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Horse racing and games? Churchill Downs acquires social-casino studio Big Fish Games for $885M

Horse racing and games? Churchill Downs acquires social-casino studio Big Fish Games for $885M

Horse racing and games? Churchill Downs acquires social-casino studio Big Fish Games for $885M

Horse racing and games? Churchill Downs acquires social-casino studio Big Fish Games for $885M

Above: Fairway Solitaire on Big Fish Games’ PC app runs on Cocos2d-X tech.

Image Credit: Big Fish

Churchill Downs, the owner of the racetrack that hosts the Kentucky Derby, has acquired casual game publisher Big Fish Games for $885 million.

This is one of several big deals this year that highlight the growing attraction of big companies for digital game companies in the mobile or online sectors. Social casino games have become a $2.7 billion worldwide industry in a short few years thanks to rapid growth on Facebook and mobile, according to Eilers Research. This has prompted a lot of merger-and-acquisition deals as well as the creation of dozens of startups. And for Big Fish Games, the fifth-largest maker of social casino games, these kinds of games generated $36 million in revenues in the last three months.
Big Fish also has some other key games. Fairway Solitarie blends cards and golf and has millions of fan. It’s the top-grossing solitaire game in the App Store. Year over year, it doubled its revenue in Apple’s store. It was originally a premium game and was adapted to free-to-play, and now it’s a full-fledged game service on smartphones and tablets. Big Fish supports it by launching a new course every day and maintaining live events.

“We are extremely proud of the company we have built over the last twelve years,” said Big Fish Games founder and CEO Paul Thelen in a statement. “Churchill Downs is a company with a commitment to interactive entertainment and a track record of growth and performance. We believe Big Fish is now positioned to become an even greater force in the casual, mid-core and social casino mobile and online games industry. Churchill Downs is a great cultural fit for us and we are thrilled to be joining the Churchill Downs family.”

Churchill Downs may host the biggest horse race in America, but it has been active in the game business for a while, creating digital games for real-money gambling. It was no doubt drawn to Big Fish Casino, one of the hottest mobile social casino games on mobile devices.

Big Fish recently added a new chief financial officer, a move that to some foreshadowed this deal.

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