Hoping to give his online bookmaking operation more legitimacy and exposure in the international markets, BetOnSports CEO David Carruthers announced Monday that the firm plans to go public by year's end.
BoS, which targets U.S.-based punters for the majority of its business, said it intends to list on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange by year's end; and if progress continues the company could commence trading by the fall.
Through the float, Carruthers said, BoS should raise up to $100 million in capital to use for expanding its business into Asia and South America as well as other parts of the world. Specifically, the capital will be used to acquire other online operations and to buy out 49 percent of the Millennium Group's stake in BoS. Millennium Group, which started BoS, acquired a license for the bookmaker in Antigua in 1997, making it one of the first online bookmakers to do mass volume with U.S. bettors.
BoS is one of the few Internet-only brands in the industry that can rival mainstream publicly traded companies. The company employs more than 1,800 people throughout Antigua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and the United Kingdom.
In addition to its online operations, BetOnSports offers telephone betting, which accounted for nearly 10 percent of its turnover last year. BoS handled more than 33 million bets last year, which equates to more than one bet every second.
Although advertising restrictions in the United States and an ongoing battle with payment solution providers has slowed many operators in the industry over the last year, Carruthers feels the timing is perfect for his company to go public.
"There are three advantages to us going public now," he said. "The first is the new territory we will go into in terms of probity and clarity as a company. The second is that it will give us the resources to expand our operations, and we are ready to continue the enormous growth we have experienced over the last couple of years."
Carruthers also said going public with BoS will further enhance the evolution of the online gaming industry and should bring more positive light to operators globally in both the financial and general business worlds.
Over the fiscal year ending in January 2004, BoS opened 50,000 new accounts and saw the number of bets placed on its site increase by 25 percent.
The company has experienced unprecedented growth for any business over the last five years. Turnover increased 276 percent during that period and its profits before taxes jumped from $0.6 million to nearly $26 million.
BoS won't be the first Internet-only bookmaker to take its stock public. Sportingbet.com has been trading on the AIM since 1999 and BetWWTS.com is traded under its parent company on the Australian Stock Market.
"Mark Blandford, (Sportingbet's vice-chairman) has already been there," Carruthers said. "I take my hat off to him. He led the way with this. But this will allow us to recruit better and higher executives and will create a brimful of opportunities."
BoS operates 10 online brands in addition to its flagship site, BetOnSports.com; all focus heavily on American sporting events.
The site has also carved out a niche for itself by offering an array of "entertainment" bets, ranging from who will win reality TV shows like The Bachelor and Survivor to what Super Bowl TV ad would be voted the best by USA Today the day after the game.
Carruthers, who spent 24 years with Ladbrokes, leads a team of experienced executives already in place at BetOnSports. Company officials said executive directors would be incentivized through equity participation, which will be subject to two-year lock-in arrangements.
The firm Evolution Beeson Gregory will be the nominated adviser and broker to BoS during the float.
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