888 comes to the £1bn online party

888 Holdings, which recently rebuffed a takeover bid from William Hill, had long been tipped as a buyer for Bwin, which was put up for sale in November, but until now was reluctant to declare its hand. Other bidders are believed to include Amaya Gaming Group, the Canadian owner of PokerStars, reports The Times.

Bwin, the company behind partypoker, had a market value of £813 million at the close of trading on Friday after the offer by the Isle of Man-based GVC was made public. 888 Holdings was valued at £601 million.

The interest of 888 has surprised some, given that in February its board said that it was minded to recommend a £720 million offer from William Hill, only for the deal to be vetoed by Avi Shaked, its biggest shareholder, as being too low. The Gibraltar-based 888 has already been the subject of interest from Ladbrokes, and analysts had questioned what the company’s plan B was after the William Hill rebuttal.

It is understood that 888 shareholders are in favour of the tilt at Bwin. 888 will probably argue that it can extract more synergies out of a tie-up with Bwin than GVC can, owing to the complementary nature of the businesses, particularly in sports betting. 888 declined to comment.

Bwin is the product of an earlier merger between the Austrian company of that name and the former London gaming stalwart PartyGaming. The Bwin brand is well known courtesy of a shirt sponsorship deal with Real Madrid. 888 has sponsored the shirts of Sevilla. Hopes that the marriage would create a world leader in online gambling have been frustrated by poor trading, regulatory problems in Europe and the slow pace of internet gambling regulation in the United States. Deutsche Bank is advising Bwin.