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Amaya Agrees to Acquire Rational Group, Owner of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker for $4.9 Billion

Acquisition Creates World’s Largest Publicly-Traded Online Gaming Company

(MONTREAL, CANADA & ONCHAN, ISLE OF MAN – June 12, 2014) – Amaya Gaming Group Inc. (TSX: AYA) (“Amaya” or the “Corporation”) and privately held Oldford Group Limited (“Oldford Group”), the parent company of Rational Group Ltd. (“Rational Group”), the world’s largest poker business and owner and operator of the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker brands, announced today they have entered into a definitive agreement (the “Agreement”) for the Corporation to acquire 100% of the issued and outstanding shares of Oldford Group in an all-cash transaction for an aggregate purchase price of $4.9 billion (the “Purchase Price”), including certain deferred payments and subject to certain other customary adjustments (the “Transaction”). All $ figures are in US dollars unless noted otherwise.

KEY TRANSACTION HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Transaction will result in Amaya becoming the world’s largest publicly-traded online gaming company. The online poker platforms PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker are collectively the world’s most popular and profitable online poker brands with more than 85 million registered players on desktop and mobile devices.

  • For calendar year 2013, pro forma combined revenue, EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA of Amaya and Oldford Group were $1.3 billion, $474.8 million and $473.8 million, respectively. For 2014, the Corporation is projecting pro forma adjusted EBITDA, assuming the Transaction had been completed as of January 1, 2014, of between $600 and $640 million.

  • The Transaction combines complementary businesses with minimal overlap: Isle of Man-headquartered Rational Group’s B2C poker business including PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, live poker tours and events, and online and TV poker programming; and Montreal-headquartered Amaya’s B2B interactive and physical casino and lottery gaming solutions.

  • Under the terms of the Transaction, Oldford Group shareholders led by Mark Scheinberg, founder and Chief Executive Officer, will dispose of their shares to a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amaya.  Mr. Scheinberg and other principals of OIdford Group will resign from all positions with Oldford Group and its subsidiaries on completion of the Transaction.

  • Rational Group’s executive management team will be retained and online poker services provided by PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker will be unaffected by the Transaction, with players continuing to enjoy uninterrupted access to their gaming experience.  

  • The boards of directors of both Amaya and Oldford Group unanimously approved the Agreement.

  • The Transaction will be financed through a combination of cash on hand, new debt, a private placement of subscription receipts, a private placement of common shares and a private placement of non-voting convertible preferred shares.

  • Affiliates of GSO Capital Partners LP (“GSO”), the credit division of The Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX), have agreed to participate in the debt financing, to subscribe for $600 million in convertible preferred shares, and to purchase $55 million of common shares of the Corporation with each common share priced at C$20 upon closing of the Transaction.

  • An investment manager (the “Investment Manager”), on behalf of its clients, has agreed to participate in the debt financing, to subscribe for approximately $270 million in convertible preferred shares, and to purchase approximately $55 million of subscription receipts.

  • No change related to this Transaction is contemplated for Amaya’s Board of Directors.

“This is a transformative acquisition for Amaya, strengthening our core B2B operations with a consumer online powerhouse that creates a scalable global platform for growth,” said David Baazov, CEO of Amaya.  “Mark Scheinberg pioneered the online poker industry, building a remarkable business and earning the trust of millions of poker players by delivering the industry’s best game experiences, customer service and online security. Working with the experienced executive team at Rational Group, Amaya will continue that tradition of excellence and accelerate growth into new markets and verticals.”

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Download and Read the Poker Player Digital Edition for June 2nd, 2014 (Vol. 17 Number 25)

June 2nd, 2014 Issue of Poker Player NewspaperDownload the June 2nd Digital edition PDF of Poker Player Newspaper.

Feature Story 
Poker Player Takes a Step Forward by Wendeen H. Eolis

Featured Strategy:
Mike Caro - Today's Word is BURDENS by Mike Caro

Tournament Results:
Bryan Campanello Wins $175K at Harrah’s New Orleans Main Event

Eric Blair wins Lodge Casino WSOP-C Main Event

Kyle Bowker wins Harrah’s Philadelphia Main Event

AND MUCH MORE, Download the new Issue PDF now!

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Poker News Brief: PPA Announces “Fight Back” Campaign

by Haley Hintze

The Poker Players Alliance has announced a grass-roots campaign designed to put poker players directly in touch with federal legislators to protest anti-online-gambling bills under consideration in Congress.  Called “Fight Back,” the new effort targets twin measures introduced by US Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and US Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), that are backed and drafted by the Sheldon Adelson-CEO’d Las Vegas Sands Corp.  While the twin bills have signed up about 20 co-sponsors, several legal and political groups have protested the bills, often as a violation of states’ rights regarding gambling.  Among the groups opposing the Graham and Chaffetz measures are Democratic Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (NASPL). More at: http://theppa.org/fight-the-ban/

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Poker News Brief: More Full Tilt Refunds Issued

by Haley Hintze

The Department of Justice-appointed administrator for the Full Tilt Poker remissions process, Garden City Group, released a second wave of refunds in early April.  Almost $6 million in online-poker balances was sent to about 2,800 players whose banking information could not be verified in time for inclusion in the larger first wave of payments earlier this year.  All told, GCG has issued about $81 million in FTP payment to date, with two large categories still under review – online affiliates and former players who enjoyed some form of sponsorship relationship with the site.  The funds for the ongoing refunds came from the 2012 PokerStars settlement with the DOJ, which acquired Full Tilt’s remaining assets in exchange for the remission funding.

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Poker News Brief: New York State Online Poker Bill Introduced

by Haley Hintze

New York State Senator John Bonacic (R-42) has introduced a measure seeking to authorize intrastate online poker. The new proposal isn’t the first time online poker has been considered in Albany, after being considered in conjunction with a controversial casino-expansion effort that finally passed in 2013. Bonacic’s new bill would define poker as a game of skill and would create as many as ten online poker licenses, and would open the door to player-pooling compacts with other states also offering regulated internet poker, including neighbor states New Jersey and Delaware. The original draft language of Bonacic’s bill does include bad-actor language designed to block any online sites that serviced New York residents following the passage of the 2006 UIGEA.

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Poker News Brief: Illinois Legislators to Reconsider iPoker

by Haley Hintze

State regulated online poker will again be on the agenda of topics as Illinois legislators return to the topic of expanded gambling within the state.  Several different forms of expanded gambling have been proposed for the revenue-strapped state, including a proposed downtown-Chicago casino, the large, new Rivers Casino near O’Hare, the online sale of lottery tickets… and, of course, state-regulated internet poker.  Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton has indicated only tepid support, stating that the controversial downtown-Chicago casino question must be answered before plans for Illinois online poker can move forward.

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Rift in California Tribal Negotiations over Possible PokerStars Software Deal

by Haley Hintze

Negotiations between competing California tribal-casino factions over differences in language in rival Cali intrastate online poker bills have fallen apart over allegations that PokerStars may be negotiating to at least one tribe and two major independent cardrooms. A 12-tribe group led by the state’s Pechanga and Agua Caliente bands issued a public statement against PokerStars and its parent Rational Group, demanding that a “bad actor” provision, designed to block PokerStars, be included in any California i-poker legislation. The rival Morongo tribal nation and the Commerce and Hawaiian Gardens card rooms have been named in media reports as negotiating with Stars for software services. PokerStars paid more than $500 million to resolve its federal “Black Friday” case but admitted no legal wrongdoing, and would currently be subject to approval by California gaming regulators rather than being blocked by a Cali i-poker bad-actor provision.

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Poker News Briefs: Twin Online Gambling Ban Proposals Introduced

by Haley Hintze

Twin Congressional measures seeking to reinvigorate the 1961 Wire Act and thereby make illegal most forms of Internet gambling, including poker, have been introduced in Congress. The bills, submitted by US Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and US Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), originated with the deep backing of billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which operates the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas. The preliminary forms of both bills were written by a federal lobbyist funded by Adelson, who hopes to curtail Internet-based competition to his existing land-based casinos. Both new Congressional measures, denoted as S. 2159 and H.R. 4301, respectively, have been sent to Congressional committees.

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Poker News Briefs: California Online Poker Bills Introduced and More

by Haley Hintze

Competing California Online Poker Bills Introduced – Two California intrastate online-poker measures were introduced in late February in the state’s legislature ahead of a deadline for 2013-14 consideration.  Both bills are supported by competing tribal-casino factions. One of the two is the reintroduction of an earlier bill (now known as SB 1366) by State Sen. Lou Correa, with the backing of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. A newer and competing bill, AB 2291, offered by State Rep. Reggie Jones-Sawyer, is backed by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, and other tribes. One possibly controversial element of the Jones-Sawyer bill is language that would make the playing of online poker on unlicensed sites a misdemeanor. Both bills were submitted as urgency measures, meaning two-thirds approval is required.

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Poker News Briefs: First Wave of Full Tilt Refunds Reaches Players

by Haley Hintze

Full Tilt Remissions Administrator Wires $76M in Refunds – DOJ-authorized claims administrator Garden City Group has delivered the first wave of Full Tilt Poker refund payments to US players whose bankrolls on the online site have been in limbo since April, 2011.  On February 28th, GCG sent a total of about $76 million to more than 27,500 former FTP players. The mass refunds represent the first of several payment waves to be issued by GCG over the coming months, and represent those players who accepted the balances shown in Full Tilt’s system without protest. Players with disputed balances and players who enjoyed either affiliate or rakeback relationships with the site, which was at one time the second-largest US-facing online poker offering, are subject to lengthier, individual review.

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Wendeen H. Eolis

World Series of Poker


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