- William Hill (WMH.L) is to pay 424 million pounds ($643 million) for full control of its online business, marking an acceleration of the expansion of Britain's largest bookmaker.
The deal to buy out the 29 percent stake in William Hill Online held by software company Playtech (PTEC.L) was the company's second major deal in the past three months.
It has already agreed to pay 460 million pounds for the Australian and Spanish operations of online gambling company Sportingbet (SBT.L), a deal set to complete on March 19.
The two transactions were designed to reshape William Hill, set up in 1934 and a familiar name on the British high street where it has more than 2,000 betting shops across the country.
The company, which generates 90 percent of its revenue from Britain, wants to expand overseas and continue its strong growth in online where increasing numbers of customers now bet.
William Hill will raise around 375 million pounds in a rights issue on a two-for-nine basis at 245 pence per share - a 39 percent discount to Thursday's close - to help fund the Playtech deal. Its shares rose 6.5 percent to 431 pence by 0900 GMT, while Playtech fell 4 percent to 549 pence.
The online gambling sector is seeing a wave of consolidation. Ladbrokes (LAD.L), Britain's second-largest bookmaker, completed the 30 million euro ($39 million) buyout of betting exchange Betdaq on Friday after a number of failed takeover talks with larger companies.
Chief executive Ralph Topping, who has worked for the bookmaker for 40 years, said: "This move rounds off a successful 12 months which have seen us take our first steps into the U.S. and, through the pending Sportingbet acquisition, lay the foundations for growth in the attractive Australian market".
William Hill triggered an option to buy the stake held by Playtech since the venture was set up in 2008.
The price was broadly in line with forecasts. Topping said it had been agreed after bankers for both sides submitt
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(Reuters) - Sportech will start taking online bets on horseracing in Connecticut in coming weeks and sees potential growth from the relaxation of gambling laws in the United States.
The British company already has an exclusive license to provide betting on horses and greyhounds in Connecticut, a state of four million people. It will shortly be able to offer online gambling there to complement its existing betting shops and telephone operations.
"We will launch online within the next eight weeks," Chief Executive Ian Penrose told Reuters on Wednesday.
"If we looked at what has happened with online gambling in Britain, we would expect some really dramatic growth over the next three to five years," he added.
Regulations on gambling in the U.S. remain a patchwork but there are signs of liberalization. New Jersey last week approved online gaming and said it would continue to fight to legalize sports betting.
"As the North American gaming market starts to regulate, we are already there on the ground with offices and 700 employees," said Penrose. The company had expanded from being a British business to one with half of its revenue from North America, he said.