James Guill

Optimal Payments, owner of popular online payment processing services Neteller and Netbanx has announced a deal that will help position themselves as key players in a legalized US online poker market.

Optimal Payments announced on their website earlier today that they will be acquiring California based Meritus Payment Solutions for $210 million. The company will also acquire another US based payment processor, Global Merchant Advisors, for up to $15 million.

Under the terms of the deal for Meritus, Optimal Payments will pay $150 million in cash and $60 million in stock over a four year period starting on the one-year anniversary of the deal’s closing. The details of the Global Merchant Advisors deal are a bit more fluid. Optimal Payments will pay $10 million on closing and up to $5 million more based on future performance of newly acquired business.

Optimal Payments President and CEO Joel Leonoff heralded the deal, stating, “The US market represents the single greatest expansion opportunity for Optimal Payments. After careful evaluation of a number of potential candidates, Meritus stood out as the perfect choice on all fronts.”

“The company’s strong stakeholder relationships, multi-channel sales force, established presence with small and medium businesses in the US and entrepreneurial spirit makes them an ideal acquisition for us. I am very excited about the combination of our businesses which immediately accelerates the Group’s growth opportunities and accomplishes a stated key strategic goal for us in 2014.”

Meritus Payment Solutions Principal and Co-founder Alan Kleinman looked forward to the future potential of the combined companies, stating, “Combining forces with Optimal Payments marks a significant step in realising our strategic goals. Optimal Payments offers our employees, merchants and business partners the experience, global infrastructure and product offering to achieve the scale required in today’s payments market. Our two organisations share the same enthusiasm and philosophy for future growth as we prepare to combine operations and leverage each other’s strengths.”

The pair of companies acquired by Optimal Payments has been posting solid earnings as of late and will help the company to expand further into the US market. Optimal plans to take advantage of existing relationships with U.S. bank by continuing to operate the Meritus brand.

While this deal will help Optimal additional opportunities in the United States, it will not guarantee a position in a legalized California online poker market. One of Optimal’s prior acquisitions, Neteller, may prevent the company from getting a license.

Back in January 2007, NETeller founders John LeFebvre and Stephen Lawrence were arrested and charged with money laundering in connection to online gambling. The company then chose to pull out of the U.S. market. Technically, Optimal has a “tainted asset” under the bad actor clause in both state bills. It will be interesting to see whether anyone poses an objection in the future to Optimal providing payment services in California.