* Competition regulator rules on Gala-Rank merger
* Deal would leave Rank and Genting as only major UK casino
LONDON Dec 18 Gaming group Rank could
have to sell six casinos in Britain to win clearance for a
takeover of a rival operator, the Competition Commission said on
Rank had agreed in May to buy the casino business of private
equity-owned Gala Coral in a 205 million pound ($332 million)
deal which would add 23 UK casinos to its existing 35-strong
chain and make it Britain's biggest casino operator.
The initial deal has since lapsed but the two parties are
still discussing a merger.
The deal would leave Rank, majority-owned by Malaysia's
Guoco Group, and Genting, also Malaysian
owned, as the only two major casino operators in Britain, the
Commission said in a provisional report.
The merger risked damaging competition in Aberdeen,
Liverpool, Stockton-on-Tees, Bristol and Cardiff, as well as
Edinburgh, where Rank holds a licence but does not currently
operate a casino, the report said.
Possible remedies included requiring Rank to find buyers for
operations in the six affected areas, the Commission said.
Other solutions were casinos in affected areas being
excluded from the transaction or the whole deal being blocked.
"Our concern is that with two of the national players
merging, this will leave a number of areas with much reduced
competition where casino customers could consequently lose out
through a poorer casino offer," said Martin Cave, deputy
chairman of the Competition Commission.
"We are now going to look at the most effective way to
preserve competition in these areas and whether this can be
achieved in a way that allows an amended version of the deal to
go ahead," he added.
The Commission plans to publish its final report by