By Andy Young
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) looks set to give the green light to Tabcorp’s proposed merger with fellow gambling giant Tatts Group.
Although the consumer watchdog raised some concerns in the Statement of Issues (SOI) it released yesterday, it is satisfied that punters will still have sufficient choice of where to gamble should the deal go ahead.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said: “The ACCC has consulted extensively with industry participants within the racing, wagering, and gaming industries. The matter raises complex competition issues in a range of different areas, and industry participants have provided many differing views, all of which we will need to examine in greater detail.
“The ACCC’s preliminary view is that the proposed merger is likely to substantially lessen competition in the supply of monitoring and other services to pokies venues in Queensland.”
The ACCC says, given these concerns, Tabcorp has recently provided the ACCC with a divestment proposal to sell its Queensland electronic gaming machine monitoring business, Odyssey. The ACCC said that it is seeking comment on this divestment proposal.
The ACCC notes there is limited competitive overlap between the retail (i.e. bricks and mortar) wagering operations of the merger parties which are exclusively held in separate states and territories. The ACCC considers Tabcorp and Tatts primarily compete for online and telephone customers.
“It is our view that strong competition between online corporate bookmakers will mean recreational customers will continue to have choice about where to place their bets,” Sims said.
In response Tabcorp said that it is “well advanced” in addressing the issues identified by the ACCC.
In a statement Tabcorp said: “The ACCC has raised one substantial issue of concern, which is in relation to electronic gaming machine monitoring services and repair and maintenance services in Queensland.
“To address this issue, Tabcorp has committed to divest its Odyssey Gaming Services business and is well advanced with a sale process. Any sale of the Odyssey business is subject to the receipt of ACCC and other approvals and will be subject to the transaction completing.”
The company added: “Tabcorp believes that the proposed combination with Tatts will deliver value for both sets of shareholders, as well as significant benefits to other stakeholders across Australia including the racing industry, venue partners, customers and Governments.
“Tabcorp will continue to review the SOI and assess its options to maximise the prospects of receiving competition approval for the transaction.”
The ACCC has now invited further submissions from all interested parties in response to its SOI, to be received by 24 March and has said that it will give its final decision regarding the merger on 4 May 2017.