Year in Review Part Three – Firms look to Nasdaq whilst William Hill auction comes to a close

The third quarter of 2021 saw further regulatory developments across Europe, and one of the year’s biggest M&A saga’s concluded as 888 Holdings finalised the terms of its William Hill acquisition. 

Sportradar, the Swiss sports data and technology company, successfully completed its public listing on the US Nasdaq stock exchange in September, with some assistance from basketball legend Michael Jordan.

The company first filed a registration statement on Form F-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with the ambition of conducting an initial public offering in August.

Commenting at the time of the listing, the company’s Chief Commercial Officer, Ed Blonk, remarked: “The US betting market opportunity is the biggest growth opportunity for us right now, but there are also multiple others in areas such as media, broadcasting, teams and leagues.”

Fellow European firm Codere SA also made movements towards a US listing in August, submitting a F-4 ‘preliminary registration statement’ with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) putting forward its prospectus to list the South American-facing ‘Codere Online’ business on the US Nasdaq.

The company’s plans would see it divest the Codere Online unit by merging with DD3 Acquisition Corp – a SPAC led by former Goldman Sachs Latin America executive Martin Werner.

Meanwhile, the quarter also saw some major M&A developments, as more potential suitors joined the chase for William Hill’s non-US assets, with the company’s new owner – US conglomerate Caesars Entertainment – seeking to shed some weight. 

July saw CVC Capital-backed German operator Tipico follow Boston-based firm Advent in joining the ever-growing number of gambling and private equity suitors reportedly interested in acquiring William Hill. 

The list of companies participating in the auction for the heritage UK bookmaker included 888 Holdings, Betfred, Apollo Global, Entain, Advent PE, BoyleSports and Kindred Group.

The bidding contest would come to a close in September, when 888 secured its +£2 billion buyout offer, out-bidding the last remaining suitor Apollo Global, taking control of William Hill’s retail estate of over 1,400 betting shops and its UK and European online properties of WilliamHill.com and MrGreen.com in the process. 

Additionally, William Hill’s fellow UK-based firm Entain also found itself in the midst of an M&A saga, as it confirmed media reports that prominent US sports wagering and fantasy sports operator DraftKings is interested in acquiring the company.

A statement from the company’s board revealed that a DraftKings proposal to acquire the FTSE100 firm had been received, and that such a takeover would include a combination of the former’s stock and cash.

Lastly, regulatory news saw Chris Phlip replace John Whittingdale as the new Gambling Minister, with responsibility for industry oversight as well as coordination of the overhaul of the UK’s betting and gaming legislation. 

The Minister’s first action in his new office was to issue a statement on the conclusion of the DCMS’ investigation into the collapse of the Football Index, which identified several regulatory ‘lessons’ to be learned.

“We have been clear that we must learn lessons to make sure a situation like this does not happen again,” Philip remarked. “I’m encouraged to see the Gambling Commission and the FCA are taking concrete steps on an action plan on how they will better work together.

“We will ensure that the findings from this review feed directly into our ongoing Gambling Act Review which is looking at ways we can improve regulation of the gambling industry.”

In response to the findings, the UKGC revealed earlier today that it had made changes to its regulatory practices, such as factoring in ‘novel products’ when making assessments of operator risk. 

Additionally, the UKGC has also outlined plans to introduce ‘tighter rules for the terminology used to describe gambling products’, such as the use of the phrase ‘investments’ to describe wagering.

Finally, some greater clarity on the outcomes of the 2005 Gambling Act review were unearthed, as reports revealed that a ban on sports betting sponsorships would likely occur regulations regarding pitch side and television advertising also under consideration.

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