Competition issues have forced longstanding Eversheds client Stanley Leisure into an alliance with private equity house H-G Capital as it considers a £250m bid for casino operator London Clubs International (LCI), represented by Lovells.
Stanley issued a statement last week saying that it was considering a friendly takeover of LCI. If the deal goes through, Stanley and H-G will split LCI’s casino estate, which includes high-rolling London casinos Les Ambassadeurs and 50 St James as well as others in London, Southend, Brighton and overseas.
The decision to pull in a private equity house was influenced by the Office of Fair Trading’s resistance to further industry consolidation in the sector. The theory is that the introduction of an investor from outside the sector may be enough to get around the Office of Fair Trading’s opposition to the deal.
Stanley’s acquisition programme may have been sparked by changes in the industry proposed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s far-reaching Budd Report, said Hilary Stewart-Jones, a Berwin Leighton Paisner partner and former head of legal for betting and gaming at Ladbrokes.
Changes proposed by the Budd Report will permit operators to expand their existing premises if the local authorities permit them to do so, or operators could offer a slightly different type of casino.
“The reason that people would want to buy more casinos,” said Stewart-Jones, “is that it’s envisaged under the Budd Report that the casino operators will have the top-tier licensing in the UK. That means they can do any type of betting and gaming within the casino environment and have lots more fruit machines.”
It could also make operators look to other parts of the UK, as presently there is a limited number of areas permitted to have casinos.
Stewart-Jones said: “Previously only tourist areas or areas of sophistication, such as London, have been permitted to open casinos. The Government’s response to the Budd Report will probably change that.”