The U.S. casino operator Caesars Entertainment has agreed a £2.9 billion (US$3.73 billion) takeover of the British bookmaker William Hill. The deal, which must be agreed by 75% of William Hill shareholders, was unanimously recommended by directors of the UK company. It came after two rival bids by the U.S. private equity group Apollo were turned down. The agreement will give Caesars, the operator of the Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas, access to the burgeoning U.S. sports betting market. Caesars already owns a 20 per cent stake in William Hill’s U.S. operations, and also has various casinos in the UK. Caesars previously said the takeover could allow it to make between US$600 million and US$700 million in revenues next year in online and sports betting.
Roger Devlin, William Hill’s chairman, explained the offer was at “an attractive price for shareholders,” but added that it reflected the “risk and significant investment required to maximize the U.S. opportunity, given intense competition in the U.S. and the potential for regulatory disruption in the UK and Europe.”
In the U.S., William Hill’s bookmaking business has 170 retail sites in 13 different states. Overall, the company posted revenues of £1.58 billion (US$2.03 billion) for 2019 and an operating profit of £147 million (US$188 million). US net revenue increased by 38 per cent year-on-year (YoY), capturing a nationwide market share of 24 per cent.
Caesars plans to sell William Hill’s UK and European branch networks, which have struggled before and during the pandemic under increased regulatory pressure to tackle problem gambling. William Hill announced the closure of 119 UK branches in August.
For his part, Tom Reeg, CEO, Caesars, indicated: “William Hill’s sports betting expertise will complement Caesars’ current offering, enabling the combined group to better serve our customers in the fast-growing U.S. sports betting and online market.”