William Hill goes all in on PokerStars

William Hill, Britain’s biggest bookmaker, is in talks with Canada’s Amaya, owner of PokerStars – the world’s largest online poker business – about a £5bn “merger of equals”. The new company would be headquartered in London, with Amaya’s CEO, Rafi Ashkenazi, taking the top job.

The deal adds to “the feeding frenzy among bookies”, say Peter Evans and Daniel Dunkley in The Times, driven by “rising taxes and a crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals”. Mergers include Paddy Power and Betfair, Ladbrokes and Gala Coral, and GVC and Bwin.party.

“The new company would have 60% of its revenues from online betting, and 40% in ‘land-based’ business,” says Murad Ahmed in the FT, making it “well diversified across different betting areas”, and bringing cost savings of more than £100m.

Still, the deal is risky, says Nils Pratley in The Guardian. PokerStars faces a lawsuit in the US state of Kentucky that comes with a potentially huge fine. And the combined firm would be too exposed to markets where gambling is either “banned or the rules are so unclear that your local operation can be legislated out of existence”.

Overall,”both these companies have bad hands, says James Moore in The Independent. “The best bet for their shareholders? Fold.”