The owner of Ladbrokes and Coral is assessing William Hill’s European business in a potential sign it will make a bid for the bookmakers’ UK betting shops.
Entain, which also owns bwin and Partypoker, is reportedly running the rule over William Hill as it looks to sell off its European assets.
However, the Sunday Telegraph reports that it is US private equity giant Apollo Global Management that is in the pole position to win an auction that is expected to cost £1.2bn.
Entain and Apollo Global Management are also currently vying to buy Australian betting giant Tabcorp.
William Hill was bought for £2.9bn earlier this year by Caesars Entertainment – a Las Vegas casino operator.
Caesars said soon after that it planned to sell off William Hill’s 1,400 UK betting shops and European online business.
An auction for these assets began in May and first round bids will close on Tuesday.
Apollo Global Management is thought to have a head start on rival bidders as it was considering swooping in to buy all of William Hill earlier this year.
The diligence it has already done has put it in a more advanced position.
One City insider told the Telegraph: “It is Apollo’s to lose.”
Billionaire owner of Betfred Fred Drone and Israeli firm 888 Holdings are also rumoured to be interested in making a bid.
However, Drone already owns 1,600 shops across the UK and acquiring William Hill’s sites would give it almost half of all offline betting locations in the country.
This would likely lead to questions from competition regulators.