The company could sell the UK assets to private equity group Apollo, sources told Reuters this week, and if that failed, launch an auction process.
The deal, which Caesars will partly fund via a US$1.7 billion issue of new stock, is a move to take control of - and expand - the companies’ U.S. sports-betting joint venture, currently 80%-owned by William Hill.
Long the preserve of informal bookmakers, sports betting in the United States is growing rapidly after a landmark ruling in 2018 and gambling companies are reaching out for European expertise to back expansion.
In Britain, William Hill has closed more than 700 betting shops after new regulations limited the maximum stake on lucrative gaming machines. Its UK rivals include GVC, which owns the Ladbrokes brand, as well as Flutter Entertainment.
"The opportunity to combine our land based-casinos, sports betting and online gaming in the US is a truly exciting prospect. William Hill's sports betting expertise will complement Caesars' current offering, enabling the combined group to serve our customers in the fast-growing US sports betting and online market,” said Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg.
"We look forward to working with William Hill to support future growth in the US by providing our customers with a superior and comprehensive experience across all areas of gaming, sports betting and entertainment," Reeg added.
"The William Hill Board believes this is the best option for William Hill at an attractive price for shareholders. It recognises the significant progress the William Hill Group has made over the last 18 months, as well as the risk and significant investment required to maximise the US opportunity, given intense competition in the US and the potential for regulatory disruption in the UK and Europe,” commented said Roger Devlin, chairman of William Hill.
"Under the revitalised senior leadership team, William Hill has been delivering on its strategy and potential. William Hill is one of the world's leading betting and gambling companies, with a long and proud heritage. It is one of the most recognised brands globally,” Devlin added.
"For now, it is very much business as usual. Employees will be kept fully informed through this process. In terms of our UK and International businesses, we believe they have a strong future ahead and we will work with Caesars to find suitable partners to further the long-term growth prospects of these businesses," Devlin concluded.
According to British newspaper Daily Mail, big UK bookmakers the Done brothers are set to make a bid for William Hill bookmakers’ shops. They plan to make £172m from their 6% stake in Hill if the Caesars bid is successful. However, they are also thought to be ready to take over the betting shops side of the business, which Caesars is not interested in.
Caesars has already said that it would seek suitable partners for the other UK assets. The Done brothers already have 1,500 shops in their Betfred chain.
Source: GMB / Reuters / InterGame