Australian casino operator Crown Resorts has been forced to address media speculation that it is looking to divest its 62% interest in horse racing and sports betting brand CrownBet Pty Ltd, with UK bookmaker William Hill touted by several media outlets as the buyer.
In a filing on the Australian Securities Exchange, the resort operator said: “Crown Resorts Limited notes media speculation today in relation to consolidation in the online wagering industry, including in relation to CrownBet, which is 62% owned by Crown.
“Crown evaluates opportunities regarding its investments from time to time. Crown confirms that it is in discussions concerning its interest in CrownBet. There is no certainty as to whether any transaction will eventuate.”
William Hill released the following statement to the Financial Times: "Following media speculation, William Hill confirms that it is in very preliminary discussions with CrownBet, the 62% owned online wagering business of Crown Resorts, regarding a possible combination of William Hill Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of William Hill, and CrownBet."
However, William Hill added: "There is no certainty that these preliminary discussions will lead to any transaction."
It has been a year of realignment for Crown Resorts, which disposed of its remaining 11.2% stake in Asian operator Melco Resorts in May. Following this disinvestment, the company have pulled back from its Asian operations, focussing on the Australian market.
CrownBet had been one of the biggest opponents of the A$11.3bn merger between Tabcorp and Tatts Group, testifying in Australia’s Federal Court that the merger would be “bad for punters and competition” alongside fellow Australia operators Racing Victoria and Racing.com.
Despite the testimony, the Australian Competition Tribunal have this month ruled in favour of the merger dismissing allegations that it would harm competition in the Australian gambling industry.