Amaya and William Hill Discuss Merger

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CBJ — Montreal-based online gambling company Amaya Inc. and British bookmaker William Hill are in talks to combine in a merger of equals.

The all-share merger would be “consistent with the strategic objectives” of both companies, they said in a joint statement.

According to reports, former Amaya CEO David Baazov has abandoned plans to make a bid for the company, perhaps complicated due to his being investigated for insider trading by Quebec’s securities regulator.

William Hill, itself a subject of an approach from 888 Holdings and Rank Group, rejected a revised takeover bid from the two rivals in August.

Amaya paid US$4.9 billion to acquire the owner and operator of the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker brands in 2014, saying at the time that the deal created the largest publicly traded online gaming company.

The company’s biggest revenue contributions are from the Isle of Man and Malta, while it has also expanded into France, Italy, Spain and Britain, and expects to soon gain regulatory approval to operate in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. It sees its biggest growth opportunity in the United States.

After a lengthy approval process, Amaya won permission to operate PokerStars in New Jersey, one of the first U.S. states to legalize the business.

The company last year limited the operations of its StarsDraft fantasy sports business in most U.S. states as a string of jurisdictions grapple with whether the fast-growing, multibillion-dollar industry constitutes illegal gambling.

Contests such as StarsDraft, in which players draft fantasy teams for sports including football, basketball and baseball, have drawn increased scrutiny from regulators since last year.

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