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Tabcorp elects to bypass ACCC approval for Tatts merger

Tue, Mar 14, 9:49am by Staff Writer

Tabcorp has decided to withdraw from the ACCC’s process of approval for the merger with Tatts Group and has instead elected to go straight to the Australian Competition Tribunal.

The unprecedented step comes just days after the ACCC gave an informal nod to the super-merger, which would create a gambling powerhouse worth around $11 billion.

ACCC chief Rod Sims said that the merger was likely to receive approval in principle, saying he believed that it didn’t warrant a reduction in competition in the gambling and wagering market.

However, formal approval was not set to be granted until early May and was contingent on Tabcorp selling off its Odyssey Gaming Services business, which monitors gaming machines across Australia, including in Queensland, where Tatts has pokie licenses.

While Tabcorp was already in the process of divesting itself from Odyssey, it advised the ACCC on Monday that it would walk away from the process and instead seek determination from the Australian Competition Tribunal.

It believes that process will allow it to better state the benefits of the merger, including the impact it will have on the funding of the racing industry.

Sims said while the move was unusual, he respected Tabcorp’s right to pursue whatever process it believed best.

“We completely respect their right to take whatever process they want,” Mr Sims said. “Those processes are available. We are surprised they have done what they have done.”

The merger has widespread support across key stakeholders, and Tabcorp wants those benefits made public during the approval process.

It also wants a more expedite process, with the ACCC unable to completely guarantee that it will have a final decision by May.

Under the Tribunal process, it expects approval or otherwise by Jun 13, enabling it to progress to the merger process by the end of financial year.

“Through our extensive discussions with stakeholders since announcement of the transaction, it has become increasingly clear that there is broad-based support among our stakeholders for the proposed combination with Tatts,” Tabcorp chief executive David Attenborough said in a statement.

“After careful consideration of the [ACCC’s] statement of issues, Tabcorp believes the merger authorisation process will deliver greater transaction certainty.”

“It enables public benefits, including our strong funding relationship with the racing industry, to be taken into account.”

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