Breaking Through in the U.S. gaming industry
This is the eighth year the editors of Casino Journal have studied the manufacturing arm of the gaming industry to identify companies that have “emerged” from the vendor herd and bear watching in the upcoming year.
The repeal of PASPA has led a number of overseas sports wagering concerns to redouble efforts in the U.S. market, making them emerging gaming companies to watch in 2019
Normally, we focus on nascent businesses, companies that are relative newcomers to the gaming space and largely unknown to the operator community. And while some such concerns are profiled in the article below, 2018 was unique in that a number of well-known European sports wagering solutions providers made significant forays into the North American gaming marketplace, thanks in large part to the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which essentially cleared the way for sports betting expansion within the U.S. In the end, we felt that these sports gaming vendors from Europe and elsewhere are “emerging” to U.S. operators, and they are thereby worthy of inclusion in this article.
So please read on to discover the new, and in some instances the established, gaming vendors that have surged over the past year and look to continue forward momentum into 2019.
Isle of Man-based GVC Holdings is one of the world’s largest sports betting and gaming groups, operating both online and in the retail sector. According to press materials, the group owns a comprehensive portfolio of established brands: Sports Brands include bwin, Coral, Crystalbet, Eurobet, Ladbrokes and Sportingbet; while Gaming Brands include CasinoClub, Foxy Bingo, Gala, Gioco Digitale, PartyCasino and partypoker. GVC also owns proprietary technology across all of its core product verticals and, in addition to its B2C operations, provides services to a number of third-party customers on a B2B basis. The company has licenses in more than 20 countries, across five continents.
GVC has made a number of bold moves this past year, starting in March when it acquired Ladbrokes Coral Group, making GVC the UK’s largest high street bookmaker with over 3,500 betting shops. The company also had an initial successful foray into the non-Nevada U.S. sports betting scene when its Stadium Technology Group was selected to power single-game sports bets for Delaware. Stadium’s software powers sports betting at the state’s casinos, with the existing system capability to rollout to the state’s other 100 licensed locations.
But the company made perhaps its biggest sports wagering splash in July, with the announcement of a 50/50 joint venture with MGM Resorts International to create a world-class sports betting and online gaming platform in the U.S. According to a press release, MGM Resorts and GVC bring market-leading assets, distinguished brands, proven and scalable proprietary technology and extensive industry expertise to revolutionize the world of sports betting and online gaming in the U.S. The formation of the joint venture significantly increases speed to market for both parties in an efficient and prudent manner, lowers execution risk and creates meaningful early mover advantages.
“MGM Resorts is a world leading entertainment business and the most trusted name in gaming, with the highest quality brands and management, and strong sports connectivity,” said Kenneth Alexander, chief executive of GVC. “This combined with GVC’s technology and experience in successfully building online gaming businesses across multiple markets presents a truly exciting opportunity for U.S. players and our respective shareholders. To be able to team up with a partner with such pedigree and knowledge, particularly in the U.S., is a real opportunity for GVC.”
The new venture has exclusive access to all U.S. land-based and online sports betting, online real money and free-to-play casino gaming, major tournament and online poker, and other similar future interactive businesses—facilitating entry into multiple digital gaming verticals under the playMGM and partypoker headline brands. The venture also allows for full integration between the MGM Resorts and GVC loyalty programs, enhancing the user experience and value proposition for existing and future customers.
The venture, called MGM GVC Interactive (MGI), has already gained substantial traction in the U.S. marketplace. Recently, the entity announced a deal with the United Auburn Indian Community (UAIC), the operator of Lincoln, Calif-based Thunder Valley Casino Resort, which will provide MGI with access to the California marketplace if and when state law permits sports betting. Under the terms of the partnership, MGI would provide its iconic brands and proprietary technology to enable UAIC to offer retail and mobile sports betting and online casino and poker if and when any are permitted under state law.
Earlier this year, MGI was also involved in a deal with MGM resorts and the startup Alliance of American Football. When The Alliance takes the historic first snap in February 2019, fans will be able to stream Alliance matchups for free through a first-of-its-kind app, while accessing integrated gaming with real rewards. And, in states where sports gambling is legal, the sports betting platform owned and operated by MGI will provide fans with in-game wagering while also still providing traditional sports betting.
MGI also found time to launch the playMGM mobile sports betting product in New Jersey. This app features markets on a full range of U.S. and selected international sports with customers able to sign-up, deposit and withdraw cash directly from their mobile devices from any location in New Jersey. The sports betting app features a single wallet that enables existing and new customers to view their total account balance and easily apply available funds to their choice of sports betting, casino or poker products, according to press materials.
Thanks in part to the MGI venture, the sports betting future does indeed look bright for GVC in the U.S.
Another Europe-based solutions provider looking to make hay on changing U.S. sports betting laws is SBTech, a global leader in omni-channel sports betting and gaming with over 1,000 employees in 11 locations worldwide. Since 2007, SBTech has developed one of the industry’s most powerful online sports betting and casino platforms, serving more than 50 licensees in over 14 regulated markets. SBTech’s clients include many of the world’s premier betting and gaming operators, state lotteries, land-based casino and horse racing companies and iGaming start-ups. The SBTech offering includes its Seamless Sportsbook, the Chameleon360 iGaming Platform, Managed Services, and retail and omni-channel solutions that provide players with constant access to sports and casino products across all touchpoints: online, mobile and retail.
SBTech got in early on the more liberalized U.S. sports wagering market, signing of a long-term agreement with Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) in May to provide its integrated technology platform for sports betting and iGaming solutions across the U.S. At the time, the deal marked the first partnership of its kind between an award-winning European platform provider and a leading U.S. multi-jurisdictional racing and gaming operator since the US Supreme Court’s historic decision overturning the federal ban on sports betting, according to press materials.
“We are thrilled to have Churchill Downs as our first U.S. partner,” said Richard Carter, CEO of SBTech. “Churchill is not only an iconic brand with the largest on-line horse race wagering business in the U.S., but it is also one of the fastest growing gaming operators in the nation. The combination of Churchill’s leading presence in the U.S. market, coupled with SBTech’s deep expertise in regulated sports betting markets globally, makes for an ideal partnership as we enter this monumental chapter in the U.S. gaming industry.”
SBTech enters the U.S. market with a keen focus on development of the most entertaining sports and iGaming products, and will work in close partnership with Churchill to deploy a cutting edge platform designed to engage the world’s largest sports centric audience. Subject to the unfolding of the regulatory landscape and relevant licensing approvals, SBTech will provide Churchill with its powerful sports betting platform with unparalleled event coverage, in addition to SBTech’s Chameleon360 iGaming platform with advanced player management services, high-end analytics, anti-money laundering and responsible gambling features, robust regulatory reporting and streamlined payments.
The company’s winning streak in the U.S. continued with the announcement of sports wagering deals with two land-based casino operations. SBTech’s arrangement with Resorts Casino Hotel provides the facility with a sportsbook solution across on-property, online and mobile channels in New Jersey. According to a press release, among the factors that led to the Resorts Casino selection of SBTech were the U.S. focus of SBTech’s proprietary market-leading sportsbook, coupled with the company’s proven track record of rapid deployment in newly regulated markets.
More recently, SBTech was confirmed as the new omni-channel sports betting supplier to Golden Nugget Casinos in Atlantic City and Biloxi, Miss. According to press materials, plans call for the company to integrate its sportsbook with Golden Nugget Casinos’ existing iGaming platform in New Jersey providing a full platform and sportsbook solution to the company’s on-property businesses in New Jersey and Mississippi, including an integration into their existing casino management systems. A customizable and highly flexible front end was designed specifically for Golden Nugget Casinos to ensure maximum differentiation, while the industry’s most advanced responsible gaming infrastructure will enable SBTech to meet the licensing requirements set out by both states.
And SBTech is far from done with its aggressive sports betting expansion plans—the company recently inked an extension with Scandinavian sportsbook operator Bethard and unveiled plans to enter the rapidly growing regulated French sports wagering market in the first quarter of 2019.
Kambi is a provider of premium sports betting services to licensed B2C gaming operators. The company’s services encompass a broad offering from front-end user interface through to odds compiling, customer intelligence and risk management, built on an in-house developed software platform. Kambi utilizes a best of breed security approach, with guiding principles from ISO 27001, and is eCOGRA certified. Kambi’s 23 customers include 888, ATG, DraftKings, Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, Kindred Group, LeoVegas, Napoleon Games and Rush Street Gaming. Kambi employs approximately 700 staff across offices in Malta (headquarters), Bucharest, London, Manila, Stockholm and Sydney.
The company is ready to make a major splash in the U.S. and European on-property sports wagering markets over the next year, a campaign that kicked off with last month’s launch of a DraftKings’ Sportsbook at the Resorts Casino in Atlantic City. According to a press release, this sportsbook features a dozen betting kiosks, five over-the-counter points of sale and customized digital signage, providing Resorts with a modern land-based wagering experience in New Jersey.
New Jersey operators using Kambi-powered solutions currently control 60 percent of the state’s online gaming marketplace, and the company hopes to replicate this success in New Jersey’s land-based sports wagering business with its betting kiosk technology. Kambi has more than 100 betting kiosks ready for its U.S. customers and is strengthening its supply chain to meet increased kiosk demand in 2019.
The New Jersey launch was quickly followed by Kambi’s debut in Pennsylvania, with the company ready to install its on-property sportsbook across three major casinos in the Keystone State—Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment’s Parx Casino, Rush Street Gaming’s SugarHouse Casino and Rivers Casino properties.
These U.S. launches will build on the company’s existing land-based footprint, with Kambi having operated on-property sportsbooks for a number of years across casinos in Mexico and Cambodia, as well as sports betting parlors in Belgium.
“We’re very excited about bringing our high-quality sportsbook to brick-and-mortar establishments in the U.S., where operators are recognizing the excellence of our on-property product, both from a technology and player experience perspective,” said Max Meltzer, chief commercial officer for Kambi. “In recent years, Kambi has invested heavily in developing a land-based solution that is on par with our online sportsbook and, as a result, we now have the most advanced product on the market, not just in the U.S., but globally. This is one of the key reasons why the likes of DraftKings, Rush Street Interactive and Parx Casino have chosen to offer our on-property product and why we are quickly becoming the number one choice for online and on-property sportsbooks on both sides of the Atlantic.”
EquiLottery Games has evolved into a leader of a new live sports category for state and provincial lotteries. Developing a series of live sports games of pure chance protected by U.S. and Canadian patents, EquiLottery Games supports its lottery offerings through a series of products and services that make its games plug-and-play for its state lottery customers, according to company literature.
The company’s first product placement win came early this year when its flagship game, Win Place Show, was accepted by the Kentucky Lottery on a trial basis set to begin in March 2019. A three number lottery game based on the results of live horse racing, this game will be offered at 45 locations in Kentucky over a span of 90 days.
Last month, the company announced it will expand its pioneering vision for live sports lottery games from a single horse racing product to now include baseball, basketball, football, golf, hockey, soccer and stock car racing, all based on the same patented platform as Win Place Show. The team sport parlay game allows players to buy lottery tickets based on a slate of 10 games from the big five professional sports in the U.S.—baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer. Matching the winner of all 10 games returns an estimated top prize of $1,000. Car Cash features tickets listing three drivers in a 40-car race and pays out an estimated $50,000 top prize. Golfing for Gold is based on a ticket featuring three golfers and pays an estimated top prize of $2 million.
“We have always been a future-focused company, leading the way on products that combine the excitement of live sports with the lottery draw experience,” said EquiLottery Games CEO Brad Cummings. “Our original vision was to introduce live horse racing to new fans through government lotteries. We have now expanded our offerings to include lottery games based on all live sports. This solves a pain point for lotteries by allowing them to offer a form of sports wagering through their existing statutes and retail channels with low-risk games designed to appeal to their player base.”
Knightscope is an advanced security technology company based in Silicon Valley and builds the ultimate in security guards.
This past summer Pechanga Resort Casino became the first gaming property in the country to go all-in with Knightscope’s autonomous security robots. The units patrol the casino property and enhance its overall safety. One stationary bot and one roving unit provide commanding but friendly physical security presences.
Already in use by large companies and corporations such as XPO Logistics, Westfield Malls, The Sacramento Kings and more, at Pechanga, their main goals will be to further assist the property’s security personnel by improving response times, as well as better detect suspicious activity or weapons.
At five and a half feet tall and weighing 400 pounds, the autonomous machine stands out in a crowd. It also continuously captures and sends 360-degree, high-definition night and day video of its surroundings, can auto detect license plates and people, and also utilizes thermal imaging which allows for triggered alerts based on temperature in the event of an increased risk of fire or similar threat.
“Knightscope Robots continue to provide its clients with crime-fighting wins 24/7, creating stronger and safer American communities,” said William Santana Li, chairman and CEO for Knightscope. “We’re proud to team up with Pechanga to ensure guest safety and set a new standard for security at resort casinos across the country.”