Canadian online poker giant The Stars Group Inc has returned to the Australian market after the surprise acquisition of a majority 62% stake in CrownBet Holdings Pty Limited for US$117.7 million.
CrownBet, which launched in 2014, is one of Australia’s most prominent online sportsbooks with unaudited annual revenues growing from around AU$76.5 million in 2015 to A$204 million in 2017.
Former owner Crown Resorts announced last year its intention to divest a number of assets, revealing soon after that it had entered into a formal agreement to sell its 62% stake to a consortium led by CrownBet CEO Matthew Tripp.
In an announcement, The Stars Group said it had partnered with the other shareholders of CrownBet, including the CrownBet management team led by Tripp, to complete the all-cash purchase and “will continue to work directly with Mr Tripp, who will remain in his position and continue to operate the business in Australia.”
The Stars Group is entitled to appoint a majority of directors on the CrownBet board.
“We are excited to enter the regulated Australian sportsbook market with CrownBet,” said Rafi Ashkenazi, CEO of The Stars Group. “CrownBet has become one of the fastest growing online sportsbooks in Australia through its strong management team, proprietary technology, mobile app, unique partnerships and market-leading loyalty program.”
It was less than six months ago, in September, that The Stars Group’s number one asset, PokerStars, officially withdrew its real money services from Australia following implementation of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, which closed loopholes in the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 and strengthened the Australian government’s ability to prosecute unlicensed online operators.
The Stars Group said that its majority acquisition of CrownBet had been approved by the Northern Territory Racing Commission subject to it satisfying certain standard conditions.