Whoa, Nellie! Seattle's Big Fish Games being bought for $885 million by Churchill Downs Inc.

SEATTLE -- Seattle's Big Fish Games is being acquired by Churchill Downs Inc., of Louisville, Ky., in a deal valued up to $885 million, the companies announced Wednesday.

Founded in 2002, Big Fish -- housed at 333 Elliott Avenue West -- is one of the world's largest producer and distributor of mobile and online games.

Big Fish said it has distributed more than 2.5 billion games to customers in 150 countries from a  catalog of 450+ mobile games and 3,500+ PC games. It says its portfolio includes the #1 mobile social casino game, Big Fish Casino.

Churchill Downs Inc., which owns its racetrack by the same name where the Kentucky Derby is held every year, is a racing, gaming and entertainment company with a myriad of holdings, including five racetracks, six casinos, a video poker business and what it called the country’s leading online wagering business, TwinSpires.com.

It says it employs more than 4,500 people and maintains physical operations in 10 states: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New York,  and Ohio.

“The acquisition of Big Fish and our entry into the rapidly growing mobile and online games industry gives us new products, new customers, new geographies and new sizable growth opportunities,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Inc.

Paul Thelen, Big Fish’s founder and CEO said, “We are extremely proud of the company we have built over the last 12 years.  Churchill Downs is a company with a commitment to interactive entertainment and a track record of growth and performance.

"We believe Big Fish is now positioned to become an even greater force in the casual, mid-core and social casino mobile and online games industry.  Churchill Downs is a great cultural fit for us and we are thrilled to be joining the Churchill Downs family," Thelen said.

There was no immediate word of how the sale would affect Big Fish's employees in Seattle. A conference call about the transaction is scheduled for Thursday.