Connecticut OTB operator's London-based parent up for sale

Sportech Venues’ parent company is up for sale, a development that’s not expected to have any immediate effect on Connecticut’s off-track-betting system, a state Department of Consumer Protection official said Friday.

Based in New Haven, Sportech Venues operates 16 OTB facilities, including one in New London, and has been authorized to open eight more.

“If there is a sale, a process would have to occur before the sale is consummated,” William Ryan, director of the department’s Gaming Division, said. “It would be very similar to when Sportech bought Autotote in September of 2010. The new owner would be subject to the terms of the existing contract.”

That contract, Ryan said, extends indefinitely.

Sportech PLC, Sportech Venues’ London-based parent, announced Thursday that its board of directors, having begun “a comprehensive review of the business and its capital structure,” had decided to seek offers for the company. The reason, it said, was to maximize value for shareholders.

The company’s entire sports gaming and technology enterprise, which has a presence in more than 30 countries, including pari-mutuel betting operations in dozens of U.S. states, trades on the London Stock Exchange.

According to gaming publications, Sportech PLC has grown considerably in recent years. In September, the company’s chief executive officer and its chief financial officer both announced they planned to resign.

In Connecticut, it’s “business as usual," Ted Taylor, president of Sportech Venues, wrote in an email.

Earlier this year, the Connecticut legislature passed a gaming-expansion bill that included a provision increasing from 18 to 24 the number of OTB facilities Sportech Venues is authorized to open in the state. Sportech opened its 16th Connecticut facility in June, a second Bobby V’s Restaurant & Sports Bar in Stamford. Typically located in restaurants and bars, the OTB facilities offer wagering on live broadcasts of horse racing, greyhound racing and jai alai.

In July, Taylor said Sportech was considering a number of prospective locations for additional facilities, including an eastern Connecticut town he declined to identify.

Anticipating competition from a casino now under construction in Springfield, Mass., Sportech heavily invested several years ago in its first Bobby V’s, which is adjacent to the Bradley Teletheater and Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks.

Testifying this spring before a legislative committee, a Sportech executive warned that in addition to the Springfield casino, a third Connecticut casino north of Hartford also would threaten the OTB facilities in Windsor Locks, Hartford, New Britain and Manchester.

The legislature since has authorized an East Windsor casino that the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes plan to develop.

Sportech Venues’ OTB operation “has been holding its own” in recent years, according to Ryan. Off-track betting contributed more than $3.6 million in taxes to the state’s General Fund in the 2015 fiscal year, the last year for which data is available on the Gaming Division's website. In 2016, Sportech Venues generated nearly $6 million for the state and the municipalities where its facilities are located, according to testimony before the legislature. 

“Sportech runs a first-class operation,” Ryan said.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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