Flutter Merger Approved by UK Competition and Markets Authority
Back in February, we reported that the ACCC approved the merger between Flutter Entertainment and the Stars Group. That was the first major regulatory hurdle that the merger had to clear before the merger became official.
Now the merger has cleared the largest hurdle in its way. According to reports, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has approved the merger between the two companies. This approval came on Tuesday and all but makes the merger a guarantee.
CMA Concludes Lengthy Investigation
The UK Competition and Markets Authority conducted a lengthy investigation of the Flutter-Stars merger, which is normal for this type of situation. The purpose of the investigation was to see whether the merger would cause a significant impact on competition in the UK.
The reason behind the investigation is that the merger would give the merged company a 40% market share on the UK online betting market. Anytime a market share is above 25%, the CMA will investigate.
Flutter Entertainment-Stars Group Merger Receives CMA Approval #Gambling #GamblingCompanies #FlutterEntertainment #StarsGroup #GamblingCompaniesMerger #UKGambling #CMA #CompetitionRegulator #UK https://t.co/EcH1wD21ip
— Casino Guardian (@CasinoGuardian) March 31, 2020
In the end, the CMA unconditionally approved the merger. They found that while merged companies will have control of the options available, the companies operate independently and give players multiple options to gamble online. The CMA ruled that the “merger will not worsen the offering to people who choose to bet online.”
Flutter to Have a Significant Presence Globally
The merger between Flutter and Stars will form the largest online gambling company in the world. Various major brands are owned by the two companies, including William Hill, PokerStars, and Paddy Power.
When the merger was initially announced, some analysts predicted that Flutter would have to sell Paddy Power in order to clear regulatory hurdles. The approval by the CMA shows that this is not the case. That doesn’t mean that a sale won’t happen, but it is simply not a condition of approval.
TSG Flutter merger gets UK CMA approval (genuinely surprised it was waived through without a further look tbh) and will be voted on end of April. We're about to get a new number one in the EGR power 50 I think.
— Alun (@gamblinglamb) March 31, 2020
For the majority of players, there will be little difference in how they currently gamble online. Companies will continue to operate independently, meaning those of you that want to play at online casinos like PokerStars or William Hill will be able to do so. That’s not to say there won’t be changes in the future as opposed to the merger, but for now, it will be business as usual.
In some regions, the merged company will be a significant force. For example, in the United States, brands such as PokerStars has a foothold in almost every regulated market. This merger will have them as the premier brand. Smaller brands may have some trouble competing in some regions.
Deal Still Awaiting Shareholder Approval
The only milestone left for the merger to pass is shareholder approval. Shareholders will vote on the merger on April 21 and 24. There is little reason to believe that shareholders will vote against the merger as it will significantly help the long-term health of the company.
Otherwise, there are still a few regulatory hoops for the merger to clear, but they are minor in comparison. The merger is expected to close sometime between Q2 and Q3 of 2020, but that timeframe may be delayed. Some regulatory bodies have stated that the COVID-19 pandemic will delay business. As such, don’t be surprised to see this merger move to Q3 or Q4 for completion.
This merger will not have a significant impact on Australian online gambling in the short-term. However, should lawmakers ever legalize online gambling, the merged company could become a major player. PokerStars has a popular online casino with a full range of casino games along with their online poker rooms.
Other companies such as William Hill have operated online casinos in Australia in the past and would return to serve Aussie players. Of course, this could be years away, but this merger could have future benefits to Aussie players.
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