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Rank’s Purchase of Gala Unit Referred for U.K. Antitrust Probe

Rank Group Plc’s proposal to buy the casino unit of Gala Coral Group Ltd. for 205 million pounds ($322 million) was referred by a U.K. regulator for a full antitrust review.

The deal may “substantially reduce competition in the casino sector” and should be investigated by the U.K. Competition Commission, Britain’s Office of Fair Trading, which conducts initial merger reviews, said in a statement today.

“The OFT is concerned that the merger would reduce competition both at a national level and in nine local areas,” the watchdog said. “A reduction in competition in the casino sector could result in a worse deal for consumers.”

Rank offered to buy 23 casinos in the U.K. and three non-operating licenses, the Maidenhead, U.K.-based gambling and bingo group said in May. The company said it would finance the purchase with new three-year bank facilities totaling 175 million pounds, as well as existing loans.

Marc Cohen, a Rank spokesman, declined to comment when reached by phone.

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