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Companies pivotal to the growth of the iGaming industry in 2020

George Miller

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Companies pivotal to the growth of the iGaming industry in 2020
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Evolution Gaming’s unprecedented $2 billion offer to purchase NetEnt sent shockwaves through the iGaming world in June. The merging of the two international powerhouses would dramatically change the landscape of the industry for decades to come.  

The fact that Evolution’s offer represents a premium of 43% on NetEnt’s closing share price on Nasdaq’s Stockholm Exchange the day leading up to the offer speaks volumes about the absolutely incredible potential of the deal. 

It’s not just this pair that are making big moves in terms of mergers and acquisitions in 2020, Flutter Entertainment and The Stars Group, DraftKings and SB Tech have all made the headlines in recent months as they look to monopolise their respective sectors.

There’s an intense spotlight shining on this thriving industry right now, potential investors are no doubt circling development studios like hungry sharks, looking to get their own slice of the action, particularly those studios that are looking to break into the highly lucrative American market in the not so distant future. 

In various States across the US lawmakers are beginning to legalise both sports betting and iGaming, meaning those that have managed to work their way into this fledgling market are set to benefit almost instantaneously from an influx of new players who all have an incredibly strong appetite for what they have to offer.

 

How one key acquisition likely revitalised NetEnt

Despite their dominance in the iGaming sphere NetEnt had suffered year-on-year declines as their share price plummeted from an all time high of 91.25 SEK (Swedish Krona) per share (Around $10.94) in May 2016 to a mere 17 SEK ($1.83) in March of this year. Strangely, despite the gradual decline, NetEnt are not a company in crisis. 

The global powerhouse finds themselves in a comfortable financial position and have seen significant market growth since the prominent acquisition of Red Tiger Gaming, a rising star in the iGaming market that was speculated to have been growing at a rate of 50% at the time of purchase. This, coupled with the iGaming industry’s overall growth in 2020 has led to an astonishing rise in their share price which at the time of this article sits at 83.70 SEK ($9.00).

It does pose the question, was NetEnt’s acquisition of Red Tiger Gaming the catalyst for their significant growth in share price and Evolution’s interest? Or was NetEnt always the end goal for the fellow industry-giants? One thing is for sure, NetEnt, alongside many other iGaming companies have fared well as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, driving punters that would traditionally bet in physical betting shops and casinos to their online counterparts.

There’s no doubt that it’s a fantastic time to be involved with the veteran developer. Their proposed merger with Evolution Gaming will arm the industry leaders with the tools they need to continue releasing industry defining titles such as branded hit Street Fighter ll: The World Warrior slot and the upcoming Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen inspired online slot.

Even before the proposed merger it was clear that both companies would play key roles in the growth of the iGaming industry with their innovative games, but once the pair become one single entity it’s expected that they’ll elevate the landscape beyond what was thought possible.

 

Evolution’s live casino revolution

Like NetEnt, Evolution Gaming are market leaders in their speciality area, live casino games. There are very few companies that can come close to what the veteran developers have achieved over the years, owning a number of fully operational live casino studios in nine different countries across Europe, Canada and the United States.

The award winning studio is renowned for creating a line of innovative game-show style games that are not only fun to play, but are highly exciting to watch on their own, which was always the vision of Chief Product Officer Todd Haushalter. 

In the five years that the Evolution Gaming Chief has been in post he has managed to bring both the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas and the excitement of a live television game show to millions of computer screens around the world with standout releases such as Dreamcatcher, Monopoly Live, Mega Ball and most recently Crazy Time. 

Their unique stable of hybrid live casino games utilise charismatic live presenters, 3D graphics, augmented reality and new and exciting mechanics not seen anywhere else.

Not satisfied with just one facet of the iGaming industry, Evolution’s future acquisition of NetEnt will see them completely dominate almost every aspect of the iGaming landscape. Utilising NetEnt’s expansive IP will allow them to further build on an already impressive portfolio.

We don’t expect any more big releases from Evolution in the coming months as they turn their attention to fine tuning titles they already offer ahead of US expansion. The company is laser focused on reaching new customers in states that legalise gambling, and with a merger in tow we expect them to be the most influential and important iGaming company of the new decade.

 

The best of the rest – iGaming development studios to keep an eye on

It would be unfair to look solely towards NetEnt and Evolution Gaming as the companies that will drive the iGaming industry forward as the year progresses, because there are a number of other talented studios out there that are breaking boundaries and have a big part to play.

Australian developer Big Time Gaming certainly deserves the plaudits this year for creating what will undoubtedly be the next big thing in online slots, Megaclusters. Why are we so sure about that? Because Big Time Gaming are the company behind what’s arguably the most licensed online slot mechanic of all time, Megaways. 

We’re genuinely surprised how simple the Megaclusters concept is, rather than traditional slot reels the game is played in a 4×4 grid with 16 symbols. When matching symbols land they split into smaller pieces, bringing more winning combinations into the game which then split again and again with up to 64 symbols in play at any time. 

Just like with Megaways, Big Time Gaming have once again taken something simple and transformed it into a game changing mechanic that elevates a title to new heights in terms of engagement and excitement. Chief Exec Nik Robinson has already announced that Megaclusters will be licensed out, so expect to see a number of new games utilising it in the not-so-distant future. 

Elsewhere, Play’n GO continues to release a string of incredibly popular online slot games each and every month, even expanding the universe of their hugely popular Rich Wilde series by introducing a brand new hero (and daughter of the talismanic mascot), Cat Wilde.

Interestingly, the veteran developers have also decided to roll back the years by developing a branded slot based on a famous skateboarder. Long gone are the days since Tony Hawk titles were all the rage, so for the developer to feature 6-time World Skateboarding Champion Nyjah Huston in his own game is quite a unique throwback that could well pay off.

The move isn’t quite as big as Ganapati’s capture of Usain Bolt, which led to the belief that 2020 would be a huge year for the fairly inconspicuous Japanese iGaming company.

The athlete is set to star in his own online slot which was highly publicised at iGB Affiliate conference in London at the start of the year, however questions have arisen as to whether it will materialise after the company were forced to surrender their Malta gaming licence amid rumours of an alleged investment scam and debts earlier this Summer. 

The game was originally due to release in tandem with the start of the 2020 Olympic Games in July, however the release date has been quietly moved to August 21st by way of a cover photo update on Facebook and Twitter. If the company’s troubles are behind them then they could well still be on for a good year as they look to really break into a European market with this game. 

 

Who are the big brands expecting further growth in 2020? 

888 Holdings looks to be one of the big winners in what has been a troubling year so far. The veteran company announced last month that they expect their full year earnings to be significantly ahead of expectations as revenue rolled in, despite a distinct lack of sports betting. 

The natural shift to online betting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly benefited the world-renowned company who offer casino, poker, bingo and lottery games in Europe and the United States.

The recent news that 888 Holdings has extended its technology contract with Delaware’s online casino and poker monopoly in the United States has also come as welcome news to investors as the company no doubt sets itself up nicely to grow as new states legalise gambling.

Boston-based daily fantasy sports contest and sports betting provider Draftkings are another company worth keeping an eye on, despite seeing a slight fall in the value of their shares recently. Up until last month the company’s share price had surged after becoming a publicly traded company.

Chief Financial Officer Jason Park recently told investors that even with their recent dip Draftkings’ revenue was up 30%, and would have been up 60% if it were not for the pandemic. Unique players have risen to 720,000 per month, which is up 16% from 619,000 at the same time a year prior. With sports returning around the world in some form or another further growth is very much expected.

The merger between Flutter Entertainment and the Stars Group in May also represents one of the biggest moves in the industry and we thoroughly expect them to continue to dominate the sports betting scene with Paddy Power Betfair, Sky Betting and Gaming and Fox Bet at their disposal. If they can somehow capitalise on the renewed interest in online poker then 2020 could prove a good year for their leading poker brand, PokerStars as well.

 

Will the industry come out of the COVID-19 pandemic stronger?

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown almost every worldwide industry into chaos, however iGaming hasn’t faltered, having enjoyed an increase in revenue worldwide thanks to the massive migration of players from land-based casinos onto the internet. 

This migration should act as a catalyst for land-based operators to look at how they can innovate, integrate and adopt online gaming as part of their revenue stream especially in the states such as New Jersey where online gambing is already prominent.

Over in the United Kingdom, the world’s iGaming hotspot, the return of sports betting has boosted revenue for many operators following a reported fall in gambling participation in the month of May. 

However, the cash injection wasn’t particularly needed as online slots revenue had jumped by a generous 29.4% with monthly revenue sitting at £184.3m. 

Despite the positive financial outlook for operators in the United Kingdom there are clouds on the horizon as lawmakers push for tighter regulation of online gambling. However whether anything game-changing materialises from these calls remains to be seen.

Ultimately, the growth of the iGaming industry rests on the shoulders of lawmakers in key countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, as well Germany, Sweden and Australia, where online gambling has the potential to be a huge money-spinner. If a safe and sensible approach can be taken there’s no doubt that the only way for all involved is upwards.

Industry News

Nederlandse Loterij Appoints Sven Kramer as Brand Ambassador

Niji Narayan

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Nederlandse Loterij Appoints Sven Kramer as Brand Ambassador
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The Dutch National Lottery (Nederlandse Loterij) has appointed speed skater and four-time Olympic champion Sven Kramer as its brand ambassador.

Kramer joins the team of Nederlandse Loterij sports ambassadors in the run-up to the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing. The deal confirms the lottery’s role as a partner of skating Netherlands and as a co-main sponsor of the Royal Dutch Skating Association (KNSB).

“Within the rich history of long track speed skating, Sven is the undisputed number one. As a partner of TeamNL, we have of course been involved in the Olympic Games for many years and have already enjoyed his achievements a lot. He is a great sportsman with an unprecedented winning mentality, which we as a gaming organization are big fans of,” Judith Keizer, Sponsor Manager of Nederlandse Loterij, said.

“When Lotto, one of the seven game brands of the Nederlandse Loterij, was a partner of the skating team, I already worked with them a lot and I got to know the Nederlandse Loterij as a committed partner with a real heart for the sport. I look forward to the collaboration,” Sven Kramer said.

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Industry News

Entain Appoints Jette Nygaard-Andersen as its New CEO

Niji Narayan

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Entain Appoints Jette Nygaard-Andersen as its New CEO
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Entain plc has appointed Jette Nygaard-Andersen as its Chief Executive Officer with immediate effect. Jette is currently an independent non-executive director of Entain.

Shay Segev, the outgoing CEO, will remain available to Jette, the Board and management until July 8, to facilitate an orderly transition.

In addition, Rob Wood, Entain’s CFO, will have the role of Deputy CEO added to his current role with immediate effect, and Sandeep Tiku, Entain’s Chief Operating Officer, will be appointed to the Board later in the year.

Barry Gibson, Chairman of Entain, said: “We are extremely fortunate to have such an outstanding candidate and readymade CEO in Jette. She is already deeply immersed in Entain’s strategy, and clearly shares our ambition to be the world-leader in sports betting and gaming entertainment.

“Jette and I have been immensely impressed by Rob. He is extremely well regarded internally and externally, and the additional responsibilities will enable him to further develop his operational skills as well as overseeing a key tenet of our growth ambitions through M&A.

“Sandeep has been integral to the development of Entain’s unique proprietary technology platform, which is a source of significant competitive advantage. His appointment not only reflects his contribution to the success of Entain but is also aligned with our aim to have a broader range of experiences and inputs on the Board.”

Jette Nygaard-Andersen said: “I am very excited to have the opportunity of continuing the extraordinary momentum that Entain has in its existing markets, as well as helping it enter new regulated markets and reach new audiences. I am delighted that Rob has agreed to take on broader responsibilities and that the importance of our proprietary technology is recognised through Sandeep’s appointment to the Board. I am deeply wedded to Entain’s commitment to providing industry-leading levels of player protection, and to its philosophy that the most sustainable business in our industry will be the most successful business in our industry. I cannot wait to get started.”

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Dutch Gambling Regulator Imposes €600,000 Fine on Virtual Coin Gaming

Niji Narayan

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Dutch Gambling Regulator Imposes €600,000 Fine on Virtual Coin Gaming
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Dutch gambling regulator Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) has issued a fine of EUR 500,000 against the Curacao-licensed operator Virtual Coin Gaming (VCG) and a separate EUR 100,000 fine against an unnamed employee of the company for creating online games that the authority deemed to be games of chance.

VCG offered games via the websites www.futgalaxy.nl and nl.futgamer.com, which included online betting for football, hockey, and US sports, a FUT jackpot and game packs. Its online games were based on FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT), a card game that is part of the EA Sports FIFA video game franchise, in which players earned credits in the FUT video game either by purchasing these credits directly on www.futgalaxy.nl and nl.futgamer.com or by exchanging virtual currency earned in the EA Sports video game FIFA.

These game packs were a simulation of loot boxes found in the FUT-based FIFA video games in which players had the option to purchase six different packs with values ranging from 5000 to 100,000 credits. Highly rated soccer players were randomly added to the packs. Since the Dutch Betting and Gaming Act does not issue licenses for internet gaming, online games of chance are forbidden in the Netherlands.

Since 2018, in response to research that revealed a link between loot box games and gambling addiction, the KSA has focused on loot boxes, particularly in-game packs in FIFA video games.

The KSA pointed out that online games of chance violate the Betting and Gaming Act. According to the KSA, it was clear that this was a case of an unlicensed operator that specifically target Dutch consumers through the use of the Dutch language, the .nl domain extension and the use of the Dutch payment system iDEAL.

The KSA deemed the VCG game packs to be games of chance. Research carried out by the KSA in January 2019, bolstered by announcements on the websites themselves, revealed that participants generally are not able to predominantly influence their chances of receiving prizes from VCG loot boxes. The KSA also referred to a decision of the court The Hague of 15 October 2020 regarding Electronic Arts, which ruled that in-game packs (i.e. loot boxes) inside FIFA video games constituted games of chance.

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