11/12/2014 5:12PM

Churchill Downs acquires mobile-gaming company


Churchill Downs Inc. has reached a deal to buy a mobile-gaming company, Big Fish, for a price that could rise to $885 million, the two companies announced late on Wednesday.

Big Fish distributes dozens of casual mobile games that run the thematic gamut. It also distributes a game called Big Fish Casino, which it describes as a “social-gaming casino.”

Churchill has made no secret of its goal of positioning itself on the leading edge of mobile gambling on the chance that federal laws are relaxed allowing for wider forms of Internet gambling. Two years ago it launched a gambling site that used bingo-type computer games as interfaces even though payouts were determined by the results of horse races at the company’s tracks. The site, Luckity.com, was shelved earlier this year after failing to hit the company’s expectations.

The companies said that Churchill will pay $485 million initially for Big Fish, a privately held company, with payments potentially rising to another $350 million based on the company’s adjusted 2015 earnings. Big Fish’s chief executive will also be eligible to receive up to $50 million in bonuses, the companies said.