The BetMGM Slap That’s Set To Reverberate Around The World Of iGaming

With US megalith MGM Resorts International ditching Entain to launch BetMGM in the UK, the world of iGaming is all shook up.

The clichés are set to roll off one’s tongue: Like bringing coals to Newcastle, trying to teach an old dog new tricks. Under any circumstances, the news that BetMGM is coming to the UK–the world’s toughest and most sophisticated online betting and iGaming market–is a slap that’s set to reverberate around the world of iGaming.

But knowledge that MGM Resorts International is bringing its fledgling sports book to Blighty in the company of its new acquisition LeoVegas–and not its foundational joint-venture partner Entain–is nothing short of sensational, if not earth-shattering.

And surely it points to a serious and growing rift between the US casino giant MGM Resorts International and the troubled UK FTSE-100 listed Omnichannel.

Entain CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen and her top management team must be feeling something little short of humiliation this week, as they battle to put their holding company–owners of storied UK betting brands Ladbrokes and Coral and the lesser PartyPoker, Sportingbet and bwin–ahead of an historic, but still debilitating, bribery scandal in the Turkish market when the company was operating as GVC (until December 2020).

Only last week, as Entain outlined its Q2 and half-year results, the company revealed it was putting some £585 million aside (US$744.5m) to pay anticipated fines for the GVC Turkish money-laundering and Responsible Gambling breaches.

Weakness

Perhaps MGM Resorts President and CEO Big Bill Hornbuckle is striking when and where he detects Entain weakness.

He made his first play in January 2021 when MGM Resorts tabled a proposal to buy Entain outright, which would of course also given him full control of the BetMGM 50-50 joint venture that MGM and Entain (GVC) launched in the United States in 2018.

BetMGM, amid the fevered, hugely-competitive US sports betting market, is currently on the cusp of turning to stable profit; although it’s been pretty much outpaced by sector leaders Flutter-owned FanDuel and DraftKings in most of the jurisdictions where it operates.

Following the failure to buy-out Entain–rumoured pitch: US$11 billion (£8.64bn)–, Hornbuckle turned his eyes to the rich technology and super iGaming platform of Swedish-origin LeoVegas, which he bought for US$604 million last September (£474.59m).

And it is the LeoVegas-Kambi platform that Hornbuckle will be using to power the BetMGM vehicle in the UK iGaming space.

Under the terms of their joint-venture agreement, MGM Resorts can only use the Entain platform in the US alone — a deal that was struck by Entain/GCV, one imagines, to preclude such an outcome as today: Where the company, since sucked of all its knowledge, expertise and good practice, will now effectively be in competition against itself.

If ever an exclamation mark were appropriate, then surely it belongs here!

No Impact?

“BetMGM is a proven brand in the sports betting and iGaming space, and we look forward to welcoming international players into our platforms designed specifically for them,” a deadpan Bill Hornbuckle told the international media.

“Today’s announcement represents a key step forward in our international growth strategy, which has been advancing rapidly since our acquisition of LeoVegas.”

For its part, Entain responded to iGamingFuture:

“MGM has been operating an UK online casino for some time under the Leo Vegas (sic) brand.

“They are not permitted to operate the BetMGM brand on the highly-developed Entain platform utilising its advanced technology outside of the US and Ontario, Canada.

“The UK market is a highly competitive, well-regulated market where many brands operate and where leadership is gained through brand familiarity and high quality, in-house technology.

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“Entain operates a well-known portfolio of respected brands as well as an established online and retail presence.

“We do not consider that this new launch will make any impact to our business or indeed the market.”

Surely the understatement of the year, when confronted by the MGM Resorts billions.

Gary Fritz, President of MGM Resorts International Interactive, poured salt into the wound by affirming:

“We’ve had great success in the US and Canada with our BetMGM brand and we’re confident we can duplicate this success in other markets, beginning with the UK.

“The UK is a mature online gaming market and we believe the BetMGM brand will provide distinct relevance to both sports bettors and iGaming consumers.”

Whatever moves Hornbuckle, Fritz and company are planning for the future, they’d do well to keep at least one beady eye firmly fixed on the rear-view mirror.

For coming up fast is the new Disney/PENN Interactive avatar.

And that, as we know, will soon mean a whole new world of iGaming.

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