Baltic force

International gambling and sports betting company Entain has reportedly offered to buy Olympic Entertainment Group for more than $1bn. Olympic is one of the leading gambling concerns in the Baltic region. Neither company has commented on the news, which was told to BNN Bloomberg by sources who wished to remain anonymous, as the information is considered private.

Olympic’s online gambling business and casino operations in Lithuania and Croatia

Entain would make an initial payment to grab Olympic’s online gambling business and casino operations in Lithuania and Croatia. It would then potentially pay another sum in 2023 based on performance.

The two companies are also negotiating an option that would allow Entain to acquire Olympic’s business in other countries in early 2023. Before then, Entain has offered to contribute funds into said business if Olympic’s bondholders extend the maturity of the company’s debt.

Tumultuous year for Olympic’s owner

Olympic Entertainment Group was founded in 1993 by Armin Karu, who currently serves as chairman of the board. Through 2008, it opened land-based casinos in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. It has since opened casinos in Italy and Malta and has exited some of its former markets. The company entered the online gambling business in 2010.

As of December of last year, Olympic operated 111 casinos in six countries. It also owns the online gambling brands OlyBet and MaxBet.

Olympic was acquired by Novalpina in March 2018 for €288m ($325m).

Earlier this year, the company’s partners could not agree on what direction it should take to deploy new capital from Olympic’s fund. Having lost faith in leadership, investors took control of the fund and later voted to place Olympic’s holdings under the management of Berkeley Research Group.

“Dysfunctional” Novalpina dissolved, leaving investors hoping its assets could be salvaged, which appears to at least be happening in the case of Olympic Entertainment Group. Novalpina Capital is also the owner of NSO Group, which developed spyware software called Pegasus. NSO has been criticized for Pegasus, as it is known to be used by autocratic governments to spy on political enemies, journalists, and political activists.

Entain not afraid to mix it up

Entain is no stranger to mergers and acquisitions, as it is a company essentially created entirely by acquisitions. Founded in 2004 as Gaming VC Holdings (later GVC Holdings), it has bought Sportingbet, bwin.party (parent of partypoker), and Ladbrokes Coral in the last decade among many other brands.

This year, Entain itself has been an acquisition target. In January, MGM Resorts International offered $11bn to Entain, but Entain rejected it, saying that it did not value the company high enough. Then, this fall, DraftKings made a run, offering $20bn in September. Just a day or two later, it increased the bid to $22.4bn. In late October, DraftKings said that it was ending its chase.

Entain CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen later confirmed that MGM “played a role” in a deal with DraftKings not getting done. MGM and Entain jointly own BetMGM, the sports betting company that is quickly gaining market share in the United States. MGM said that it would need to approve the sale of Entain, considering its involvement in the BetMGM joint venture.

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