Online gambling giant bet365 is considering the acquisition of the Australian business of its rival William Hill, local news outlet The Australian reported earlier today.
Reports about bet365’s interest in expanding its operations in Australia even further surface shortly after William Hill announced in mid-January that it would undertake a review of its Australian business. The British bookmaker entered the Australian sports betting market back in 2013 when it acquired local operator Sportingbet together with Isle of Man-based GVC Holdings.
William Hill paid the amount of £485 million for Sportingbet’s Australian and Spanish operations, while GVC assumed control over Sportingbet’s other operations.
William Hill said in its latest trading update from January that it would review its Tom Waterhouse-led Australian business due to growing regulatory pressure on international online betting operators that target local bettors. The major bookmaker said that the upcoming changes to Australia’s sports betting landscape would affect its profitability, hence its decision to reconsider its presence in the local market.
Bet365 is not the first rival gambling operator to have been eying William Hill’s Australian business. According to reports from local news outlets, Ladbrokes Coral and Paddy Power Betfair have also lined up in anticipation for confirmation that their rival would sell its local business.
All of the above-mentioned companies have been operating in Australia with licenses from the lower-tax Northern Territory to turn the country into one of the most competitive and lucrative online sports betting jurisdictions.
As mentioned earlier, the likes of William Hill, bet365, and Ladbrokes have been facing growing pressure from regulators and politicians, which will certainly bring significant changes to Australia’s betting landscape.
Concerns and warnings about growing problem gambling rates and international operators exploiting loopholes in Australia’s gambling laws to avoid taxation resulted last summer in the introduction of a nationwide ban on the provision of online casino and poker games.
However, the federal government also announced that it would be cracking down on online sports betting operators, even though their activity was legal in the country. The political backlash prompted a package of sweeping reforms, including a ban on the so-called “free bets” and on credit betting.
In addition, several state governments have been discussing and have approved the introduction of a 15% point-of-consumption tax that would require operators to contribute 15% of the losses generated by customers based in any of the states to their governments.
The new taxation regime has already been introduced in South Australia, and is expected to take effect in Queensland and Western Australia. Victoria and New South Wales have also discussed the possibility to impose the tax on operators targeting their punters, but have not set a rate yet.
The recently completed merger of Australia’s biggest betting companies Tatts and Tabcorp is also expected to affect the country’s gambling landscape, as foreign businesses might be forced to consider consolidation in order to be able to survive the growing regulatory pressure combined with the increasing competition from their newly formed and larger local competitor.