Partygaming will nun auch Victor-Chandler

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Online gambling operator PartyGaming pulls ahead of the field in the race to buy Gibraltar-based sports betting firm

Partygaming, the world's largest online poker and casino operator, is leading the race to buy Victor Chandler Group, the sport betting firm.
The Observer has learned that PartyGaming is one of three bidders for the Gibraltar-based business, worth about £300m.

With a £500m war chest raised after its flotation last year, it sees the Victor Chandler sport betting business as a good fit.

Earlier this month PartyGaming entered the sports bookmaking market with the acquisition of the Bulgarian-based Gamebookers for £69m.

Victor Chandler Group was started by the grandfather of its present boss, also Victor Chandler. He has hired the corporate finance firm Zeus Capital to evaluate unsolicited approaches and advise on how to proceed.
Both Victor Chandler and PartyGaming refused to comment on a possible acquisition but well-placed sources confirmed PartyGaming's interest and said negotiations are likely to begin this September after Chandler returns from holidaying on his boat in the Greek islands.

Chandler, 55, inherited a floundering betting business after his father died. However, the business now has a £1.4bn turnover thanks to pioneering telephone betting.

He moved the business to Gibraltar in 1996 and trade took off. By doing this Chandler's avoided betting tax, incurring the wrath of Gordon Brown who abolished tax on punters' winnings as a direct result of Chandler's success.

Chandler's is seen as an attractive target because it does not take bets from America, where internet sports betting is illegal, and has a significant following in the Far East.

PartyGaming is keen to broaden its business away from poker. It currently derives most of its business from America but possible legislation to clamp down on internet gambling in the US could harm the company's business model. Sport betting business - particularly based in Europe and Asia - is seen as a good alternative for the firm.

Chandler Group built its reputation servicing high-rollers, but with the advent of its internet operations, which account for almost 80 per cent of bets placed, has developed a wider client base. As well as its sports betting, it operates online casino and poker sites. There are two other offers for Chandler though the identity of these would-be purchasers is not known.

The four founders of PartyGaming, plus one of the group's chief technicians, have sold shares worth close to £1bn in the company they formed nine years ago.

To retain the company's lucrative tax advantages, also in Gibraltar, however, the founders must retain a majority stake until 2010. But as they now own 65 per cent they can not sell much more of the business.

The flotation of PartyGaming last year was one of the most controversial the City had seen for years. The company was forced to cut its valuation after concerns were raised over the legal status of the firm's American business.


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