The Competition Commission is to review Rank's proposed acquisition of a rival casino business after a referral by the consumer watchdog, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which is concerned the tie-up will reduce competition in the sector.
Rank in May agreed to buy the casino business of private equity-owned Gala Coral in a £205m deal which would add 23 UK casinos to its existing, 35-strong chain and make it Britain's biggest operator.
"Rank and Gala are two of only three large national casino operators in the UK," the OFT said.
"This merger would represent a major consolidation which could be expected to reduce competition, both locally and nationally."
The review by the competition regulator will delay the completion of Rank's acquisition.
The company last week said it had expected that the deal would be finalised in the third quarter of this year, but the Competition Commission will not report back until February 2013, pushing back the date for completion.
Rank yesterday said it was considering the implications of the referral and would make a further announcement in due course.
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