Tabcorp and Tatts group could merge

Sports Betting

TABCORP has pushed to get its $11.3 billion merger with Tatts past the post, taking its proposal ­directly to the Australian Competition Tribunal.

The gaming group has withdrawn its application for informal clearance from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, asserting it has a “compelling case” to instead win the nod from the competition tribunal.

Tabcorp chief David Attenborough said the new application would allow the prospective benefits of its ­proposal to be weighed against any detriments, including to competition.

Those parameters differ from the ACCC’s test, which purely seeks to answer whether a proposal is likely to substantially lessen competition.

“Tabcorp believes the merger authorisation process will deliver greater transaction certainty,” Mr Attenborough said in a statement.

“It enables public benefits, including our strong funding relationship with the racing­ ­industry, to be taken into ­account.”

The new tack comes days after the ACCC released a statement of its concerns over the deal, arguing the proposal raised “complex competition issues” in a range of areas.

Among those were whether a combined Tabcorp-Tatts group could use its muscle and control of racing broadcasts, such as those from Sky Racing, to block clubs from allowing corporate bookmakers to ­advertise in their venues.

While admitting punters would still have plenty of avenues through which to bet, ­including on various online wagering sites, the commission said the merged group could hurt rival suppliers of poker machines in Tatts’ home state of Queensland.

Tabcorp has vowed to offload its Odyssey Gaming Services business to allay those concerns, saying yesterday that a sales process was well advanced.

It also said it was “confident” it could appease all of the ACCC’s concerns.