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Aristocrat to buy social casino company for $1B

Updated November 30, 2017 - 4:45 pm

Aristocrat Leisure Ltd. has agreed to buy a social-casino company for nearly $1 billion as it doubles down on the digital gaming industry.

The Australian company, perhaps best known for its Buffalo slot machine, will buy Seattle-based Big Fish for $990 million, its second social-casino acquisition in three months, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

Big Fish is a publisher of free-to-play games in social casino, social gaming and premium paid games. The company’s top revenue-generating game is Big Fish Casino, and Gummy Drop! and Fairway Solitaire are top-ranked casual and card games.

Wednesday’s announcement comes on the heels of Aristocrat’s $500 million purchase of Israeli gaming company Plarium in August and catapults Aristocrat into second place by revenue among social casino publishers.

The Big Fish purchase will boost Aristocrat’s social-casino revenue to $485 million from $290 million for the year ended Sept. 30.

“The acquisition of Big Fish will materially expand our social gaming footprint, positioning Aristocrat to further capitalize on growth in mobile gaming following the acquisition of Plarium,” Chief Executive Officer Trevor Croker said. “Big Fish’s strength in casual and card games is highly complementary to Plarium’s strategy games portfolio.”

Aristocrat is paying 11.9 times adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization based on the 12 months ending Sept. 30. Big Fish is wholly owned by Churchill Downs Inc.

Aristocrat’s aggressive social casino acquisition strategy differs from that of its largest peers, International Game Technology and Scientific Games.

IGT earlier this year sold its largest social-gaming unit for $825 million to Korea’s DoubleU Games to pay down debt and focus more on its core businesses.

IGT instead chose to participate in the growth of social casino gaming by letting DoubleU offer its gaming library on the Korean company’s social casino platforms in exchange for ongoing royalties.

Scientific Games has also been making acquisitions of social-casino publishers but on a much smaller scale.

The Big Fish acquisition will deepen Aristocrat’s ties to the United States. Big Fish has 700 full-time employees and five in-house development studios in Seattle and Oakland, California, according to the statement.

Aristocrat recently signed a 15-year lease for a new office complex in Summerlin to house its growing U.S. workforce. CEO Croker relocated to Las Vegas this year.

Contact Todd Prince at tprince@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0386. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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