London-headquartered William Hill has confirmed it is in preliminary talks with an online gaming firm about a possible takeover deal.
The Wood Green-based bookmaker has entered discussions with Probability, which operates out of Gibraltar. The online gaming company owns the Lady Luck brand and claims around one million UK customers play its poker, casino and bingo games.
The popularity of betting online has grown dramatically in the last few years, aided by the increasing number of consumers who own tablet computers and smartphones, allowing them to bet on the move.
William Hill already has online poker, casino and bingo games, but it is now hoping to increase its share of this market to compete with the likes of 888 Holdings, which runs Wink Bingo.
Probability’s share price increased sharply after it disclosed it had received an approach from William Hill and the company is now valued at approximately £17.5m. William Hill has since confirmed its interest in a takeover deal.
The high street bookmaker must now indicate whether it intends to table an offer by 5pm on October 17, in order to comply with new takeover regulations.
Ladbrokes, based in the London Borough of Harrow, has also been looking into the possibility of increasing its online presence. Talks with 888 Holdings fell through, but it has since been speaking to Sportingbet.
The gaming industry has already seen a major takeover this year, when bwin and PartyGaming merged to create bwin.party digital.
Analysts expect online gambling to continue to grow in importance to companies operating within the sector.
Ladbrokes said the number of bets made with mobile devices has gone up significantly, while Betfair recently reported the number of bets placed online almost doubled in the last quarter.
In two years, mobile gambling will make up 11 per cent of the amount kept by companies after paying out winnings, according to Global Betting and Gaming Consultants estimates.
The group said that mobile gambling currently accounts for below one per cent of all gambling around the world.
However, it makes up nine per cent of gambling that takes place away from sites like betting shops, casinos and race tracks. This has increased from 7.2 per cent in 2007 and is expected to go above 11 per cent within two years.
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