Amaya (PokerStars) and William Hill in Merger Talks

Late on Friday, Canadian gaming company Amaya and UK bookmaker William Hill confirmed in a joint statement they were discussing an all-share merger “consistent with the strategic objectives” of both companies.

Through its brand PokerStars, Amaya owns ca. 70% of the global online poker market, with 100 million registered international users, while William Hill is strong in casinos, betting shops and sports betting. Together, the two companies would be worth approximately £4.5bn (€5bn).

Investor reaction, however, has so far been lukewarm. One notable cause for concern is the $870m fine handed out to Amaya last year for violations of the US state of Kentucky’s anti-gambling laws.

“In poker terms, Amaya is offering William Hill a marginal hand,” business analyst Nils Pratley writes in The Guardian:

“On risk, Amaya brings at least two big ones. The more obvious is a $870m (£704m) penalty in the US state of Kentucky. Amaya is probably correct in thinking it will not end up paying anything like that sum, but one can never be sure given US authorities’ past (baffling) attempts to combat online poker.

The other risk is that William Hill ends up with too much exposure to unregulated markets, meaning those where gambling is either banned or the rules are so unclear that your local operation can legislated out of existence. At the moment, William Hill’s exposure to unregulated territories is an admirably low 5%. After a merger with Amaya, the ratio would rise to about a quarter of the business. Big difference.

On debt, Amaya would bring a bundle. […]”


New Problem Gambling Website Launched

Trimbos Instituut, The Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, has launched a new website, to provide information to problem gamblers, family members, and professional care givers about gambling addiction.

The website was launched in anticipation of the expected regulation of online gaming in the Netherlands.


UK Government Considering Ban on Daytime TV Gambling Ads

The UK government is reportedly mulling a complete ban on daytime TV gambling ads. Share prices of bookmakers took an immediate hit, signaling that a more restrictive advertising policy could very well hurt gaming operators’ top lines.

It should be noted that the proposed Dutch remote gaming bill, currently under consideration by the Senate, would also include a complete ban on daytime TV advertising. In addition, several (formally) non-binding motions were adopted by the Dutch Lower House calling, for instance, for a prohibition of daytime online advertising and live betting advertising during match events.


EiG Conference Finalizes Agenda

The Excellence in Gaming Conference, which opens next week in Berlin, has finalized its agenda.

Whatever you do, don’t miss the conference’s keynote presentation: “Mobile Engagement: What the Future Holds – Apple’s Vision” by Phillip Shoemaker, former Sr. Director, App Store Review, Apple.

The Apple App Store has been instrumental in the continued progress of the mobile gaming industry. The very presence of gaming apps has provided the foundation that has allowed tech innovations such as AR, VR, iWatch etc. to even be a possibility when interacting with gaming consumers.


Netherlands Gaming Authority Claims Success in Fight Against Illegal Gambling Apps

The Netherlands Gaming Authority asserts that its efforts to block the distribution of gambling apps in the country have been successful. “Dozens of apps can no longer be downloaded through the usual online app stores,” the regulator claims:

“The blockade of sports betting apps in app stores, which started in May, has ensured that unlicensed operators have been unable to profit from the increased attention for sports betting during the 2016 UEFA European Championship. […] We estimate that tens of thousands of downloads have been prevented over the last four months.”

The Gaming Authority further notices that its warning to international operators to refrain from focusing on the Dutch market or Dutch punters during this year’s “Summer of Sport” has been generally heeded.


Other News

A new study by Research and Markets found that the global online gambling market was worth $35.97 billion in 2014 and is estimated to reach $66.59 billion by 2020, at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 10.8%.


Virtual Reality gambling is expected to achieve a nine-fold growth by 2021, with wagers reaching almost $520m.


Italy’s sports betting market grew 37% y-o-y in September, while the market’s largest operator, Bet365, lost market share.


Betsson Group’s continued expansion has resulted in the firm opening an additional hub in Malta after outgrowing its existing headquarters.


The European Banking Authority may force an end to the current frictionless online payment environment.


The casino-owning Seminole Tribe of Florida has taken global ownership of the Hard Rock brand.


The country of Singapore, which is well-known for its strict laws (and its continued use of corporal punishment), is beginning to move away from its complete ban on online gaming.


“Allowing some form of legal online betting in a tightly controlled manner is a realistic and clear-minded approach,” Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee said, noting that, despite strict enforcement measures, online punters continue to “find ways.”