July 30, 2015

Playtech launches Ladbrokes Omni sportsbook

Playtech has launched its first omni-channel HTML5 front-end solution with Ladbrokes, enabling a seamless, fully responsive desktop and mobile user experience and a host of unique, new sportsbook features.

In a market-first, Ladbrokes’ new Playtech Sports HTML5 solution will significantly boost its sportsbook performance and optimisation capabilities ahead of the forthcoming English Premier League season.

It will offer players an unrivalled and personalised mobile and desktop experience in line with ‘Playtech ONE’, the cutting-edge omni-channel solution that allows customers to play any content, across any channel and is responsive to any device using one account and one wallet.

This is the second Playtech omni-channel HTML5 product rollout with several others due later this year. Earlier this month Playtech Bingo launched the industry’s first HTML5-only platform with a number of key licensees in the process of migrating to the new solution.

Playtech Bingo’s move to HTML5-only means it operates from one code base, increasing the number of software and content releases and enabling players to have a true omni-channel look and feel offering across both desktop and mobile.

The latest Ladbrokes desktop sportsbook will also be supported by Playtech Sports’ new NGen system, a fully bespoke solution capable of handling large volumes of data across concurrent sporting events and thousands of betting markets.

Playtech, under its Mobenga subsidiary, first partnered with Ladbrokes in May 2013 launching its mobile sportsbook platform in December of that year and completing the integration of Playtech Casino and all its digital products onto the market-leading IMS platform in April 2014. This has since allowed Ladbrokes to market effectively to its digital customers and significantly boost its online and mobile revenues.

The front-end desktop-mobile solution project began in January this year and has been completed in record time.

Since its launch on the Playtech Sports mobile platform Ladbrokes mobile sportsbook has gone from strength-to-strength with staking up 110% and active users up 62% for the year ended December 31st 2014.

The HTML5 omni-channel front-end is the first of several releases with the next in the autumn. It contains a number of new and exciting features designed to significantly boost the current user experience. These include:

  • New, dynamic layout with faster and easier navigation when searching for, and clicking on, the events and markets punters want to bet on
  • New football and horse racing homepages that allow players to switch from league-to-league, match-to-match and race to race in a single-click
  • New in-play enabling players to watch live and simultaneously access a variety of markets
  • New ‘My Accas’, a personalised accumulator feature allowing punters to bet in-play on multiple markets, follow their bet progress in real-time, or choose to cash-out early
  • New quick links enabling customer’s immediate access to sporting highlights, price boosts and offers

Liron Snir, VP Product, Playtech, said: “Playtech has been pioneering in releasing the industry’s first omni-channel products and platforms across bingo, sports and casino. A fully responsive desktop and mobile front-end solution is just the beginning of much more omni-channel ‘Playtech ONE’ activity we have planned in partnership with Ladbrokes.

“This has been a fantastic project to work on from start to finish with our Mobenga team completing their work in record time. We very much look forward to continuing our journey in partnership with Ladbrokes and helping them with the rapid growth of their digital business,” Snir added.

Andrew Bagguley, Ladbrokes Managing Director, Digital said: “We’ve developed and now delivered this new desktop platform with a combined team approach and in less than a year we have a very strong, joined up sportsbook proposition which we believe is the quickest and easiest customer experience in the market, across all digital devices.

“Delivering this adaptive experience allows us to empower the customer to engage with our digital product however and wherever they want with no experiential compromises for any channel.

“Customers expect a consistent approach and we’re providing it with a single platform. We’ll be releasing new updates to all our digital sites in sync every few weeks. We are experts in sports betting and want to carry on delivering real value to customers with a series of innovations and continual improvements throughout the summer and into the latter part of the year,” Bagguley added.

July 24, 2015

Ladbrokes merges with Coral to create £2.3bn bookmaking giant

Ladbrokes, the beleaguered gambling company, has agreed a £2.3bn merger with Gala Coral to create Britain's biggest bookmaker.

The deal creates a company with £2.1bn of revenues and the country's largest estate of betting shops. The combined business, which will be listed on the stock exchange and called Ladbrokes Coral, will have a market capitalisation of £2.3bn. Both brands will be retained.

Ladbrokes has lagged rival William Hill in recent years, particularly in online sports-betting. It hopes that by merging with Gala's digital division, UK betting shop business, and Italian operation it can leapfrog its competitors. Gala's bingo business is not part of the tie-up.

Shareholders in Ladbrokes, which is already listed in the FTSE 250, will have 51.75pc of the new business, while investors in Gala, which is owned by a group of private equity houses including Anchorage Capital Partners and Apollo Global Management, will have 48.25pc. Ladbrokes is also launching a share placing of 9.99pc of its share capital on Friday.

Jim Mullen, who is currently boss of Ladbrokes, will lead the combined company, as was expected. Gala chief executive Carl Leaver will become executive deputy chairman.

Coral executive Andy Hornby, the controversial former banker who presided over the collapse of HBOS at the height of the financial crisis, will take the role of chief operating officer of the UK betting shop and digital businesses, but he will not be on the public company's board.

"This is a major strategic step for Ladbrokes which firmly accelerates our strategy to improve the customers' experience and build recreational scale," said Ladbrokes chairman Peter Erskine. "Ladbrokes and Coral are two highly complementary businesses, with rich heritage and brand presence across the UK and internationally."

Given the deal will create a dominant player in the betting shops, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will likely be a major obstacle to the deal. Without making any disposals, the new company would have more than 4,000 shops.

"Both Ladbrokes and Gala Coral are confident that the merger is deliverable and are committed to working closely with the CMA in its review," the companies said on Friday.

However, they added that "it is anticipated that the combined entity will need to dispose of retail stores to satisfy potential CMA requirements", although even after those sales it will still have the country's biggest shop estate, the companies said.

Cost synergies are expected to reach £65m per annum three years after the deal completes. Ladbrokes also revealed that it was slashing its dividend to 3p as it attempts to shore up its finances.

July 17, 2015

888 agrees to buy Bwin.party for £898.3m

The company will pay Bwin.party shareholders 39.45p a share in cash and 0.404 new 888 shares for each share they own, beating a more valuable offer from GVC, which is backed by Canadian online group Amaya.

888, which in February rejected a takeover offer by William Hill, the UK’s biggest bookmaker, said it hopes to combine the companies’ digital gaming platforms and to become one of the leading operators in the global online gaming industry with combined annual revenues of roughly $1.1bn.

The deal will create a “strong player with the breadth of product, brands and geographic coverage to grow faster than either business would be able to achieve standalone,” Philip Yea, chairman of Bwin.party, said.

The enlarged group will have a strong position in sports betting, poker, casino and bingo, the companies said. 888 currently provides the technology that powers Bwin’s online casino games.

The offer represents a premium of 16.4 per cent on Bwin.party’s share price on May 14, the day before the company announced discussions about a possible tie-up. Bwin has been exploring a sale since November and its shares have fallen 10.67 per cent this year.

Bwin.party shareholders can elect to accept varying amounts of 888 shares and cash for each of their Bwin.party shares but the number of new 888 shares that will be issued will be fixed at around 341.6m. They will end up owning 48.9 per cent of the combined group.

Last week GVC confirmed it had offered 110p a share in cash and stock for Bwin, which would have valued the company at £906m. Its bid consisted of 45 per cent cash and 55 per cent in new GVC shares.

888 will finance the cash part of the takeover through a $600m term loan credit facility, the company said.

Bwin.party’s shares were down 0.9 per cent at 102p while 888’s were up 3 per cent at 165p in early London trading.

The new group is weighing whether to make bwin.party’s Studios B2B business into a standalone entity and potentially spin it off into a separate listed vehicle, with shares being distributed to 888 shareholders, the announcement said.

The companies said they estimated cost synergies achieved from the merger will amount to at least $70 million per year before tax by the end of the 2018 financial year.

Liz Catchpole, a bwin.party independent non-executive director and Martin Weigold, bwin.party’s chief financial officer, will join the 888 board as an independent non-executive director and a non-executive director.

Norbert Teufelberger, bwin.party’s chief executive, will provide consultancy services on the enlarged group’s sports-betting business.

July 13, 2015

888 play final hand battle for Bwin.party

Online poker operator 888 Group believes it is still at the table in the battle for the online gaming company Bwin.party.

The group, which runs a popular poker website as well as online casino gaming, has arranged a meeting with Bwin this week.

The move comes despite Bwin’s board declaring last week that a rival offer from GVC and Canadian poker giant Amaya was its preferred option.

After that announcement, GVC chief executive Kenny Alexander said was “just days away” from completing the deal.

A spokesperson for GVC yesterday downplayed the challenge from 888: “We have put forward a very compelling offer for Bwin, and are pleased to have received the support of the Bwin board.”

Both bids point to synergies between their operations and that of Bwin, and the potential savings that could come from increased scale.

While 888 provides the technology behind Bwin’s poker platform via its Dragonfish business-to-business service, GVC argues that its bid offers even greater cost synergies.

Alexander has confirmed that part of the cost savings would come from job losses – removing some of those who would be doing duplicate roles in the expanded company.

If its bid were successful, GVC would retain Bwin’s sports betting company. Amaya, which owns the market-leading PokerStars website, would take over the poker business.

The announcement from the Bwin board last week confirmed that GVC would buy its shares at a value of 110p a share, and said it “has determined to work with GVC so that they can finalise their offer over the coming days.”

The joint bid from GVC is very similar to the one it made for Sportingbet, alongside bookmaker William Hill in March 2013.

A final decision by the Bwin board is expected later this week.

July 10, 2015

Unibet Acquires Stan James Online

Unibet Group plc has today signed an agreement to acquire the online gambling business of Stan James Group plc together with full rights and ownership of the brand. The transaction does not include the UK shops business operated under the Stan James brand, which for a transitional period has been granted rights to the brand. Stan James is one of the most well respected online gambling operators in the locally regulated UK market offering online sports betting, casino and poker through its web site www.stanjames.com.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to complete in the second half of the third quarter 2015.

The transaction will significantly strengthen Unibet’s position in the large UK online market which is estimated to be worth around GBP 2.7 billion in 2015 according to H2 Gambling Capital and thus is one of the largest on-line markets globally that has already re-regulated with attractive terms and conditions. The acquisition price of GBP 19 million is payable fully in cash and will be adjusted for customer liabilities that Unibet will take over on completion.

Stan James has approximately 150 employees based in Gibraltar. In line with standard EU rules on the acquisition of a business, the employees will transfer their employment to Unibet.

In the five month period to 31 May 2015, the GWR of Stan James online business was GBP 10.5 million and the EBITDA, after charging UK point of consumption tax, was GBP 1.4 million. On an annualised basis the acquisition multiple is therefore around 6 times 2015 EBITDA, without taking account of any future synergies from the transaction. Such synergies can consist of more effective marketing and economies of scale associated with third-party procurement of products. For the second quarter of 2015, the number of quarterly active customers amounted to 84,266.

“We have long been looking at strengthening our position in the UK online market. Stan James as an operator is one of the most well-respected in the UK market with particular strengths in horse-racing and other British sports. Stan James has had a long presence in the British market where there are few companies of this size available for acquisition. Since Unibet has only recently targeted the UK market there is little overlap between our respective businesses. Over time we see a significant potential to increase the breadth of the Stan James product range, such as live streaming, casino and improving the mobile offering,” says Henrik Tjärnström, CEO Unibet.

Denis Kelly, CEO of Stan James Online says, “We are delighted to join the wider Unibet group. There is a substantial market opportunity in the UK following the re-regulation. Through the combination of Unibet’s expertise in marketing and financial strength, together with Stan James’ high quality sports and racing betting offering aimed at the UK market, I am confident that we can increase substantially the combined Group’s market share in the UK. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the shareholders of Stan James for their strong support of the business.”

July 05, 2015

Playtech win deal to supply Norsk Tipping

Playtech have signed an agreement to supply locally adapted content to gaming operator Norsk Tipping.

The deal which will supply game content to over 4,300 interactive gaming terminals will start from August this year with the first delivery of the content of retail gaming specifically for the Norwegian Belago (bingo halls) and Multix (retail) sectors.

The company, under Playtech subsidiary Videobet Interactive Sweden, is one of three suppliers selected to provide new content for all Norsk Tipping interactive gaming terminals. The duration is for an initial two-year period that includes an option for two further one-year extensions.

Shimon Akad, chief operating officer at Playtech, said: “We have an excellent relationship with Norsk Tipping and this news only serves to reinforce this. We’re delighted both with the outcome of the procurement process and scoring highest among our competitors.”

He added: “The content agreement is in line with our regulated markets strategy and strengthens our market share in Norway alongside our existing software, systems and hardware provision.”

Lene Finstad, executive vice president of product and brands at Norsk Tipping, said: “We are excited to have Playtech as one of our three partners for the delivery of new interactive terminal games. In its tender the company demonstrated a deep understanding and a highly attractive games strategy for the Belago and Multix markets, and we look forward to bringing a wide range of new content to these markets to further develop them in a responsible, yet attractive way.”