The Stars Group (TSG) which is the parent company for PokerStars, recent announced that it is pushing through with the acquisition of Sky Betting & Gaming (Sky Bet) in a bid to strengthen its sports betting operations.
Sky Bet Confirms Acquisition
For weeks, the Toronto-listed TSG has been speculated to be swooping down on a billion dollar deal to acquire the English Football League sponsor Sky Bet. In a press release April 21, TSG put to bed the speculations and confirmed that they have agreed on a cash and stock transaction valued at $4.7 billion to acquire Sky Bet from CVC Capital Partners and Sky plc. Once the acquisition is completed by the third quarter of 2018, it will make PokerStars the world’s biggest publicly listed online gaming company. They are also expecting at least $70 million a year in cost synergies.
Currently, PokerStars owns 12 percent of the UK gaming market share. Skybet, on the other hand has the largest active online player base in the UK, with 80 percent of their revenues coming from mobile device games. Alun Bowden, a senior consultant for Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, said that the deal will make PokerStars a UK powerhouse beside GVC and Paddy Power Betfair.
Many gaming and financial experts also expects the acquisition to position PokerStars better in the global iGaming landscape. For the most part, PokerStars and other TSG brands have been strongly present in the UK, only recently expanding operations to the German and Italian sports betting markets. Sky Bet’s presence in these markets can further strengthen PokerStars as an international brand.
PokerStars Expanding Sports Betting Operations
According to Rafi Ashkenazi, TSG’s Chief Executive Officer, one of the biggest operational and financial benefits of the acquisition is the expansion of PokerStars’ sports betting products. Currently, the majority of Sky Bet’s revenues are generated by sports betting. PokerStars is poised to inherit this sports betting potential, which will lead to greater revenue diversification for the brand.
This is not the first time PokerStars is betting on sports betting. In 2016, Amaya Inc (before it was renamed to TSG) launched BetStars, the sports betting brand beside PokerStars. BetStars launched in several markets including Germany, Italy, Denmark, Spain and Portugal.
Later that same year, the company also tried to secure a merger with UK bookmaker William Hill before calling it off in October 2016. While Amaya Inc. wanted to secure the deal, it did not push through because William Hill couldn’t get shareholder approval.
However, The Stars Group and PokerStars could not be stopped in terms of their pursuance of expanding their sports betting products. TSG confirmed in March that they were able to acquire Australian online sports betting operator CrownBet and strengthen their sports betting offering.
The $117.7 million deal bought TSG 62 percent of CrownBet, and marked the company’s re-entry into the Australian market. PokerStars left in September 2017 due to amendments to Australia’s gambling regulations. With the Sky Bet acquisition, TSG is now in a strong position to expand its sports betting offerings.
In a statement, Ashkenazi said, “SBG’s premier sports betting product is the ideal complement to our industry-leading poker platform. The ability to offer two low-cost acquisition channels of this magnitude provides The Stars Group with great growth potential and will significantly increase our ability to create winning moments for our customers.”
PokerStars To Enter US market?
TSG’s sports betting moves in the past two month comes just in time of a major shake-up in the sports betting landscape in the US.
Legislations to introduce sports betting in many US states have already started to gain momentum even before the US Supreme Court formalizes a ruling that will allow New Jersey to legalize sports betting. PokerStars, as one of the world’s biggest iGaming providers in the world is sure to take steps to offer sports betting in the United States once the sports betting ban is overturned.
Gaming analysts also believe that a bigger and stronger brand will also help TSG repair its image and influence iGaming lobbyist activities in America. TSG and PokerStars continue to take steps in the right direction to strengthen their brand and prepare for a bigger sports betting market.

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