Caesars entertainment, the company behind the caesars palace hotel on the las vegas strip, is vying with apollo global managementto buy the uk bookmaker william hill.

Both groups have approached the ftse 250 betting company with takeover proposals since late august, william hill said on friday, adding that there was no certainty that an offer would be made.

The uk gambling company has increased its footprint in the fast-growing us sport betting market. it is already 20 per cent owned by the us casino operator el dorado, which completed a $17.3bn takeover of caesars in july.

The deal with el dorado gives william hill access to offer sports betting in all the us groups casinos in the 18 states where it has been made legal since a federal ban was overturned in 2018.

William hill's shares were trading at about 172p before the apollo approach, far below the current 286p trading price, and were valued at just 128p in a 223m equity raise in june. that leaves scope for any bid to be based on a lower valuation than the current share price, two people briefed on the mattersaid.

The reversal of us policy on sport betting has prompted a rush of european gambling companies into the us as they face increasingly tough regulation in their home markets.

Greg johnson, an analyst at shore capital, estimated that the value of the us market could reach $20bn per year and said that if william hill pursued an all in deal with caesars, its market share could eventually be worth circa $8bn potentially 300p per william hill share.

Despite having a presence in the us through its nevada business since 2012, william hills share price has trailed rivals because of its exposure to the increasingly tightly regulated uk market.

William hill was set up by its eponymous founder as a post and telephone betting service in 1934. it was one of the earliest companies to open up betting shops in the uk when it became legal to do so in 1961 and at its 1970s peak owned more than 14,000 sites.

As uk rivals flutter and gvc have grown through multiple deals in recent years, william hill has struggled to find a suitor after a joint takeover by rank group, owner of mecca bingo, and the online gambling company 888 fell through.

The company warned in march that the closure of its town-centre betting shops and the lack of sport fixtures because of the pandemic would hit annual earnings by up to 110m. however, last month william hill reported a robust recovery since sport had resumed, allowing it to repay 24.5m in furlough funds.

An increase in the popularity of online betting has prompted the group to close 119 shops permanently.

William hills shares, which tumbled early on in the coronavirus crisis, surged on friday, jumping about 33 per cent to break the 300p mark before falling to 286p. bloomberg news first reported the talks with apollo.

Private equity firms, which have raised record-sized funds in recent years, have increasingly been looking at uk-listed companies since share prices fell in march and april.they are particularly focused on uk companies valued at between 1bn and 5bn, one senior banker said.

Apollo, the us private equity group, is also bidding to buy the uk supermarket chain asda, in a deal that could be worth about 6.5bn.

Apollo declined to comment on a potential offer for william hill.

William hills announcement will start the clock on the bid process under uk takeover rules. the groups have until october 23 to announce firm plans or walk away, though extensions can be made.