Who Owns PokerStars? iGaming Mergers Explained
The following article will explain the most prominent iGaming mergers since 2010. Who owns PokerStars? Who owns Ladbrokes? What’s happened to William Hill? This blog will attempt to explain the mergers and acquisitions within the iGaming industry in the last decade, the reasons for all the changes and what may potentially happen in the future.
So to answer the question, who owns Poker Stars? Flutter Entertainment own PokerStars. Flutter also own the brands SkyBet, Paddy Power, Betfair, Adjarabet and FanDuel amongst others. Its a long story how this happened.
Flutter Entertainment Explained
Over a few years 5 major gambling companies combined into one of the biggest online betting companies, Flutter. This is how it happened:
Poker Stars started in 2001. Owned privately, it became the largest online Poker company by overtaking PartyPoker in 2006 due to US Government suspending PartyPokers operation in the United States. PokerStars acquired their rival Full Tilt Poker in 2012, further cementing their status as the largest online Poker site in the world. In 2014 Amaya bought PokersStars it became the Stars Group.
Meanwhile BSkyB, the UK’s largest Satellite TV company, owned the online betting site Sky Betting & Gaming with brands Sky Bet, Sky Vegas, Sky Bingo and Sky Poker. In 2014 private equity firm CVC bought Sky Bet with a view to float as an IPO a few years later (BSkyB still retained a minority stake of the company). By that time Sky Bet was fast becoming one of the biggest online gambling sites in the UK, driven by their relationship with Sky Sports, who had Premier League rights and the successful free-to-play Super 6 game.
As Sky Bet was about to list through an IPO, Pokerstars successfully bought Sky Bet from CVC. This was an excellent fit for both companies as they had different strengths, PokerStars were international and focussed on-line Poker, Sky Bet were in the UK market and specialised in Sports betting and casino.
Paddy Power Merge With Betfair
In 2015 two of Europe’s largest online betting sites, Paddy Power and Betfair, merged to become Paddy Power Betfair. In 2019 Paddy Power Betfair announced that it would rebrand as Flutter Entertainment.
Flutter Acquire FanDuel
FanDuel was originally founded as a daily fantasy sports provider in the United States. In 2018 Flutter began the purchase of Fan Duel, initially buying a 61% stake. This acquisition immediately gave Flutter Entertainment a large presence in the USA, where states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania had regulated online gambling.
Flutter Buy PokerStars
In October 2019, Flutter acquired The Stars Group, making the larges online gambling company in the world. Flutter now own Paddy Power, Betfair, Sky Bet, Fan Duel and PokerStars. Flutter now own 3 of the biggest sports betting brands in the lucrative UK market. They also own one of the biggest gambling brands in the US in Fanduel and the world’s largest online Poker site. They continue to grow, recently acquiring Tombola Bingo, Italian betting site Sisal and Georgian site Adjara Bet.
Which Sites Do Entain Own?
Entain plc rival Flutter as one of the largest online betting companies in the world. Listed on the London stock exchange, Entain have followed a similar journey to Flutter by buying gambling companies over several years. Brands currently owned by Entain include Bwin, Bet MGM, Ladbrokes, Coral, Bet.pt, Gala and Foxy.
GVC Holdings came to prominence in 2012 by buying the part of Sportingbet. Whilst William Hill bought the SportingBet sites in Australia and Spain, GVC took control of Sportingbet sites outside those two markets.
Bwin was acquired by GVC in 2016. Bwin has a significant market share in several countries, especially in Europe. Prior to 2016 Bwin had merged with PartyGaming, so GVC inherited not just Bwin but also the Party Gaming brands.
In 2017 GVC bought Ladbrokes Coral group, another group of popular betting brands. Ladbrokes Coral group was formed in 2016 when Ladbrokes bought Gala Coral Group. 10 years previously Coral had bought Gala. So by 2017 Ladbrokes Coral group included brands Ladbrokes, Coral, Gala Casino and Gala Bingo.
In 2017 GVC acquired Cashcade Foxy Bingo and Cheeky Bingo. This further reinforced GVC’s dominance in online Bingo.
In 2018 GVC agreed a joint venture with MGM Resorts in the USA to create online brand BetMGM. BetMGM is currently one of the largest betting sites in the regulated US states.
2020 GVC rebranded to Entain. Flutter are currently larger than Entain in terms of revenue, but Entain have potential to be the largest gambling operator in the world. They have a large family of brands across markets worldwide. iGaming Tracker currently have the following sites tagged as Entain;
Bet.pt, Betdaq, BetMGM, Borgata, Bwin, Casino Club, Coral, Crystal Bet, Danskespil, Druckgluck, Eurobet, Foxy Bingo, Foxy Games, Gala Bingo, Gala Casino, Gala Spins, Gamebookers, Gioco Digitale, Ladbrokes, Party Casino, Partypoker, Slot Club, Slots Heaven, Sporting Bet and SportiumTivoli.
Who do Evolution Gaming Own?
Analysing online casino content share through our iGaming Tracker software, Evolution Gaming are the biggest online slots provider and by far the largest supplier of Live Casino Games. Evolution gaming was founded in 2006 and have gone through a number of acquisitions to become the largest supplier of iGaming casino content
Evolution acquired Ezugi in 2018. Ezugi gaming was a supplier of Live Casino content, with presence on sites in regulated US states as well as in Asia. This acquisition added extra studios and knowledge of new markets which strengthened Evolutions position as the number one Live Casino provider.
Netent Buy Red Tiger
Originating from Sweden, Netent were one of the most successful casino slot studios. Some of their titles, like Starburst and Gonzo’s Quest, are amongst the highest ranking casino games worldwide. Their slot games did not include a progressive jackpot element. One of the fastest growing games studios at the time, Red Tiger Gaming, specialised in progressive jackpot titles. Netent bought Red Tiger Gaming in 2019 becoming the world’s largest provider of online casino slots.
Evolution Buy Netent
In 2020 Evolution Gaming bought Netent, immediately becoming one of the largest providers of online casino slots. The acquisition enabled Evolution Gaming to vastly broaden its product portfolio and also merge slots with live casino games with titles such as Gonzo’s Treasure Hunt.
Big Time Gaming Licence Megaways
Several hundred online slot titles are launched every year. However most of them are formulaic, following a set number of reels and ‘winning lines’, regularly 20 lines and maxing at 243 lines. In 2015 Big Time Gaming developed a new gaming mechanic, Megaways, where there were over 117,000 lines. Games with this mechanic such as Bonanza became a big hit. In 2018 Big Time Gaming started to licence their game mechanic, firstly to Blueprint Gaming. By mid-2019 several game studios were releasing hit slot titles with the Megaways mechanic.
Evolution Acquire Big Time Gaming
In 2021 Evolution entered into agreement to acquire Big Time Gaming. This gave Evolution the games catalogue developed by Big Time Gaming but also the licensee revenue of all Megaways games developed by other game studios.
Who do Playtech Own?
Playtech are one of the oldest and largest gambling software providers in the industry. They develop software for online casinos, sports betting and Bingo. They also have an extensive online slot catalogue and provide Live Casino content. They are currently listed on the London stock exchange. at the time of writing, they had rejected a bid by Aristocrat Leisure.
Virtue Fusion was the biggest Bingo network in the UK. In 2010 Playtech acquired Virtue Fusion, reinforcing Playtech’s portfolio of iGaming software. The Bingo network was used on many popular websites including Sky Bet and Bet365.
In 2011 Playtech strengthened their online slots portfolio by buying Ash Gaming. Ash Gaming were a UK based slots studio with hit titles such as Amazon Wild and Madness House of Fun.
In 2016 most Playtech slot content was exclusively served on their own Playtech platform. ‘Casino’ web pages on sites such as William Hill and Ladbrokes only provided Playtech slot content. However, many casino sites provided slot content from several game studios, Netent being the most successful example. Quickspin, A Swedish slot supplier was acquired by Playtech in 2016. This allowed Playtech to have a presence on many more websites alongside studios like Netent and Play’n Go.
Eyecon are a casino slot studio based in Australia, specialising in slots for Bingo sites. Their game, Fluffy Favourites, was the number 1 game on Bingo casino pages for several years. In 2016 Plautech bought Eyecon, allowing Playtech a successful portfolio of slot content to add to their existing catalogue.
In 2018 Playtech bought Italian betting firm Snaitech. This was Playtech’s first vertical acquisition of a Business to customer website, diversifying their revenue. The acquisition enabled Playtech to have a significant share of the Italian betting market.
US Gambling Regulation – How Its Accelerated M&A
In 2013 the state of New Jersey began to allow online gambling. Since then, several states have allowed regulation for sports betting. Some of the states have also regulated online casinos. At the time of writing New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia allow online casinos. New York has allowed sports betting in Jan 2022, it is speculated that online casinos will follow quickly.
Familiar Land Based Casino Brands
The US online casino market has familiar names, such as BetMGM, Caesars Casino and Golden Nugget. These brands had land-based casino experience, but not in iGaming. The regulation of US states led to several acquisitions that will be described in detail in a future blog.
Bet MGM are part of the Entain group, Caesars Casino bought William Hills and sold its non-US operations to 888 Holdings. DraftKings acquired Golden Nugget Online Gaming in 2022. Flutter bought a majority stake of Fanduel in 2018.
iGaming Merger Types
Why do companies acquire others? There are several reasons including:
- Vertical integration of companies in the industry. When Playtech acquired SnaiTech they owned an online site for the first time. This allowed them to own the fully own the vertical chain of slot content, operating software and the site.
- Allowing entrance into new markets. Entain’s partnership with MGM Resorts to form BetMGM allowed Entain and Flutters acquisition of FanDuel allowed both companies to have a major presence in the US.
- Expansion into new product segments. Evolution Gaming wanted to expand into the RNG slots market, they did this by acquiring Netent.
- Acquiring knowledge and experience in online gaming. Caesars Casino acquired William Hill for their back office technology, allowing them to have a modern platform for their online sites in the US.
- iGaming Mergers for more Content. There have been many acquisitions recently where companies buy smaller game studios to instantly acquire more content and expertise. For example, Light & Wonder (formerly known as SG Digital) have acquired Elk Studios and Lighting Box Games. US casino giant IGT with land based and an online division, acquired iSoftbet. iSoftbet have a huge online catalogue and are more popular in different markets to IGT.
Listed Companies vs. Privately Owned
So far we have discussed publicly listed companies, shares are publicly available to buy. There are some large privately owned companies in the iGaming sector which, so far, have not been acquired by other larger companies. These include:
- Pragmatic Play – One of the world’s leading provider of online slots and Live Casino content
- Games Global – Formally the exclusive game studios and aggergator of Microgaming, one of the oldest and largest online casino content suppliers
- Play’n Go – Based in Malta, one of the most popular providers of online casino slots including their hit ‘Book Of Dead’
- High 5 Games – Based in New Jersey, High 5 Games have a significant presence in the regulated US states
As these companies are privately owned it is difficult to see how profitable large and profitable these companies are, however you can estimate by using out Slots Tracker and Live Casino Tracker and comparing their market share to similarly sized listed companies.
iGaming Mergers – Who’s Left?
The abundance of iGaming mergers and acquisitions shows no signs of abating. The Leo Vegas group are in the process of being acquired, whilst other Scandinavian brands such as Betsson and Kindred have not been acquired yet. As long as more game studios and websites come to prominence there will always be iGamimg mergers and acquisitions.