888 Holdings has agreed to pay Caesars Entertainment £2.2 billion for William Hill’s non-US operations.

888 Holdings will take over William Hill’s 1,400 UK betting shops and its European operations, including internet gaming brand Mr. Green, creating a combined workforce of about 12,000 people.

The Gibraltar-based company claimed the acquisition would help it save at least £100 million per year in costs, diversify its income streams, and take advantage of the rapidly growing sports betting industry.

A bidding war had erupted for the non-US assets between Apollo Capital Management, CVC Capital Partners and 888poker.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, William Hill’s British shops have been forced to close, but its online operations have soared, with digital sales up 38% in the first half of the fiscal year 2021. 888 claimed it has received “expressions of support” from additional investors, including global asset management Aberdeen Standard Investments, even though shareholders must still accept the plan.

In 2016, the company teamed up with bingo hall operator Rank Group to purchase William Hill for £3.6 billion. However, due to its poor value at the time and the massive debts that would have been used to fund the acquisition, this was refused.

It is “a transformative and very exciting moment in 888’s history”, according to Itai Pazner, the company’s CEO. The presence of William Hill’s more than 1,400 betting shops was “part of the appeal”, he added, and the company planned to leverage the stores to entice retail customers to sign up online.

Ulrik Bengtsson, chief executive of William Hill International, asserts that both William Hill and 888 strategies are highly complementary, with an ultimate focus on the product and customer experience. “In our industry, scale is becoming increasingly essential, and the merger of the firms will result in a tremendous alignment of brands and technology,” he said.

Betfred, William Hill’s high-street rival, was said to be interested in acquiring the physical locations in a transaction that would have roughly quadrupled the company’s UK footprint.

Ladbrokes, William Hill, Corals and Mecca are the four largest bookmakers who dominated the British betting landscape in the 70s and 80s. William Hill and Mecca merged in the 80s, while new leaders have emerged, with 888 evolving into a major player.