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Evolution Gaming and NetEnt merger threatened by CMA probe

The proposed merger of iGaming giants NetEnt and Evolution Gaming has come under threat by a CMA probe. The fear is that the merger will create an online gambling monopoly in the UK.


The online casino industry was all abuzz in June of this year when a press release by live casino games industry leader, Evolution Gaming, voiced their intent to acquire NetEnt with a bid of more than £1.7 billion.

Jens von Bahr, Chairman of Evolution, said:

“This strategic deal marks a significant step towards Evolution’s long-term vision of becoming the global market leader in the online casino industry. The combination of Evolution’s strong offering in Live Casino with NetEnt’s leading position in online slots will result in a world-class portfolio of online games that will enable us to serve a growing customer base.”

The announcement created a stir given that not only is NetEnt is one of the most innovative and player-centric software developers to date it had only months before completed its own groundbreaking acquisition.

In September 2019 NetEnt had acquired Red Tiger for an incredible upfront cash payment of £200 million, plus the potential for an additional £23 million by 2022 based on market performance.

The Evolution of Evolution Gaming

For the casual observer of the iGaming industry, it also came as a surprise that a relatively lesser-known game developer like Evolution would be the one to swoop in and scoop up the likes of NetEnt.

The reality is that what had begun as a very niche product line with a small selection of table games had blossomed into a massive specialised offering and Evolution are at the pinnacle of the live dealer revolution.

Their laser focus on creating high-quality live dealer casino games led them to invest in training centres for croupiers, stay on the bleeding edge of streaming technology and make full use of the advancement in high definition screens found in mobile phones.

They also tapped into a very human need – the need to connect with others. For decades the social aspect of gambling at your favourite land-based casino had been missing from online gambling. Evolution reawakened players to the joys of these interactions by allowing them to interact with both the dealer and other players.

This was never more valuable than during the pandemic when for most people self-isolated for their physical health but found themselves at their wits end when it came to social interactions. The combination of safe gambling measures to limit financial risk plus the social benefits of live dealer games made them a great hobby over a very trying time.

Fears of an Industry Stranglehold

While there are those who would applaud Evolution Gaming’s bid to become the largest iGaming software developer on the planet online casino regulators may not share their enthusiasm.

September 22nd saw the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launch an official probe into the industry impact of merging the two companies. The CMA is citing the potential for the merger to lead to a “substantial lessening of competition” in the UK as the reason for the investigation.

The Authority has opened the review of the proposed merger to comment by interested parties. All parties will have an opportunity to give their input up until October 5th 2020. The Authority will then review all the feedback it has received and determine whether the probe will continue to phase 2 or allow the merger to move forward by November 16th 2020.

This announcement has taken the wind out of Evolution and NetEnt’s sails as the two behemoths had hoped to complete the proposed merger by November 2nd.

Should the CMA find the proposal to indeed create a credible monopoly this deal could soon become a story of what could have been.

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