Hong Kong-listed hotel and casino operator International Entertainment Corporation has secured an agreement with The Stars Group for the rights to operate land-based poker tournaments under the PokerStars brand in Asia.

International Entertainment, which owns the AG New World Manila Bay hotel in the Philippines, said that the cooperation agreement would help the company expand its business outside of its core operations.

“It is the company’s intention to diversify the business of the group, whilst maintaining the group’s core businesses of hotel operations and leasing of properties for casino and ancillary leisure and entertainment operations,” said International Entertainment. “The board believes that the arrangements under the cooperation agreement could achieve this objective.”

The deal was signed by Lucky Genius, a wholly-owned subsidiary of International Entertainment, which has been granted the right to operate land-based live events and poker rooms under the branding of PokerStars in certain Asian countries.

It follows the appointment earlier this year of Melvin Yanmin Zhang as an observer member of The Stars Group board by Tang Hao, who holds an 18 per cent stake in the PokerStars-owner through his affiliated Discovery Key Investments business.

Zhang is currently executive director of International Entertainment, which also confirmed Monday that it has agreed to acquire English football club Wigan Athletic from the Whelan family, who have been majority shareholders in the club since 1995.

“After several months of discussions, negotiations and due diligence, we have now agreed, in principle, to transfer the entire shareholdings of Wigan Athletic Holdings Limited, which owns the majority shareholding in the operating companies of Wigan Athletic Football Club and the DW Stadium, to International Entertainment Corporation (IEC), subject to Hong Kong Stock Exchange approval and EFL consent,” said Wigan Athletic chairman David Sharpe on behalf of the Whelan family.

“It is important to confirm that this process, which has taken longer than expected, has now reached the next stage. Whilst we await formal approval and consent by the aforementioned parties, which may take some time, the Whelan family will do whatever it can to support the business operations and IEC during this transition.”

Shares in International Entertainment Corporation (HKG:1009) closed in Hong Kong Tuesday up 3.78 per cent at HK$1.92 per share, while shares in The Stars Group Inc (NSQ:TSG) closed in New York Monday up 1.80 per cent at $36.70 per share. 

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