The Stars Group announced that it has agreed to purchase Sky Betting and Gaming for $4.7 billion, a move that will create the world’s largest publicly traded online gambling company in the world and give Stars a larger presence in the sports betting world.

Leicester City FC
Leicester City may or may not have something to celebrate when The Stars Group acquires Sky Betting and Gaming, which sponsors three lower three tiers of professional soccer in England. (Image: Paul Carroll Photography)

SBG is currently owned by CVC Capital Partners and Sky PLC, and includes a number of valuable online gambling properties, including Sky Bet and Oddschecker.

“The acquisition of Sky Betting and Gaming is a landmark moment in The Stars Group’s history,” Stars Group CEO Raif Ashkenazi said in a statement. “SBG operates one of the world’s fastest growing sportsbooks and is one of the United Kingdom’s leading gaming providers. SBG’s premier sports betting product is the idea complement to our industry-leading poker program.”

Stars Group Building Worldwide Gaming Network

The Stars Group is expected to pay $3.6 billion in cash for SBG, with the remainder of the price being paid with 37.9 million common shares.  The move continues an ongoing strategy by the Stars Group that sees the owners of PokerStars increasingly turning themselves into a global gaming brand involved with for more than just poker, picking up regionally influential gaming firms in order to give them a stronger presence in various markets.

That began in February, when the Stars Group purchased a controlling stake in CrownBet Holdings. CrownBet is a major sports betting firm in Australia, and the $118 million deal immediately turned Stars into a major player in the country.

Gaining control of Sky Bet will give Stars a similar foothold in the UK, which is the largest regulated gaming market in the world. SBG also has operations in Italy and Germany, which are also lucrative European markets.

Stepping Stone to US Market?

But the biggest benefit to the deal might be the fact that it gives the Stars Group control of a high profile, trusted sports betting company that could be expanded to other markets. The United States could jump right to the top of that list if the Supreme Court should reach a decision that overturns the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

“The US sports betting Supreme Court case is obviously a big part of the potential upside, with [Stars’] old database, SBG’s strengths and their track record solely in the UK,” H2 Gambling Capital founder Simon Holliday wrote in an email to Bloomberg.

According to Ashkenazi, the United States isn’t critical to the success of this deal. Instead, he is focused on the flexibility it gives his company to compete just about anywhere on the world when the opportunity presents itself.

“Every single new regulated market that opens up, we believe that on a combined basis we will be very strongly positioned to capture a significant market share,” Ashkenazi told analysts on a phone call. “U.S. included.”

This isn’t the first attempt by the Stars Group to purchase a major UK-based sports betting operation. In 2016, Stars – then known as Amaya – attempted to engage in talks about a merger with William Hill. But those efforts failed after some investors in the bookmaker objected to the transaction.

The Stars Group is best known for its poker operations. Their flagship brand is PokerStars, though they also own Full Tilt, BetStars, and a variety of live poker series and festivals across the world.