Why does William Hill Want to Takeover 888 Holdings?
It’s less than 24 hours since William Hill confirmed that it had been holding talks with 888 Holdings – the umbrella company behind 888 Poker and all the other 888 gambling brands – to discuss the possibility of a takeover of the latter by the former. The reaction of the markets was unequivocal, as shares in 888 Holdings skyrocketed, demonstrating clear support from the move in the finance sector. Fans of both brands were more reserved, however, with few clamouring to celebrate the news right away.
The vast majority of news outlets who have covered the story have looked at the intricacies of the deal, and the difficulties arising from trying to find agreement between them. The questions left unanswered up to now, however, seems to be why William Hill would have its eye on 888; how each brand might benefit from the move; and what would takeover would mean for players – particularly poker players?
How far along is the deal?
First of all, we should probably address the fact that these talks are far from conclusive. Yesterday’s announcement merely confirmed the speculation that had been swirling over the last few days that that talks were indeed taking place. While a figure of £750 million has been put on the deal by many, it is important to remember that this is based almost purely on the value of the publically traded shares in the company (which are currently about 210p). Sources suggests that the owners of 888 would be looking for the equivalent of 300p a share before a sale could take place.
So, there’s still a lot to play for, but that doesn’t mean that we know nothing about the deal and the motivations behind it.
Why does William Hill want 888 and how does each operator benefit?
You may be sick of hearing this by now, but it seems that these talks are yet another result of the tax hike which came as a result of the introduction of the Point of Consumption Tax last year. Why no one is suggesting that either of these gambling Goliaths are in any danger of going under in the face of the new tax, but it’s no secret that the POCT has made a lot of businesses a whole lot less profitable.
As we’ve seen all over the online and mobile gaming industry, it seems that William Hill and 888 are sticking to the motto “safety in numbers” – pooling their resources (and perhaps, in the long run, player numbers) in order to remain as profitable and competitive as ever. That’s not the end of the story by a long way, however. The move would also be incredibly strategic, as it would give each party access to the vast and varies resources of the other.
While William Hill Poker has always been a strong contender in online and mobile poker since each of them came into existence – a fact that has secured its place in the Droid Poker top 10 poker sites before now – there’s no denying that its heart has always been in sports betting. 888 on the other hand has always excelled technically with its poker offering, and there’s no denying that of the two, 888 demonstrates the more attractive option for online poker, and online and mobile gaming more generally.
The real winner would no doubt be William Hill, who would benefit immensely from 888’s poker platform, which is generally considered to be one of the very best in the industry. 888, however, is also no doubt the smaller of the two brands, and would benefit from the boost in exposure a partnership with William Hill would mean.
What it means for player
You’re still reading? Good, that means you get to find out how you stand to gain from the takeover.
You’re always going to worry when one of your favourite brands merges with another. Changes will inevitably happen, and you can never be entirely sure what kind of changes you are going to see; whether the character of your favourite poker room or casino will stay recognisable to how it was before the merger, and if you’ll still enjoy playing
The good news in this instance is that whether you’re a fan of William Hill or 888 already, you’re bound to be happy with the outcome of a marriage between the two. If you’re already playing poker at William Hill – and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t – you’re going to see huge improvements in the way the games run. Seating allocation will run smoother, game will be more reliable, it’ll probably even look better. 888 knows how to do online and mobile poker.
But what if you’re playing at 888 already? You already have a great playing experience, right? Consider this though: once 888 is attached to William Hill, it has to worry a lot less about turning a profit. If money is less of a concern, 888’s going to be able to be a little more generous with its bonuses, promotions and guaranteed prize pools in tournaments. It’s probably the case that we’ll see a reduction in the size of rakes – meaning an increase in the size of pots generally!
There’s plenty of reasons why everyone with an investment in this partnership would want the takeover to go ahead. While it may still be at the point of being ‘advanced talks’, I for one will be rooting for a positive outcome.
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