September 8, 2021, 10:57h. 

Last updated on: September 8, 2021, 06:29h.

888 Holdings sealed the deal to buy William Hill’s European assets from Caesars Entertainment Inc for north of £2 billion (US$2.76 billion ), according to The Times.

Itai Pazner
888 CEO Itai Pazner, seen in a photo above, has hinted that retail betting could be an asset for his company. (888 Holdings)

The British national newspaper on Wednesday was sticking by its sources that 888 had “won the race” to acquire the heritage betting company’s operations in its UK base and across Europe.

An online report to that effect published by The Times on Tuesday morning prompted 888 to announce just hours later it was merely in “advanced talks” with Caesars. There was “no certainty” discussions would result in a transaction, the company said.

While no additional announcement from 888 has been forthcoming, The Times was sticking to its guns today.

It reiterated that the Gibraltar-based online gaming giant had outbid its closest rival, the US private equity firm Apollo Capital Management. It is a deal “estimated” to be worth more than £2 billion.

“The sale process, run by Deutsche Bank, comprises the William Hill brand, which dates to 1934, its betting shops, and the bookmaker’s online operations in Britain and Europe,” The Times insisted today.

Caesars Reject

Caesars acquired William Hill for US$3.69 billion last year, but made it clear at the time that it had no interest in the company’s core European unit and would seek “alternative owners.”

Prior to the acquisition, the Nevada-based casino giant already had a joint venture in place with William Hill the US, the leading sportsbook operator in the Nevada market. Since the US Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting, the American unit has made significant inroads as new states begin to regulate.

While the European division is currently more valuable, its operations have been stymied in recent years by a tightening of regulation in Europe, not least in its home country, the UK. Meanwhile, the US is expected to quickly become the biggest regulated sports betting market in the world.

Questions Remain about Betting Shops

Goodbody analyst David Brohan said Wednesday that the deal would transform 888’s scale and earnings profile.

It was always likely to be in a strong position, given the potential it has to drive material synergies given its priority technology,” he added.

If the deal is on, as The Times asserts, the question remains of what will become of William Hill’s 1,414 betting shops across the UK.

888 has always been strictly online-only, and the addition of land-based operations could prove onerous, as the UK faces a regulatory clampdown.

It’s widely expected to offload the retail outlets, and UK operator Betfred has expressed an interest in taking them on. But tantalizingly, in a March earnings call, 888 CEO Itai Pazner suggested that William Hill’s retail business “could be an interesting asset.”

“There are benefits to owning betting shops,” he said.