Playtika Ltd., a developer of casino and gambling-theme online social games based in Israel, and until recently a subsidiary of Caesars Entertainment Corp., has just been acquire by a group of Chinese investors and firms looking to make inroads in the rapidly expanding and increasingly lucrative market of mobile gaming.
The investors, headlined by Shanghai Giant Network Technology Company, include the Yunfeng Capital equity arm of the Alibaba Group’s chairman Jack Ma, Hony Capital Fund, Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., and the China Minsheng Trust Company. Bloomberg reports that the consortium issued a statement Sunday July 31 detailing the purchase of Playtika from Caesars for the sum of $4.4 billion in cash. They also assured that despite the acquisition, the group will be hands-off regarding the operations of Playtika, which will continue as it always has from its company headquarters in the Isreali city of Herzliya.
At first glance the deal seems a bit off, considering that Playtika’s new owners come from a country wherein organized gambling is illegal, save for certain licensed casinos to be found in the Macau Special Administrative Region. But Playtika’s platform, despite its plethora of gambling games, cannot be considered traditional gambling itself as the virtual currency gained and used in the games are not convertible into real currency. The consortium stressed in its statement that the game-maker’s approach will not be altered.
The purchase of Playtika has provided the Chinese investors with an in to the mobile online gaming scene, the phenomenal growth of which has seen ever growing numbers of players “emigrating” from the traditional videogame platforms of PC/laptop, dedicated game consoles and even portable gaming devices. Analyst Grant Govertsen of the Union Gaming Group LLC remarks that eventually would eventually become massive once the regulations proposed for it have been ironed out, and that “despite the legal issues in China, these Chinese investors are more comfortable playing the long game.”
Playtika, according its website, was the first gaming company to bring free-play gambling and casino games to social networks such as Facebook. During its time as a subsidiary of Caesars Interactive Entertainment, it released the “Caesars Casino” Facebook app game, which featured long-time casino favorites like blackjack, roulette, slot machines and video poker. The company’s co-founder and CEO
Robert Antokol said that Playtika was “incredibly excited by the commercial opportunities the consortium will make available”. The fast emerging markets tapped by the Chinese investment group can then be accessed by the game-maker’s online services.
Caesars Entertainment initially bought ownership of Playtika through its Interactive Entertainment Division in 2011. After the corporation’s largest operating unit filed for bankruptcy in 2015, it has begun selling its Interactive arm and its constituent subsidiaries. The “World Series of Poker” and other online gaming businesses of Caesars that do use real money were not included in the Playtika deal, in deference to the Chinese consortium.
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