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ArsenalMania acquisition ups the ante for Play LA Inc

Last week Play LA Inc (OTC:PLLAF) announced another acquisition , but unlike previous transactions, its move to acquire represented a significant move to tap into a potentially underexploited online source of sports fans.

ArsenalMania as the name suggests, is a football fan website dedicated to one of the English Premier Leagues top clubs, Arsenal FC in London.  The website already has an impressive following, with around 250,000 visitors per month, 40,000 registered users and nearly 9,000 followers on Twitter.  Those 250,000 visitors generate around 4.5 million pages impressions per month, according to Play LA.

At the time of the acquisition, David Hallonquist, CEO of Play LA said the transaction would help it expand its reach into the United Kingdom’s sports audience, but the strong following of football fans at opens up the potential of similar deals in this space, which could generate substantial readership for the group’s wider network of sites. More on this later.

Incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2005, Play LA is an Internet media marketing company that operates a network of multi-language websites that publish sports, poker and casino news and tournament information for the UK and Europe.

In 2007, the company raised US$1 million in a private placing to complete strategic acquisitions, one of which was the acquisition of UK websites and and generate revenues from a number of bookmakers and online poker companies who pay Play LA to direct traffic to their online sites. Play LA’s clients include Ladbrokes, William Hill and Party Poker. This acquisition was only the beginning however, with Play LA announcing a string of acquisitions since and now controls 19 websites!

More recent acquisitions have included, which publishes content in English, French, Norwegian, Danish, Spanish and Romanian, expanding the group’s footprint into mainland Europe whilst also beefing up its presence the United Kingdom.

Unlike however, all of Play LA’s previous transactions have been directed towards websites that focus on generating news, articles and associated content directly related to gambling, from poker to horseracing to placing a bet on this Saturday’s Arsenal match against West Ham., as a football fan website, is more focused on discussing Arsenal from the fan’s point of view.  By acquiring this site, Play LA opens up the potential to tap into that loyal readership’s potential interest in placing bets.

The UK Gambling Commission has declared that more Brits than ever are gambling remotely; accessing the Internet through a PC, laptop, or hand-held device, or using a mobile phone or interactive/digital TV to place their bets.  The UK regulator’s latest survey of 8,000 adult remote gamblers reveals that this form of gambling (including casinos, sports betting, slot machines, and poker but excluding lottery) is on the up, with 5.7% of those surveyed participating in at least one form of remote gambling to the year ending September 2009, up from 5.6%, 5.2% and 5.1% in 2008, 2007 and 2006 respectively. 

By increasing the size and scale of its existing network of websites, Play LA aims to acquire critical mass and accelerate growth in the long-term to tap into Europe’s increasing trend towards online gambling.

While it is still fairly difficult to gauge the impact of Play LA’s string of transactions, including, the company is confident that results for  2010 will look significantly better as it builds up critical mass in the United Kingdom and mainland Europe.

There is plenty to play for in this space, and Play LA has upped the ante through its acquisition strategy to date, which will have clearly boosted its total penetration into the gambling market.   Arsenal-Mania is arguably the most intriguing deal completed by the company to date, and potentially opens up the possibility of similar acquisitions of websites with a strong support base of sports fans – clearly a prime target market for Play La’s business model.

Disclosure: no position