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BC-US--Sports Betting-Fox Sports,2nd Ld-Writethru, US

May 9, 2019

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Fox Sports viewers tuning in to some broadcasts this fall will not only see the game, but also will get betting predictions.

The network announced a partnership Wednesday night with the parent company of the PokerStars online gambling giant.

Fox Sports is buying just under 5% of The Stars Group for about $236 million. Both companies will offer real-money sports betting this fall in states where it is legal and they are licensed.

The Stars Group says it has market access through licensing in 13 states, and is seeking licensing in others.

“This will transform the way sports fans consume sports in America,” said Eric Shanks, CEO and executive producer of Fox Sports. “We know that many Fox Sports customers already wager.”

Rafi Ashkenazi, CEO of the Toronto-based Stars Group, said the fast-growing U.S. legal sports betting market is where companies want to be right now.

“We believe the U.S. is the single most exciting long-term growth opportunity for the company,” he said Thursday on a conference call to discuss the 25-year deal.

The move comes a week before the anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court decision clearing the way for states to offer legal sports betting should they so desire. Eight states currently take wagers, three others have legalized it in 2019 and many other states have bills in their legislatures.

The Stars Group is licensed in New Jersey through an affiliation with Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City and in Pennsylvania through Mount Airy Casino Resort. It also has a deal with Eldorado Resorts encompassing 11 other states, Stars Group officials said.

Analyst John DeCree of Union Gaming said Eldorado stands to benefit greatly from the deal.

“With a major national media partner like Fox Sports, (The Stars Group’s) sports betting prospects in the U.S. just got a whole lot better, which means (Eldorado’s) partnership with TSG also just got a lot more valuable,” he wrote Thursday.

He wrote that Eldorado “is in an envious position when it comes to U.S. sports wagering. (It) has a strong retail betting solution with William Hill and digital betting solution with TSG. (Eldorado) has successfully monetized its market access and in doing so, procured two strong partners in the U.S. sports betting race.”

Fox Sports and The Stars Group will offer sports wagering under the name Fox Bet in states that have legalized it. They also will offer a free-to-play game offering cash prizes to users who correctly predict the outcome of sporting events.

They hope to have both up and running by August or early September, before the start of the NFL football season.

The Stars Group owns or licenses gambling brands, including PokerStars, PokerStars Casino, BetStars, Full Tilt, BetEasy, Sky Bet, Sky Vegas, Sky Casino, Sky Bingo, Sky Poker and Oddschecker.

The network has the option to acquire half of the Stars Group’s U.S. business within 10 years.

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Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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