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State of the Union: Caesars, New York, Arizona and more

Insight | Analysis

This week’s State of the Union, in partnership with Segev LLP, includes bills to legalize sports betting in Arizona and mobile betting in New York, Caesars’ takeover of William Hill, announcements from BetMGM’s investor day and sports betting revenue results from New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Caesars completes £2.9bn acquisition of William Hill

Caesars Entertainment has finalized its acquisition of British gambling operator William Hill.

Under the acquisition deal announced in September last year, Caesars agreed to pay £2.9bn ($4.04bn) to take ownership of the business, purchasing William Hill’s 1.08bn shares for £2.72 apiece.

At the time, Caesars stated that the target of the acquisition was William Hill’s US betting business and technology, with the remainder of the operator’s assets, including its UK arm, now set to be sold.

New York set for mobile betting as Governor Cuomo signs FY 2022 budget

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed the state’s fiscal 2022 budget, clearing the way for the launch of legal mobile sports wagering.

Earlier this month, Cuomo and the New York legislature finalized a FY 2022 budget bill that contained provisions for legal mobile sports betting, including a $25m license fee, and bidding process for potential licensees.

Cuomo has now signed off on the bill, which he said would help the state recover from the financial losses it has suffered during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

BetMGM Q1 revenue reaches 90% of 2020 total as JV aims for $1bn by 2022

Online sportsbook BetMGM recorded revenue of $163m for the first three months of 2021 – 90% of its entire 2020 total.

At an investor day event, the MGM-Entain joint venture announced it posted net revenue of $178m for the entirety of last year, but it appears set to eclipse that total by early Q2.

Arizona regulator begins drafting sports betting and fantasy rules

The Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) has begun drafting rules for the introduction of fantasy competitions and sports wagering in the state, following Governor Doug Ducey’s signing of House Bill 2772 last week.

The ADG said it will now initiate a robust public process to develop rules for the new forms of gaming, and that it is hard at work to make products available to Arizonans responsibly and as soon as possible.

Churchill Downs Incorporated returns to profit in Q1

Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) returned to profit in Q1 of 2021 as revenue grew 28.2% year-on-year to $324.3m, thanks to the acquisition of new race courses and the continued growth of the operator’s online division.

Almost half of CDI’s revenue came from land-based casino gaming away from the Churchill Downs site, up 4.1% to $152.0m from the first quarter of 2020, the final weeks of which were impacted by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Mer Telemanagement Solutions to acquire SharpLink in reverse merger

Betting technology supplier SharpLink and software provider Mer Telemanagement Solutions (MTS) have agreed the terms of a reverse merger that will create a new publicly listed business under the SharpLink brand name.

The deal will see SharpLink’s common stock holders own an estimated 86% of the merged company, which includes a stock option of 10% of the fully-diluted outstanding share capital belonging to the new company.

New Jersey gambling revenue rockets 119.8% YoY in March

Gambling revenue in New Jersey hiked 119.8% year-on-year in March as the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement reported growth across the sports betting, igaming and land-based casino segments.

Total market revenue for the month amounted to $359.3m, up from $163.5m in March of last year, though the 2020 figures were impacted heavily by land-based casino closures and a lack of sports betting options due to events being cancelled – both in line with novel coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions.

AGA warns of “rapid growth” in illegal gambling machines

The American Gaming Association has warned players of the risks posed by unlicensed gaming machines, after what it described as a “rapid growth” in their prevalence.

AGA vice President of Government Relations and Gaming Policy Counsel Jessica Feil said the report was in response to a rapid growth in the amount of unregulated gaming machines that had been operating.

Kindred Group awarded Virginia mobile sports betting license

Kindred’s Unibet Interactive subsidiary has been awarded a direct market access mobile sports betting permit in the state of Virginia.

Under this permit, the group will soon be able offer customers in the state access to its flagship Unibet online sportsbook.

Arizona legalizes sports betting as Governor Ducey signs bill

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has reported a 162.7% year-on-year increase in gambling revenue for the US state in March, while the market also experienced a 22.0% month-on-month increase.

Overall gambling revenue for the month – comprising land-based table games and slots, online casino, sports betting, fantasy sports and video gaming terminals – amounted to $403.2m.

NFL signs Caesars, DraftKings and FanDuel as first US sportsbook partners

North America’s National Football League (NFL) has announced that Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings and FanDuel will become its first official sports betting partners in the US.

Each of the multi-year agreements will allow the gambling operators to leverage official NFL marks within the sports betting category and activate around retail and online sports wagering.

Virginia sports bettors wager $628.7m from January to March

The Virginia Lottery has released a gaming update for the first months of legal gaming in the state, showing that a total of $628.7m was wagered on sports from the market’s opening on January 21 to March 31.

While the lottery did not reveal the amount of revenue generated, $1.5m was paid in taxes by operators in the state during the period, with $38,095 going to the Problem Gambling & Treatment Support Fund.

Bally’s misses out as City of Richmond cuts casino resort shortlist to two

Bally’s Corporation’s bid to build a new casino resort in the City of Richmond, Virginia has failed after it missed out on the final shortlist of proposed operators for the facility.

Last month, Bally’s Richmond Casino Resort was named alongside Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond from the Cordish Companies and One Casino + Resort from Maryland-based media business Urban One as the three proposals that the City of Richmond was considering to run the casino.

Bally’s raises $671.4m via share offering to fund Gamesys acquisition

Casino operator Bally’s Corporation has raised $671.4m through a share offering, with the funds to be used to partially finance its acquisition of Gamesys Group.

Bally’s issued a total of 12,650,000 shares of common stock, including 1,650,000 shares issued pursuant to the full exercise of the underwriters’ over-allotment option, at a price of $55.00 each.

PointsBet completes $43m Banach Technology acquisition

PointsBet Holdings has completed its previously announced acquisition of sportsbook solutions provider Banach Technology.

The operator last month agreed a deal through its Lockspell Limited Irish subsidiary to purchase Banach for US$43.0m to purchase Banach on a cash and debt-free basis, with 55% of this being paid in cash and 45% in shares.

Online betting introduced in Arkansas, passed to Committee

A bill calling for the introduction and regulation of online sports betting by casino licensees in Arkansas has been referred to the state House Rules Committee.

House Bill 1942, introduced by Representative Lee Johnson, asks for online sports betting to be approved “immediately” for operation in the state.

Michigan betting and igaming revenue grows to $127.4m in March

Online betting and gaming operators in Michigan brought in $127.4m in March, a 42.8% month-on-month increase in the second full month of online activity, thanks in part to betting on the NCAA basketball tournament.

The majority of this revenue – $95.1m, up 19.3% from February – came from online casino gaming.

DraftKings appoints Gisele Bündchen to board and ESG advisor role

DraftKings has announced the appointment of Brazilian model and environmental activist Gisele Bündchen as special advisor to the company’s CEO and as a member of the board of directors for environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives.

A former super model, Bündchen has been recognized as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. She has consistently supported environmental initiatives, including the Clean Water Project in her home country Brazil.

Tulalip Tribes strike deal with regulator to bring sports betting to Washington

The Washington State Gambling Commission and the Tulalip Tribes of Washington have reached an agreement allowing sports betting in person at the Tribes’ casinos, or via mobile if bets are placed at these casinos.

As part of the agreement, the Tribe – which has two Class III gaming facilities on the Tulalip reservation in Marysville – may amend its Class III gaming compact to include sports wagering.

Betsson acquires Strive Platform stake to support North American expansion

Betsson has acquired a 35% stake in TG Lab’s Strive Platform for $6.5m (£4.7m/€5.4m), in a strategic venture aimed at supporting its expansion plans in the North American market.

The acquisition comes as part of a wider partnership with igaming technology provider and developer TG Lab, agreed in Q4 2020. This agreement grants Betsson access to TG Lab’s player account management (PAM) system to support its launch in the US.

IGT to reduce board size as Bassey departs

International Game Technology (IGT) is to downsize its board of directors to 10 members after Beatrice Bassey announced she would not stand for re-election.

Bassey, who became an independent board member at IGT in March 2020, will serve out the remainder of her term before stepping down after the gambling technology giant’s annual general meeting on May 11.

DraftKings becomes official partner of Professional Fighters League

Online operator DraftKings has become the first official sportsbook and daily fantasy partner of mixed martial arts (MMA) organization, the Professional Fighters League (PFL).

The multi-year partnership will begin with the availability of wagering on PFL on DraftKings’ platform across the US, pending regulatory approvals.

Rush Street Interactive appoints Seiler to new IR role

Betting and igaming operator Rush Street Interactive (RSI) has appointed Lauren Seiler to the newly created role of associate vice president of investor relations and development.

In the new position, Seiler will lead RSI’s investor relations efforts and work with the team to drive RSI’s growth, development and M&A initiatives.