UPDATE 1-Canada's Amaya Gaming buys PokerStars owner for $4.9 bln

Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:42am EDT
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(Changes source, adds details)

June 12 (Reuters) - Canada's Amaya Gaming Group Inc on Thursday said it will buy for $4.9 billion Rational Group, which owns and operates the world's biggest online poker company PokerStars.

The transaction will be financed with a combination of cash on hand, new credit facilities and equity financing, the company said in a statement.

The deal is backed by Blackstone Group LP's credit division, GSO Capital Partners, which will buy more than $600 million in convertible preferred shares and other securities. Deutsche Bank, Barclays and Macquarie Capital will provide $2.9 billion in credit facilities and other financing.

Rational Group, owned by Oldford Group, operates gaming and related businesses including PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, which are collectively the world's most popular and profitable online poker brands with more than 85 million registered players on desktop and mobile devices.

Amaya said it expects the transaction will "expedite the entry of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker into regulated markets in which Amaya already holds a footprint, particularly the USA".

Online gambling was effectively outlawed in the United States until December 2011, when the Justice Department backed a court decision that said a 1961 law banning interstate sports betting did not apply to other forms of gambling.

Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware now offer some form of internet gambling, and eight other states considered legislation last year.

In 2011, federal prosecutors in Manhattan launched a massive crackdown against online poker in the United States.   Continued...