Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd. has reportedly put its 62 percent CrownBet stake in play this week.
The Australian Financial Review reported that CrownBet executives and the Philip-Bowcock-led British bookmaker William Hill held in-depth talks on a potential deal. The idea of the possible merger between the two companies, however, was not on the table.
In a statement, Crown Resorts confirmed that it has been thinking about Crown Resorts and CrownBets’ future but made no mention of a possible merger between CrownBet and William Hill.
“Crown evaluates opportunities regarding its investments from time to time,” the company said. “Crown confirms that it is in discussions concerning its interest in CrownBet. There is no certainty as to whether any transaction will eventuate.”
The Australian wagering market is seeing a lot of consolidation this year as a result of rising marketing costs and intensifying battle for market share.
Analysts say that Crown Resorts might be preparing for the possible merger of rivals Tabcorp and Tatts Group now that the Australian Competition Tribunal has ruled in favor of the US$8.8 billion marriage of the country’s two biggest gambling companies.
Tribunal president Justice John Middleton insisted that the merged Tabcorp and Tatts Group “will be a more effective competitor and the merger is likely to lead to greater competition, particularly in online wagering.”
CrownBet, which accounts for about 10 percent of Australia’s national online wagering market, isn’t a newbie when it comes to transactions like this. Crown acquired its 62 percent stake in the Australian bookmaker three years ago.
Other observers, on the other hand, sees Crown to focus on its core casino assets in Melbourne and Perth, as well as the construction of its Barangaroo casino and hotel. Before it planned to divest its stake in CrownBet, Crown Resorts sold its shares in Macau’s Melco Crown and disposed its lot in Las Vegas.