Australian A$11.3bn gambling merger gets go-ahead

Fruit machines Image copyright AFP
Image caption Australians lose more per head gambling than anywhere else in the world

A merger between Australian gambling giants Tabcorp and Tatts Group has been approved by authorities.

Plans to form a business worth A$11.3bn ($8.6bn; £6.7bn) emerged last year.

Despite objections from rival betting companies, the Australian Competition Tribunal found the merger would have "substantial public benefits."

Tabcorp and Tatts hope joining forces will help compete against the rise of online betting.

Shares in both firms rose by about 5% on Tuesday.

National obsession

As well as running traditional sports betting facilities, often found in bars and clubs, Tabcorp and Tatts also have businesses including state lotteries and slot machines, known locally as pokies.

While profits fell at both companies last year, some states believe the merger could turn Australia into one of the most profitable markets in the world, outside of Hong Kong.

Betting is a national obsession in Australia which has the world's highest gambling loss per head, according to UK consultancy H2 Gambling Capital, with Australians losing an average of US$1,130 (£918) a year.

The country's watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had flagged "major concerns" about the deal including the market power of Tabcorp's broadcast business.

But Tabcorp bypassed the ACCC by taking the proposed merger straight to the tribunal.

The only condition imposed on the deal is that Tabcorp goes ahead with the planned sale of a gambling compliance business.

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