Dotting i’s and crossing t’s

888 Holdings, owner of 888poker and a slew of 888-branded online gambling sites, appears to be the winning bidder in the competition to buy the non-US assets of sports betting giant William Hill. The company put out a statement on Tuesday to say that is in “advanced” discussions with Caesars Entertainment regarding the acquisition, but cautioned that it is not a done deal yet.

“There can be no certainty that these advanced discussions will result in a transaction,” said 888. “A further announcement will be made as and when appropriate.”

UK newspaper The Times says that 888 Holdings bid more than £2 billion, much higher than earlier estimates that the bidding would top out at around £1.5 billion.

According to weekend reports, Caesars was down to two suitors for William Hill’s assets outside of America, which include William Hill International, Mr Green, and William Hill’s UK betting shops. CVC Partners, parent company of German sports betting leader Tipico, withdrew from consideration in the last few days.

Full bore into sports betting

This is obviously a major financial move for 888, but it is also a significant strategic move, as well. 888 is an major online gambling player, but in poker, casino games, and bingo, not so much sports betting. It does have sports betting, but it is not the vertical for which the company is known. Adding William Hill outside of the United States vaults 888 into another tier for sports wagering.

And though it looks like 888 is about to make an international leap in the sports betting world, it is not ignoring the United States. Coincidentally or not, 888 announced an Tuesday the launch of a new sports book in conjunction with Sports Illustrated in Colorado called SI Sportsbook. This is 888’s first US sportsbook, just in time for Thursday’s start of the NFL season (ok, maybe that was the reason for the timing).

The near-news of 888’s big acquisition (we’ll call it “near” news right now, since it’s not official) goes back a year to when Caesars Entertainment agreed to buy William Hill for £2.9 billion. The deal closed this past spring.

Caesars, already a massive gambling company, was only interested in William Hill’s US-based sportsbook assets and made it known that it was going to sell off the non-US pieces of its new acquisition. Suitors lined up, including partypoker owner Entain and Apollo Management Group, which had previously tried to buy William Hill.

888 and William Hill actually both tried to buy each other at one point. William Hill made a push for 888 in 2015, offering £750m. The following year, 888 joined up with Rank Group to offer £3.2 billion for William Hill, but William Hill’s board thought the price was too low.

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