LONDON Feb 19 Britain's Competition Commission
has given the green light to gaming operator Rank 's
proposed acquisition of a rival casino business, provided some
changes are made to the original deal, it said on Tuesday.
Rank agreed in May last year to buy the casino business of
private equity-owned Gala Coral in a 205 million pound ($317
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 lapsed but the parties are still
pursuing the merger.
The competition body said that the deal will be permitted as
long as the casinos in Aberdeen, Stockton-on-Tees, Bristol and
Cardiff are not included.
In addition, Rank must sell the licence it holds in
Edinburgh to an upfront buyer approved by the Competition
Commission or it will also be prohibited from buying the Gala
casino in Edinburgh, it said.
It said in December that Rank had to also sell a sixth
casino in Liverpool, but said that further analysis had cleared
Liverpool from being one of the problem areas.
"We think that removing the casinos in problem areas from
the deal and requiring Rank to sell the Edinburgh cold licence
to an upfront buyer will protect the interests of customers"
said Martin Cave, deputy chairman of the Competition Commision.
"The excluded casinos are all profitable and so we believe
that they will continue to act as viable competitors to Rank in
these areas," he said.
The Competition Commission also said Rank, majority-owned by
Malaysia's Guoco Group and Genting, also
Malaysia owned, would be the only two large national casino
operators in Britain following the deal.