Centrebet revealed in March it had received "a number" of conditional acquisition proposals as part of a review of consolidation opportunities, both as acquirer and target. The company said no agreement had been reached and discussions could take several months to conclude.
British newspaper The Sunday Times said that William Hill, while not thought to be in exclusive negotiations with Centrebet, was poised to make an offer of more than us$ 132 million.
The company's executives were said to be in Australia examining Centrebet's books. Centrebet representatives were unavailable for comment. It is understood, however, that William Hill and Centrebet are still in discussions, with the sale process continuing and final offers not yet regarded as imminent.
Other parties such as Ladbrokes, one of William Hill's rivals in Britain, are still in the running. Ladbrokes suffered a recent distraction on March 30, when it announced the appointment of a new chief executive, Richard Glynn. The Austrian online gaming platform Bwin, formerly known as betandwin, is also thought to be interested and has other options under consideration, including expansion into the US.
William Hill, headed by Ralph Topping, has said it wants to expand offshore by increasing its online presence rather than opening a chain of betting shops. In 2008, it withdrew from Italy, where it had a retail joint venture, and last January it pulled out of Spain. Australia has become fertile territory for bookmakers seeking to build their operations.
The Productivity Commission's draft report that recommended liberalisation of gaming laws has fanned offshore interest in the local industry. Last year Irish bookie Paddy Power bought control of the internet and telephone betting service Sportsbet and IASBet.
Betfair Australia CEO Andrew Twaits said earlier this month that the level of interest was likely to grow. "I think Australia is going to be squarely on the strategic map of a lot of those international businesses, so you will probably see more players come into the market."
"William Hill, Ladbrokes and (British group) Coral are companies I would expect, whether it's through acquisitions or starting up themselves, to look at entering the Australian market at some point in the next year or so."
Twaits said Betfair also wanted to expand its gaming products to include financial betting as well as online poker and casino games.