Paddy Power eyes more Aussie buys

By Geoff Percival

Paddy Power-Betfair boss Peter Jackson has said the company is “very keen” on making further acquisitions in Australia, where it already leads the online betting market through its Sportsbet subsidiary.

The company’s shares rose nearly 2% to close out a strong week in which they grew by over 20% on the back of it announcing fresh takeover talks in the US market, which looks set to be deregulated.

Mr Jackson said further consolidation in Australia is likely on the back of the country introducing a new “point of consumption” online tax.

The state of Victoria surprised the market this week by introducing an 8% levy on online bets, half of which is expected elsewhere in Australia.

Mr Jackson said the tax will make it difficult for many smaller players to compete. 

“We’d be very keen to look at opportunities at sensible prices and without disrupting our existing business. We are interested in bolt-on acquisitions in the regulated markets in which we operate,” he said.

Mr Jackson was speaking after Paddy Power-Betfair’s AGM in Dublin, at the end of a busy week for the company.

Apart from the Australian news, the company announced merger talks with US ‘fantasy sports’ company FanDuel, in the wake of a court ruling relaxing US betting restrictions.

Furthermore, the UK government said it would impose maximum betting restrictions on in-shop gaming machines and increase its tax on online gaming revenues.

Paddy Power has welcomed the gaming machine ruling — though it wanting a £10, rather than £2, minimum stake ruling — and said it may look to buy shops forced into closure from rival operators on the back of it.

Mr Jackson said it remains “very hard to speculate” upon the effect of an online tax hike as the detail remains unclear. 

He said the UK government should be careful not to push it too high as that could push customers to illegal offshore players who offer no player protection.

Regarding growth in the US, Mr Jackson said a number of states are ready to relax their laws and that the company is well-placed to benefit from that. 

Already with a number of assets in the US, he said “I like the hand that we’ve got [in the US market].”

Despite refusing to comment directly on the FanDuel talks, Mr Jackson said it should be “relatively straightforward” for Paddy Power-Betfair to get an operating licence for sports betting in New Jersey, saying the company is making preparations to enter that market.

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