Who owns the bookmakers? Mergers, Acquisitions and Takeovers

As with many things in life the makeup of the gambling sector, especially due to online gambling, has changed massively over the last couple of decades.

In the past before online betting and gambling came about the high street bookmakers were the place to bet. The high street was dominated by the “Big 3” back then which were Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill with numerous other small bookmakers also trying to grab a piece of the pie.

Once online gambling became popular this gave many other bookies and gambling companies not only another way of gaining customers but also a level playing field where their high street presence isn’t as important. All of a sudden there were new online bookies popping up left right and centre. Some were completely new companies and some were small independent bookmakers pushing on to the stage, it was exciting times.

The first interesting online bookmaker we will look at is Sky Bet. You may think that Sky Bet is a simple one, owned by Sky TV but that is not the case. Firstly Sky Bet came to be about when BSkyB purchased a small gambling company that included the online bookies Surrey Sports which was later, in 2002, rebranded to become Sky Bet. They grew steadily and in the mid 2000s BSkyB purchased the 365 Media Group which included online betting sites TotalBet and UKBetting, which were then merged into Sky Bet. In a rather surprising move for some Sky decided in 2015 to sell an 80% stake of Sky Bet to CVC Capital Partners for £600m. This is not where it ends though for Sky Bet as in 2018 both Sky and CVC agreed to sell all of Sky Bet to The Stars Group for a huge £3.4bn.

The Stars Group is a huge gaming company having grown from their popular online poker site PokerStars, which also has an online casino and bookmaking site BetStars. As well as these sites The Stars Group also purchased the troubled online poker site Full Tilt Poker which ran into huge problems in America with the United States Department of Justice. Based in Canada it was viewed as a very interesting move by The Star Group to then purchase Sky Bet and expand their market share.

Another huge group these days in the world of online gaming is GVC Holding plc, which is one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, and have a very interesting history. We mentioned at the beginning of this article about Labrokes and Coral being 2 of the traditional big 3 UK bookies. Ladbrokes as a company over the years have been through some very interesting times as they expanded their portfolio into other areas such as land based casinos. Sticking to the gambling side of the business they expanded into Australia by not only operating a Ladbrokes sports betting site there they also purchased both Betstar.com.au and Bookmaker.com.au between 2013 and 2014. In 2013 Ladbrokes had also purchased the online betting exchange Betdaq. Whilst this was all going on Coral were also experiencing interesting times having firstly purchased Eurobet in 1999. In 2005, they were then themselves purchased by Gala which ran a bingo and casino operation for over £2bn, which created the Gala Coral Group. Then in another somewhat surprise move it was announced that Ladbrokes and Gala Coral were in talks about a merger and in 2016 both companies joined forces to create Ladbrokes Coral Group plc. Then in 2018 GVC Holdings took over Ladbrokes Coral for a price said to be up to £4bn.

You actually maybe a little surprised at all the other sites that GVC Holdings now own and operate as they have been steadily building up their portfolio. They had already purchased Betboo and Sportingbet (apart from the Australian arm) by 2013 and in 2016 bought the Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment which itself had merged together from Bwin and Party Gaming companies back in 2011. As well as those sites such as Bwin and the Party site such as Party Poker and Party Casino, GVC Holdings now own many others as well, like Neds, Cheeky Bingo, Casino King and Foxy Bingo. It really is an impressive portfolio.

William Hill has been an interesting company though as although being one of the biggest gambling companies about and despite many approaches and rumours have still not been taken over. William Hill plc owns the William Hill brand and are listed on the London Stock Exchange, the FTSE 250. William Hill had quite an impressive portfolio in Australia before offloading the lot to Crownbet, who are in turn owned by The Stars Group. They did however complete the purchase of Mr Green in 2019 who had themselves in 2018 purchased Evoke Gaming Ltd who own numerous sites including Redbet.

Another interesting merger was back in 2016 when Irish bookmaker Paddy Power merged with Betfair (who had purchased Blue Square bookies in 2013) to become Paddy Power Betfair plc, which later renamed to become Flutter Entertainment plc. The group also owns the Australian sportsbook Sportsbet.com.au, daily fantasy sports site FanDuel, Adjarabet, which operates in Georgia and also TVG which is a broadcaster in the United States who broadcasts US horse racing. The story doesn’t end here though as there is a proposal to merge Flutter with The Stars Group to create the world’s largest gaming company.

Another group who have been expanded in recent years is the Kindred Group which was formerly known as Unibet Group plc. Unibet has made a number of acquisitions over the years including Bet24 and the online business of former bookie Stan James. One eye-opening move that really pushed Kindred forward was their purchased of the 32Red Group which included the 32Red Casino which is widely regarded as one of the best online casinos in the world, as well as the popular Roxy Palace Casino. Other popular brands under their umbrella are Maria Casino and Bingo.com, with various other brands targeting different countries and regions.

One more company that has continued to expand and buyout other betting site is the Swedish online gaming company Betsson Group. Although most of their products are generally aimed at Scandinavia and mainland Europe they have a number of sites that target the UK. Their biggest site was always Betsson and in 2011 bought all the shares in the Betsafe Group to have 2 top European bookmakers sites as well. In 2012, they also acquired the Nordic Gaming Group which included NordicBet. In 2017, they also purchased NetPlay TV’s assets which saw them expand further into the UK market as the purchase included Jackpot247 and SuperCasino plus Vernons. Betsson Group now also own the RaceBets site which specialises in horse racing and greyhound racing from around the world, as well as a number of other gaming sites targeting mainland Europe.

888Holdings are another company who have built up quite an impressive portfolio of different gaming sites but mainly in the bingo and casino sectors. Although they operate 888Sport and other 888 brands like casino, bingo and poker they also own popular bingo sites such as Red Bus Bingo, Wink Bingo and Posh Bingo amongst others.

Not all online bookies are now owned by huge companies listed on stock markets, which is partly what makes this industry so interesting. For example one of the most popular and largest bookmakers in the UK is Betfred which is still owned by the founder Fred Done. Another gaming company and arguably one of the largest bookmakers in the world is Bet365 and again is still owned by the Coates family having been founded by Denise Coates. BetVictor are also operating as an independent bookmaker as well, although they aren’t now own by the Chandler family.

It is safe to say that with the ever evolving world of online gaming and betting this certainly isn’t the end of the mergers and acquisitions with gambling sites coming and going what seems like almost every month. Whatever does happen in the future we’re sure there is going to be plenty of entertainment along the way.