Gamesys takes £500m pot with Jackpotjoy sale

One of Britain’s most successful online gambling companies is poised to sell off some of its assets to a Canadian rival for more than £500 million.

Gamesys, founded in 2001 by Noel Hayden after he was inspired by a Space Invaders machine in his father’s hotel, is in final-stage talks to sell its main Jackpotjoy online bingo — which features adverts with Barbara Windsor — and slot machines brand to Intertain, which is listed in Toronto.

Intertain, which in December acquired the online casinos business Vera&John for £90 million, asked for trading in its shares to be suspended last week after confirming that it was in”advanced discussions” to acquire assets from an unnamed third party.

In its statement to the Toronto stock exchange, Intertain said the potential purchase was “in the range of C$1 billion”, or about £530 million, which analysts said would value the whole of Gamesys at well over £1 billion.

Although none of the parties involved would comment, one industry insider said the two sides were racing to get the deal completed in time to announce it at this week’s ICE Totally Gaming trade show at Excel London.

The source said that the transaction comprised the London-based group’s main Jackpotjoy brand together with an ongoing service agreement and a marketing, technical and customer support deal.

The deal will crystallise a multimillion-pound fortune for Mr Hayden, who owns about a third of the company, while Robin Tombs and Andrew Dixon, neither of whom any longer has day-to-day involvement, both have significant stakes.

It is understood that Mr Hayden negotiated the sale to Intertain himself, without any formal advisers, although one banker suggested that Roger Devlin, the Gamesys chairman and himelf a former investment banker, was likely to have been involved.

Gamesys, which also owns Sun Bingo! and Virgin Games, acquired two years ago, eschews publicity but has quietly established itself as one of Britain’s fastest-growing and most profitable online gambling companies. In 2012, it launched the first UK real-money gambling app on Facebook, but closed it last year “following a disappointing performance”.

Last year, the company delivered underlying earnings of £53.1 million from turnover of £200 million after processing a total of 5.1 billion wagers with a total value of £4.9 billion.

Unlike many of its rivals, it has always steered clear of jurisdictions where online gambling is illegal or unregulated, and has never sought to avoid paying taxes in Britain.

It has a strategic partnership with Tropicana, the New Jersey casino operator, and is monitoring the opportunity to enter California if online poker is regulated.