Playtech, which has just launched live dealer casino products in NJ and MI, is well positioned as an online casino supplier in the US

Playtech Delays Accepting Aristocrat Takeover Bid While Considering JKO Play Offer

Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Aristocrat Leisure may despise that phrase right now, because Playtech announced yesterday that it will delay answering the Australian company’s $3.7 billion acquisition bid until Feb. 2. Playtech is using that time to consider a rival offer from JKO Play.

Originally, Playtech scheduled the shareholder meeting for Jan. 12 in London. The irony that Playtech set its new decision date for Groundhog Day does bring to mind the movie about replaying the same 24 hours over and over again. Indeed in the online casino world, that scenario repeats itself via takeover talks.

For instance, Entain turned down several acquisition offers. Most notably during 2021, Entain spurned DraftKings and its own partner in the joint venture of BetMGM, which is MGM Resorts International. Currently, BetMGM leads the US market in online casino gambling.

In Entain’s case, none of the takeover bids won out.

Playtech said yesterday that it would be different:

“Despite any adjournment of the Court Meeting and General Meeting, there remains no certainty that JKO’s approach will result in an offer for the Company, nor as to the terms on which any offer might be made. The Playtech Directors continue to recommend unanimously that Playtech Shareholders vote in favour of the Aristocrat Offer at the Court Meeting and in favour of the Playtech Resolutions to be proposed at the General Meeting.”

UPDATE (1/21/2022):

JKO Play has withdrawn its Playtech bid. Aristocrat is going forward with its offer to acquire Playtech. 

Aristocrat announced today:

“The Playtech Board Recommended Acquisition remains the only firm offer available to Playtech shareholders, despite the substantial amount of time provided to potential bidders to make alternative proposals. Aristocrat further confirms that the regulatory approvals process remains well on track, and it is committed to completing the acquisition as quickly as possible. Aristocrat reiterates that the terms of the Recommended Acquisition provide full and fair value for Playtech shareholders, with attractive cash certainty.

“Aristocrat also notes comments in Playtech’s announcement regarding a number of material investors who have not to date engaged meaningfully about their views on the Recommended Acquisition. Aristocrat urges all Playtech shareholders to vote in favour of the Recommended Acquisition at the relevant shareholder meetings to be convened on 2 February 2022 (UK time).

“Aristocrat further urges the Playtech Board to take all available steps to deliver a transaction with Aristocrat that facilitates Playtech shareholders receiving full and fair value for their investment.”

Why JKO may win Playtech’s heart

Returning to thoughts of what may happen with Playtech, the Isle of Man-based online gambling software supplier may shift toward the JKO bid for reasons other than price. Playtech is concentrating on its online gambling vertical and JKO plays into that strength.

Playtech is working on disposing of its financial trading business, Finalto. On Christmas Eve, Playtech launched live dealer products in Michigan and New Jersey.

If any of that streamlining sounds familiar, it’s no coincidence. Scientific Games (SG) recently got rid of its sports betting and lottery businesses in order to focus on iGaming. SG is also working on entering the US live dealer market, but hasn’t yet launched products through any US online casino operators.

Meanwhile, JKO may more closely align with Playtech’s goals than Aristocrat. While Aristocrat does have digital offerings, it’s mainly known as a slot machine manufacturer.

JKO, a London-based investment and acquisition company, is led by Eddie Jordan and Keith O’Loughlin.

Jordan’s “business interests include investments in gaming, entertainment and sport” and O’Loughlin’s skills are even more concentrated on iGaming.

According to JKO’s site:

“Keith has over 25 years of gaming and technology and business transformation experience. He has previously worked with Scientific Games, Ladbrokes/Coral and Boyle Sports, in all cases transforming business technology and product platforms to create growth and enhanced financial returns.”

JKO has until Jan. 26 to convince Playtech shareholders. That date falls a week before the Feb. 2 meeting.

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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