Apollo Injects €500 Million Into SAZKA, Buys Canadian Casino Giant

Czech lottery operator SAZKA Group’s bid to seize the UK’s National Lottery from long-time operator Camelot just got major backing from Wall Street buyout fund Apollo Global Management which injected €500 million to finance its expansion efforts.

News also emerged that Apollo will acquire Great Canadian Gaming Corp. in a deal that values the Canadian casino operator at more than C$3.3 billion (approx. $2.5 billion) and represents the private equity giant’s latest big move into the casino industry.

SAZKA, which is owned by Czech billionaire Karel Komárek, announced in early October a surprise challenge to Camelot’s long-standing reign as the operator of UK’s National Lottery. Camelot’s license is set to expire in 2023 and the bidding war for the right to operate the prize draw finally commenced in late August after delays.

The Czech lottery operator has submitted its application to participate in the first stage of the race for the National Lottery license. SAZKA tapped late last month Sir Keith Mills, who led London’s 2012 Olympics campaign and served as deputy chairman for the London Organising Committee, as its National Lottery bid chairman.

SAZKA’s owner said Tuesday that with Apollo’s €500 million support, his team will be able to take the business to the next level. The recent injection will be used to finance SAZKA’s expansion efforts in Europe and North America, “with a focus on lotteries.”

Betting Big on Canada’s Casino Industry

It also emerged Tuesday night that Apollo would purchase Great Canadian Gaming Corp. in a $2.5 billion deal that marks the latest shift for North America’s land-based casino industry.

Great Canadian Gaming said that its board has unanimously approved the deal that will see Apollo pay C$39 per share for the Toronto-listed company.

Great Canadian Gaming was founded in 1982. It runs 25 casino and hospitality facilities in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. It has too been hit significantly by the Covid-19 pandemic as it had to close temporarily all of its properties in March.

Company CEO Rod Baker said Tuesday that they believe “Apollo’s extensive experience in the gaming sector will provide additional strategic benefits to help expand our gaming and hospitality offerings and to secure our position as a long-term market leader.”

Alex van Hoek, a partner at Apollo, said that the investment firm recognizes the challenges the casino industry is facing and is “committed to working with [Great Canadian Gaming’s]

management team, regulators and health authorities to allow the company to reopen its properties as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

Apollo has a history of investing in the gambling sector. Most notably, the company partnered with TPG for the 2008 leveraged buyout of Caesars Entertainment Corp. that eventually swept the casino giant into a long and complex bankruptcy case.

In September, Apollo approached William Hill with an informal full takeover offer. The British bookmaker eventually accepted a rival bid from Caesars. According to recent reports, Apollo is now eyeing William Hill’s non-US operations, including its UK retail betting network and European digital gambling business.

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