Toronto TSX-listed The Stars Group Inc has perhaps undertaken the industry’s boldest investment of 2018, expanding its global footprint within a drastically altered Australian online betting market.
Yesterday Stars Group Chief Executive Rafi Ashkenazi confirmed that his firm would increase its recently acquired majority stake in CrownBet Holdings, from 62% to 80%.
March 2018, has delivered a widespread change to the Australian online betting sector, as a Stars Group backed CrownBet agreed to acquire William Hill’s beleaguered Australia division for AUS $300 million (€185 million).
The Stars Group will pay US $315 million for its Australian market entry. Furthermore, the investment represents Ashkenazi’s first major acquisition since taking official leadership of Stars Group (legacy Amaya Inc) in August 2016.
A long-term company stalwart, Ashkenazi has stabilised the TSX enterprise’s performance and operations following the rollercoaster tenure of former Amaya Inc Chief Executive David Baazov.
Under Ashkenazi’s shrewd leadership, the company has effectively diversified its product proposition lessening the firm’s reliance on online poker, with Stars Group fulfilling its enlarged value as a TSX-listed enterprise.
As important for group stakeholders, Ashkenazi has kept the Stars Group away from negative headlines which dogged the Baazov tenure. Nevertheless, Stars Group’s future demands will now test Ashkenazi on his M&A vision, a sought after dynamic for all industry leaders.
Commencing its Australian voyage, Ashkenazi and Stars Group governance have turned to CrownBet enterprise founder Matt Tripp to guide the investment through Australia’s predatory landscape.
Tripp, Australia’s most successful online betting executive, has set a high bar for CrownBet’s expectations under the Stars Group ownership.
Presenting initial targets, Tripp and Stars Group governance seek to deliver AUS $50 million in cost savings per year beginning in 2019.
“We believe the acquisition of the William Hill Australia business gives us the scale and customers to become a leading force in the market and the tools we will need to prepare for potential positive regulatory movement in other jurisdictions.” Tripp detailed on Stars Group market update.
Furthermore, deal stakeholders believe that CrownBet will develop into Australia’s market-leading online gambling proposition, creating an ‘accretive asset’ for corporate investors, which will bolster Stars Group’s TSX valuation and ranking.
Tripp undertakes these high demands, under brutal market conditions imposed on Australian online betting operators. In 2018, Australian stakeholders will have to make do without credit card transactions, whilst competing in a sports market which has added severe restrictions to betting advertising/marketing.
Adding further woes, a number of Australian state legislators, are now keen to implement a point-of-consumption (POC) tax charge on betting activities.Put simply, 2018’s market realities have forced the majority of European betting leaders to revise their current Australian propositions.
Operating in unforgiving terrain, Tripp is confident of developing CrownBet into Australia’s outright market leader. However, Stars Group stakeholders should not expect the charismatic Tripp to keep their new investment out of news headlines…