Stars Group Buys Into CrownBet to Enter Australian Sports Betting Market

Posted on: February 28, 2018, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: August 6, 2018, 12:49h.

The Stars Group announced on Tuesday that it had purchased a 62 percent stake in CrownBet Holdings, giving it the controlling interest in one of the largest bookmakers in Australia.

Rafi Ashkenazi Stars Group CrownBet
Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi is hoping the takeover of CrownBet will give his firm a strong foothold in Australia’s regulated sports betting market. (Image: Bloomberg TV)

The purchase cost the Stars Group approximately $117.7 million to complete. The purchase was made entirely in cash that was already on the firm’s balance sheet, meaning the online gambling giant won’t be taking on any debt as a result of the acquisition.

Tripp Will Stay on as CrownBet CEO

Unlike some takeovers, it appears as though this one was mostly devoid of drama. The Stars Group was able to partner with other CrownBet shareholders to complete the transaction, and current CrownBet CEO Matthew Tripp will stay in his role. Stars does have the right to appoint the majority of the board of directors going forward.

For the Stars Group, the move will give them control of a fast growing company in one of the most lucrative gaming markets in the world.

“We are excited to enter the regulated Australian sportsbook market with CrownBet,” said Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi. “CrownBet has become one of the fastest growing online sportsbooks in Australia through its strong management team, proprietary technology, mobile app, unique partnerships and market-leading loyalty program.”

The takeover has been given approval by the Northern Territory Racing Commission, provided that the Stars Group can meet some standard conditions.

Stars Group Looking to Make Positive Headlines

The Stars Group, which was formerly known as Amaya, is best known for owning two of the world’s largest online poker sites: their flagship brand, PokerStars, as well as Full Tilt Poker. The company also runs a variety of poker tournament series and tours around the world, making them one of the most recognizable brands in the gaming industry today.

But over the last year, most of the headlines that have been made by the company have been related to the court battle faced by former chairman and CEO David Baazov.

Securities regulators in Quebec allege that Baazov and two associates tried to pump up the price of Amaya’s stock in the lead up to the company’s $4.9 billion purchase of PokerStars. The allegations site emails between Baazov and Toronto financier Yoel Altman that seem to show a plan to “get ahead of…shorters and prop desk guys” just before the price of Amay’s stock nearly tripled in value.

Those allegations – along with the prestige of the PokerStars brand – may have been a primary factor in the decision to change the company’s name to the Stars Group. Meanwhile, Baazov has said he wants the charges against him dismissed due to the lengthy nature of the investigation and trial, which may violate guidelines set down by the Supreme Court of Canada that limit how long it should take for prosecutors to bring a case to trial.