Canadian poker giant places a $4.7B bet on the future of gambling in the US

A Supreme Court decision that will likely end up legalizing sports betting across the board in the US has led to a pre-emptive shakeup in the online gambling industry.


April 24, 2018

Canadian poker giant Stars Group Inc. purchased UK-based Sky Betting & Gambling — the world’s largest publicly traded online gambling company — for $4.7B.

Sports betting is on the verge of legalization in the states, and Stars hopes Sky is the trump card it needs to cement its position as the world’s leading platform for online gambling. 

What about Vegas — isn’t sports betting already legal in the US?

Actually, no. A federal law called the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act (or PASPA, an acronym best read out loud to oneself in a whisper) made sports betting illegal in the US in 1992. 

Everywhere, that is, except Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana — which grandfathered in their existing state laws. But Nevada is the only state that allows full-blown, go-for-broke betting on sports.

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Now, a new court decision is upping the ante

The Supreme Court has taken up a New Jersey case claiming that PASPA is unconstitutional — and if they rule in the state’s favor, it’ll not only strike down the 26-year-old sports gambling ban, it’ll also open the doors to a huge market of under-the-table US gamblers.

Currently, America’s $150B illegal sports betting industry makes the largest legal gambling market ($19.2B in the UK) look like chump change.

Everyone wants some of the winnings

Eager to collect that sweet, sweet gambling tax revenue, 15 states have already introduced state-level legislation to allow betting without holding final votes — ya know, just in case.

Similarly, the MLB and the NBA are both vocal cheerleaders for legalized sports betting — as long as their leagues get a 1% ‘integrity fee’ to enforce compliance. DraftKings, a fantasy sports platform, has also started ‘staffing up’ in anticipation of the legalization.

After announcing their acquisition of Sky, Stars Group’s stock jumped 10% — the highest it’s risen since 2010 — and the company’s market cap rose to $4.7B, signaling their bet might pay off after all.

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