Aussie competition watchdog cool with Flutter-Stars merger


australia-competition-watchdog-flutter-stars-online-betting-mergerThe proposed online gambling mega-merger of Flutter Entertainment and The Stars Group (TSG) has reportedly received the blessing of Australia’s competition watchdog.

On Tuesday, the UK-listed Flutter announced that it had received notification from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that the company’s proposed union with PokerStars’ parent company TSG had been granted informal approval.

Flutter cautioned that the deal was still subject to approval by the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board, as well as other international regulatory bodies. (The announcement made no mention of the Australian Competition Tribunal‘s opinion on the merger.) The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority announced earlier this month that it was examining the deal to ensure it won’t result in “a substantial lessening of competition.”

Flutter runs Australian online sports betting operator Sportsbet, while TSG controls the BetEasy online wagering business. The two companies are believed to control roughly one-quarter of Australia’s online betting market and thus the proposed Flutter-TSG union would potentially create the market’s single largest online operator (and around 15% of the merged companies’ overall business).

So far, none of the two companies’ online betting rivals in Australia have publicly voiced objections to the deal. Tabcorp Holdings, which acquired rival Tatts Group a few years back to create a truly dominant land-based wagering business, is likely all too aware of the regulatory bullet it dodged in merging those two businesses, so its silence is probably not all that great a surprise.

TSG has publicly said little since the merger plans were announced and the company announced last month that it would once again be skipping its traditional call with analysts when it releases its Q4/FY19 earnings report on February 27. That also allows TSG to avoid questions regarding its faltering online poker product, so you know, win-win.

Investors mostly shrugged at Tuesday’s news, pushing Flutter shares up 1% by the close of trading in London, while TSG’s shares are currently up around 2% on the Nasdaq exchange.