Posts Tagged ‘Stars’

The Stars Group Buys Sky Betting & Gaming for $4.7 Billion

 The Stars Group Buys Sky Betting & Gaming for $4.7 Billion

The Stars Group announced over the weekend that it has acquired Sky Betting & Gaming (SBG) for $ 4.7 billion in combination cash and stock deal. According to The Stars Group in a press release, the addition of Sky will make the company the largest publicly traded online gambling company.

The Stars Group is clearly best known as an online poker company, as its name comes from its ownership of PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker room, but this purchase balances the company’s numbers quite nicely. The Stars Group says that if Sky, CrownBet and William Hill Australia (the latter two of which were also recently acquired) were counted in the 2017 financials, poker would make up just 37 percent of The Stars Group’s revenue. An almost equal number – 34 percent – would have come from sportsbook, while 26 percent would have been casino.

“The acquisition of Sky Betting & Gaming is a landmark moment in The Stars Group’s history,” said Rafi Ashkenazi, TSG’s Chief Executive Officer, in the press release. “SBG operates one of the world’s fastest growing sportsbooks and is one of the United Kingdom’s leading gaming providers. 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.”

“We are delighted to join forces with The Stars Group,” added Richard Flint, Sky Betting & Gaming’s Chief Executive Officer. “We have had a fantastic last few years and would like to thank CVC and Sky for supporting us in becoming a leading online operator in the UK. This transaction allows us to offer our best-in-class products to a truly global audience. We’re excited about our future together.”

The Stars Group outlined the benefits of the acquisition, the first of which we have touched upon:

• Greater revenue diversification and significantly enhanced exposure to sports betting, the world’s largest and fastest growing online gaming segment, as the majority of SBG’s revenues are generated by sports betting.
• An increased presence in regulated markets, particularly within the United Kingdom, the world’s largest regulated online gaming market.
• The development of sports betting as a second low-cost customer acquisition channel, complementing The Stars Group’s core poker business and enabling more effective cross-sell to players across multiple verticals.
• Improved products and technology as a result of the addition of SBG’s innovative casino and sports book offerings, and portfolio of popular mobile apps.
• Identified cost synergies of at least $ 70 million per year.

The Stars Group will pay CVC Capital Partners and Sky plc, the owners of Sky Betting & Gaming, $ 3.6 billion in cash. To make up the other $ 1.1 billion, The Stars Group will pay with 37.9 million newly issued common shares. The value is based on the closing price of The Stars Group stock (NASDAQ: TSG) on April 20th, which was $ 29.30.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of this year and has been unanimously approved by TSG’s Board of Directors.

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The Stars Group Owns PokerNews.com, Per PokerNews.com

 The Stars Group Owns PokerNews.com, Per PokerNews.com

PokerNews.com, one of the longest tenured poker news sites in the industry, admitted yesterday what was really a poorly-kept secret: it is owned by PokerStars. The revelation, which was surprising in that iBus Media – PokerNews’ corporate name – pretended like nobody really knew, was made during an internal conference call and then posted as a written article by iBus Media’s Head of Poker Content Joss Wood on Monday.

The announcement came in the context of management relaying a new acquisition strategy because of “significant increases in both revenue and headcount.”

Thus, the higher-ups felt it was time to clue its employees in on who owns PokerNews. Somehow, the staff didn’t know, but according to PocketFives President and Editor-in-Chief Lance Bradley (via tweet), employees had been told for a long time that the rumors were “BS,” so maybe that’s why.

As Wood explained in the call/article, Antanas “Tony G” Guoga created iBus Media 15 years ago and in 2010 began selling off his stake in the company to The Stars Group, which now owns a majority position in the business.

From there, the statement tried to minimize the importance of PokerStars’ ownership, saying:

iBus Media has always maintained an arms-length relationship with the Stars Group and there will be no change in the way the business is managed moving forward.

To put the commercial relationship into context, PokerStars and its associated brands currently represent less than 5% of iBus’s affiliate revenues.

iBus Media Director Jon Squires also looked to deflect:

iBus has always maintained its independence and will continue to do so. PokerNews will continue to be the voice of players and a promoter of online poker.

This is an exciting time at iBus as we are growing the range and quality of the services that we offer our igaming partners. Several recent hires have brought increased depth to our management team and we are extremely optimistic about the group’s ability to continue its growth trajectory.

We shall continue to work as hard as we always have to provide both players and clients with the best experience, as we shall continue to grow high value services for the igaming sector.

You may sense a tinge of eye roll in my text, but really, PokerNews does good work overall and has represented the poker world well in its decade and a half existence (it’s not like I’m sitting here breaking hard-hitting news day in and day out). It’s just that its reporting is often PokerStars-centric, with occasional pieces not being news so much as Stars fluff. And I’m not even saying that’s wrong – we all need to pay the bills – it’s more that it’s funny that the company has finally come out and admitted that PokerStars owns it after everyone knew that Stars at the very least had an influential role in the site.

Where PokerNews really shines is in its live tournament reporting, which I have relied on for many tournament articles. Live tournament reporting is not easy and PokerNews has helped tons of poker fans follow the major events. Even that reporting, though, tends to focus on PokerStars players, particularly early on in the tournaments, before the emphasis has to be on the chip leaders.

So now we know that The Stars Group owns PokerNews and it is probably better that we do. As long as the reporting is quality, that’s really all that matters.

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MGM Acquires WNBA’s San Antonio Stars, Will Relocate Team to Las Vegas

 MGM Acquires WNBA’s San Antonio Stars, Will Relocate Team to Las Vegas

Fear of gambling keeps getting harder to justify for professional sports leagues as MGM Resorts International has purchased the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars and will move the team to Las Vegas for the 2018 season. After decades of staying away from the gambling capital of world, the leagues are now flocking there. The NHL’s Golden Knights just began its inaugural season, the NFL’s Oakland Raiders will be moving to Las Vegas by 2020, and the United Soccer League’s Las Vegas Lights are slated to begin play next year.

The NBA, which backs the WNBA, has had Summer League games in Las Vegas for a number of years.

WNBA President Lisa Borders told the Associated Press, which originally broke the story this morning, that the league has been eyeing Las Vegas “for some time.”

Simultaneous to the Stars’ move comes the hiring of former Detroit Pistons great and New York Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer as the Stars’ new head coach and president of basketball operations.

“He’ll run the basketball side of the business,” Borders said in her interview with the AP. “The MGM team and the league will work to staff the business side. The folks that will run business, sales, social, digital, all the functions to run the business.”

The team will play at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Lilian Tomovich, MGM’s chief experience and marketing officer, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal of the decision, “Mandalay Bay is a smaller, more intimate arena with about 12,000 seats. We feel it’s the absolute right size arena for the fans to have that intimate experience to come watch basketball.”

As mentioned, aside from NBA Summer League games and minor league baseball, the major professional sports leagues in the United States have kept their distance from Las Vegas, claiming that sports betting can damage the integrity of the game. This is true – sports betting could damage the integrity of the game – but the fallacy of this argument is that it really doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not a team is located in Las Vegas.

In instances when someone committed sports betting crimes – say, taking money to shave points – the teams involved haven’t been based in Las Vegas or Nevada. The gambler or mobster was able to bet the money no matter where the teams involved were. Perhaps they bet with an illegal bookie, perhaps they actually placed the bets legally in Vegas (or had an accomplice place the bets). It doesn’t matter.

And today it is even sillier to worry about a team being in Las Vegas when it comes to betting on the games, as the players involved in the games could always place bets online if they want. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics kick off the NBA season tonight and if he wanted, LeBron James could logon to an online sports book and bet on or against his team quite easily. And he is nowhere near Las Vegas at the moment.

MGM is the second gambling corporation to take ownership of a WNBA team. The Connecticut Sun has been owned by the Mohegan Sun since 2003.

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Amaya Changes Name to The Stars Group

 Amaya Changes Name to The Stars Group

PokerStars parent company Amaya Inc. has finally made the transition it previewed this spring, embracing the power of the PokerStars brand and changing its corporate name to The Stars Group. Along with the rebranding comes a headquarters move from Montreal to Toronto.

In a brief press release, the company said:

TORONTO, Canada – August 1, 2017 – Amaya Inc. (Nasdaq: AYA; TSX: AYA) today announced that it has completed the previously announced change of its corporate name to The Stars Group Inc., continuance under the Business Corporations Act (Ontario) pursuant to which it has become an Ontario corporation, and move of its head office from Montreal to Toronto. The Stars Group’s common shares will begin trading under the ticker symbol “TSG” on the Nasdaq Global Select Market and “TSGI” on the Toronto Stock Exchange at market open today. In connection with the name change, The Stars Group also adopted a new corporate logo and will launch a new website at http://www.thestarsgroup.com.

Outstanding stock certificates will not be affected by the name change and will not need to be exchanged. All securities trading, filings and market-related information will be reported under the new corporate name and trading symbols.

The groundwork for the name change naturally began three years ago when Amaya purchased Rational Group, then the parent of PokerStars, for an insane $ 4.9 billion. At the time, people were all like, “What in the hell is Amaya and where is all that money coming from?”

Well, we all certainly know who Amaya is and was by now and the payments for the acquisition have been made. In the ensuing three years, Amaya has taken full advantage of the PokerStars brand, getting BetStars into the public consciousness, creating the PokerStars Championship and PokerStars Festival live poker tours out of the corpse of the European Poker Tour, and signing on high-profile celebrity endorsers like Usain Bolt and Kevin Hart.

The Stars Brand also owns former PokerStars rival Full Tilt as part of its post-Black Friday settlement with the United States Department of Justice, but Full Tilt is now just a skin of PokerStars, rather than its own, independent online poker room.

It only made sense to change the company’s name, as PokerStars is arguably the most recognizable name in online gambling (I said “arguably,” which is actually my way of asking you not to argue with me, as I recognize that other opinions are valid), whereas Amaya was, well, the company who bought PokerStars. I mean, heck, did anybody know that Rational Group previously owned PokerStars?

Amaya has also gotten some bad press over the last couple years, highlighted by the company’s former CEO, David Baazov, who has been charged by Quebec’s securities regulatory agency of insider trading related to the Rational Group acquisition. Even through all that, Baazov made an attempt to buy all of Amaya’s stock and take it public, but his efforts were thwarted to the point where he has sold off much of his holdings in the company. The transition to The Stars Brand is likely a way to cleanse the company of the Baazov stink.

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PokerStars Leaning Less on Sports Stars for Marketing

 PokerStars Leaning Less on Sports Stars for Marketing

For a decade, PokerStars has used sports stars to market its online poker room, with a particular emphasis on the marketing strategy in recent years. According to a recent e-mail to the site’s affiliates, though, it appears that this strategy may be about to disappear.

The notice to affiliates reads as follows:

Starting April 1st 2017 we will be focusing on our ongoing Free Welcome Bonus Offer. In addition, our branding team has designed some wonderful creative and banners to help support your acquisition efforts and drive in some big numbers!

Therefore, as of midnight March 31st 2017, all Cristiano Ronaldo & Neymar Jr promotions materials (ie. banners, images, etc) will have to be replaced as the Cristiano Ronaldo & Neymar Jr banner creative will no longer be valid for you to use from that date.

When PokerStars first gained real notoriety, it was because Chris Moneymaker had won a satellite on the site to gain entry into the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event and then went onto win the most coveted prize in poker. From there, PokerStars looked to recruit WSOP champs and they did so, as the next two Main Event winners, Greg “Fossilman” Raymer and Joe Hachem, also became PokerStars pros. Stars became the poker room where champions played.

Later, as the age of young internet poker stars developed, PokerStars recruited a stable of online pros.

But all of those sponsored players were mostly just known to the poker community. Sure, casual poker fans probably knew Moneymaker and Raymer, but nobody who just watches poker on ESPN would know any of the online poker 20-somethings.

Thus, PokerStars dove headlong into recruiting sports stars as its brand ambassadors in 2015. Some, like tennis legend Boris Becker, had been with PokerStars for a while, but it was really 2015 when Stars ramped it up. Guys like Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, Jr. are known worldwide; both bring a gigantic following with them.

But those guys are also very expensive, something that may have led to this decision by PokerStars to halt its flood of sports star marketing (as a member of the poker media, I can assure you, the marketing is constant – I seemingly get multiple e-mails a week from Stars promoting something having to do with Cristiano Ronaldo).

The quoted e-mail doesn’t necessarily mean that all sports star marketing is done; it would be odd for it to just stop so suddenly. A simple “Free Welcome Bonus Offer” is not going to cut the mustard for PokerStars’ continued push to attract more customers. PokerStars may just be reshuffling the deck a bit and de-emphasizing athletes as spokespeople. We will find out as the future unfolds.

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