Boosted by Betsson and Entain, CEE Takes Centre Stage

Surmounting wars, Iron Curtains and non-regulatory free-for-alls, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)–boosted by Betsson and Entain–has finally begun to take its rightful place at the heart of progressive iGaming.

Following Entain’s £750 million acquisition (€874.51m) of Poland’s dominant STS Omnichannel; Betsson, led by the inimitable Pontus Lindwall, gambling’s man with the midas touch, has just been given a licence to launch an online casino in Serbia.

Swedish-origin, Stockholm-listed, Malta-headquartered Betsson, now enters the Serbia market with its Rizk online casino brand; while Jette Nygaard-Andersen’s Entain subsidiary Entain CEE–a joint-venture with Cyprus-based Emma Capital–follows up its €690 million (£591.75m) purchase of Croatia market leader SuperSport in November last year with the STS buy.

Fast gone, or going, are the days when Central and Eastern Europe was the playground of fast-talking, money-pumped hustlers.

Today, the regional market–indeed most markets–seek regulation, compliance, stability: the opportunity for steady, legal growth.

Still buffeted by the ongoing legal onus of paying for historic corruption charges when it was operating as GVC Holdings, FTSE-100 Entain, now under the new broom stewardship of Nygaard-Andersen, is determined to transform itself into a fully 100 percent legit enterprise — only operating in fully-regulated markets.

Key Market

Patently Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) forms a key pillar of this laudable strategy.

There is still some debate as to which countries exactly constitute the CEE regional market.

For most this constitutes only Central and Eastern European states, who are also members of the 29-nation European Union; so here, among others, we’re talking about regional “big dogs” Poland and Hungary and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.

Where do war-embattled Ukraine and pariah aggressor Russia figure in this premise? For the purposes of clarity we’ll leave these two key markets aside in his feature.

For Betsson, Serbia is part of its so-called Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA) market focus.

CEECA accounted for some 43 percent of Betsson’s total revenue in Q2, ending June 30, this year, with this region’s revenue surging nearly 70 percent to €102.6 million in the quarter (£87.99m).

So its value to the Betsson brand and in-house bank cannot be overstated.

“I am proud to welcome Serbia as yet another locally-regulated market for Betsson,” affirmed Lindwall (pictured, above) after the Rizk green-lighting.

No Risk For Rizk

“Our vision is to offer the best customer experience possible. And through the brand Rizk we are now ready to deliver a best-in-class online casino offering in Serbia,” said the maestro.

With only a relatively modest tax of 10 percent on online GGR and a paltry €2,500 monthly fee for a digital casino licence, Serbia offers additional attractions.

Rizk is a subsidiary of Zecure Gaming, which became a Betsson vertical in 2020.

“Serbia is an exciting new market for our Rizk brand,” said Zecure Gaming Commercial Director Andrew Valenzia.

“We’re eager to replicate our successes in other markets as we see tremendous potential and opportunities awaiting us [in Serbia].”

All the while, Entain CEE’s acquisition of STS is welcome news after months of (renewed) negativity publicity over its legacy GVC Holdings Turkish betting corruption scandal.

Major STS shareholder Mateusz Juroszek, who remains CEO of the company, has affirmed the “high potential” of the Polish market.

Now backed by the Entain billions, and the know-how of a storied brand that embraces the operating knowledge of Ladbrokes Coral, PartyPoker, bwin, Sportingbet and BetMGM, the only way is Up! for Poland and the CEE.

It’s time to cash-in the iGaming dividend of peace and political stability.

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