UPDATE 1-UK competition body to probe Rank casino deal
LONDON Aug 20 (Reuters) - Britain's Competition Commission will review gaming operator Rank's proposed acquisition of a rival casino business after a referral by the consumer watchdog, the OFT, which is concerned the tie-up will reduce competition in the sector.
Rank in May agreed to buy the casino business of private equity-owned Gala Coral in a 205 million pound ($321 million) deal which would add 23 UK casinos to its existing 35-strong chain and make it Britain's biggest casino operator.
"Rank and Gala are two of only three large national casino operators in the UK. This merger would represent a major consolidation which could be expected to reduce competition, both locally and nationally," Britain's Office of Fair Trading said in a statement on Monday.
The review by the competition regulator will delay the completion of Rank's acquisition.
The company had guided that the deal would be finalised in the third quarter of this year, but the Competition Commission will not report back until February 2013, pushing back the date for completion.
Responding to the news that the deal would be subject to a regulatory probe, Rank issued a statement saying it was considering the implications of the referral to the Competition Commission and would make a further announcement in due course.
Rank noted in its statement that the acquisition was conditional upon being given the green light by Britain's merger authorities.
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