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State of the Union: MGM-Entain, Michigan, Adelson and more

Insight | Analysis

The first State of the Union of 2021, in partnership with Segev LLP, is headlined by MGM Resorts’ proposal to acquire igaming giant Entain, formerly known as GVC. Eslewhere, a bill legalising interstate poker in Michigan became law and Las Vegas Sands chairman and chief executive Sheldon Adelson was forced to take a medical leave of absence.

Entain reveals talks with MGM Resorts over potential mega-merger

Entain, the igaming giant formerly known as GVC Holdings, has confirmed that its US joint venture partner MGM Resorts International has put forward a proposal to potentially acquire the business.

MGM Resorts’ most recent proposal would offer 0.6 MGM shares for each Entain share, which based on closing prices on 31 December 2020, represents a value of 1,383 pence per Entain share. This in turn represents a 22% premium on Entain’s share price.

Should the proposal be firmed up with a concrete offer, it would see Entain shareholders own approximately 41.5% of the combined entity, with shareholders to be offered a limited partial cash alternative.

Michigan Governor signs interstate poker bill

Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed a bill that would allow online poker to be played across state lines.

The bill – Senate Bill 991 of the 2019-20 legislative session – would allow liquidity for poker games to be pooled with other states, or other jurisdictions such as Native American tribes, that allow the same.

Currently, Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey all offer interstate poker.

MGM confirms Entain merger proposal but “no certainty” of firm offer

Land-based giant MGM Resorts International has confirmed that it has put forward an offer to acquire igaming operator Entain, formerly known as GVC Holdings, but said it could not yet confirm that it will make a firm bid.

As announced by Entain earlier today, MGM Resorts put forward a proposal to acquire the operator 0.6 MGM shares for each Entain share. This would value the Ladbrokes and PartyGaming operator at approximately $11.00bn (£8.11bn/€8.97bn).

Under this deal, Entain shareholders would then own a combined 41.5% of MGM.

Las Vegas Sands’ Adelson takes medical leave of absence

Las Vegas Sands chairman and chief executive Sheldon Adelson will take a medical leave of absence after resuming undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, with president and chief operating officer Robert G. Goldstein stepping into both roles.

Las Vegas Sands did not reveal the length of the leave of absence.

Adelson founded Las Vegas Sands in 1988 after he led the purchase of the Sands Casino. The business soon built the Sands Expo and Convention Center. The Sands Casino was then demolished 1996, to be replaced with the Venetian, which opened in 1999.

Playtika SEC statement reveals revenue of $1.80bn in first nine months of 2020

Playtika’s registration statement, filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ahead of a planned initial public offering, reveals the business generated revenue of $1.80bn in the nine months to 30 September, 2020.

The social gaming giant first announced plans for an IPO in October, but the SEC registration statement, which must be reviewed and approved before the offering can take place, was not made public until late December.

There remains little clarity as to how many shares are to be sold and the price range of the offering, both of which are yet to be determined. However, it did note that following the offering its parent company Giant Investments, led the consortium that acquired the business from Caesars Entertainment in a $4.4bn deal in 2016, would retain majority control of the business.

Iowa introduces online registration for sports betting

Sports bettors in Iowa are now able to register online, rather than only in person, as of 1 January, which has led BetMGM to launch in the state.

Sports betting – both retail and online – was legalised in Iowa in August 2019. However, online customers were required to create their account in person at a casino in the state for the first 18 months after the bill passed.

PointsBet partners NBA’s Detroit Pistons ahead of Michigan launch

Sportsbook operator PointsBet has entered into a new partnership with National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise the Detroit Pistons, ahead of its launch in the team’s home state of Michigan.

PointsBet will become an official sports betting partner of the Pistons and have access to official team marks and logos, as well as sponsorship opportunities and brand visibility across digital and social assets.

Felicia Hendrix to step into Penn National CFO role

Casino operator Penn National Gaming announced that executive vice president and chief financial officer David Williams stepped down from his role as of December 31, 2020, and will be replaced by Felicia Hendrix, who will join the company on March 2 this year.

Williams joined the operator as CFO in January 2020 from Apple, where he served as CFO of Claris, the technology giant’s B2B software subsidiary formally known as FileMaker.

FanDuel announces partnership with NBA legend Barkley

Flutter Entertainment-owned daily fantasy and sports betting operator FanDuel has announced an exclusive content partnership with former National Basketball Association (NBA) player, Sports Emmy-winning analyst and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley.

The partnership designates FanDuel as Barkley’s exclusive sports betting and daily fantasy sports partner, and Barkley will serve as the company’s brand ambassador and spokesperson.

Oregon sees strong year-end with new sports betting revenue record

The Oregon Lottery has revealed that its Score Board sports betting application set a new record for gross gaming revenue (GGR) in November, while the state also saw strong levels of wagering activity in December.

GGR in November amounted to $4.1m, surpassing the previous monthly record of $2.8m set in October 2020 by 46.4%.

Billionaire Moelis funds new SPAC with eye on gaming sector

Investment banking billionaire Ken Moelis has founded a new special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), Atlas Crest Investment II, which will seek to merge with a business in a range of sectors including sports betting.

Atlas Crest filed a prospectus revealing plans to raise $250m in an initial public offering (IPO), with 25m units – consisting of a share and one third of an exercisable warrant – valued at $10 each.

NV gaming revenue slips to $771.2m despite record sportsbook contribution

Nevada gaming revenue reversed its trend of recovery in November 2020, declining 6.3% month-on-month to $771.2m on stakes of $9.42bn, while the state set a new revenue record for sports betting.

Slot machines made up the majority of revenue, but at $528.5m, this total was down 6.4% month-on-month and 14.3% year-on-year. Players staked $7.52bn on slots.

William Hill launches mobile betting in Washington DC

William Hill will look to strengthen its presence in the US capital by rolling out its mobile sportsbook in Washington DC.

The sportsbook complements its retail presence in the city’s Capital One Arena, though will only be available within a two-block radius of that property.

MGM Resorts names Halkyard as new finance chief

Casino giant MGM Resorts International has appointed Jonathan Halkyard as its new chief financial officer.

Halkyard will succeed Corey Sanders, who returns to the role of chief operating officer of the business – which he held before shifting to the CFO position in February 2019 – and report directly to president and chief executive Bill Hornbuckle.

CT Governor throws support behind legal betting and igaming

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has followed his New York counterpart Andrew Cuomo in voicing his support for legal sports betting and online gambling.

Giving his State of the State address yesterday (6 January), Lamont said 2020 had been one of the “most challenging and humbling” years of his life, due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Covid-19 disruption pushes DE sports betting revenue down in 2020

Sports betting revenue in Delaware fell 32.8% year-on-year in 2020 to $8.4m, as the state felt the impact of the suspension of activities due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Players wagered a total of $57.6m on sports over the past 12 months, a drop of 43.9% from $102.6m in the previous year. Some 1.3m bets were placed in 2020, down from 2.5m in 2019.

NH sees betting handle dip but revenue grow in November

The New Hampshire Lottery has reported a month-over-month decline in amounts wagered on sports for November, though revenue for DraftKings’ sportsbook in the state hit a new high of $4.8m.

Handle for the month came to $46.5m, down 1.1% from October’s $47.1m in stakes, following a 3.3% decline in mobile’s contribution to $38.9m. Retail stakes, on the other hand, were up 11.8% to $7.6m, with two DraftKings sportsbooks opened in the state since August.

RI sets new sports betting revenue record in November

The Rhode Island Lottery has reported a new monthly revenue record for sports betting in November, with operators generating a total of $6.3m during the month.

The November was 43.2% higher than the previous record of $4.4m that was set in October 2020, and also up 133.3% from $2.7m in November 2019.

Bally’s to construct new Category 4 PA venue through Lubert deal

US casino operator Bally’s Corporation has revealed plans to expand operations into Pennsylvania after setting out proposals to open a new land-based venue and launch sports betting and igaming in the state.

Working in partnership with real estate and private equity investor, and former Valley Forge Casino owner, Ira Lubert, Bally’s plans to jointly design, develop, construct and manage a new Category 4 licensed casino.

Penn National opens Barstool sportsbooks in Indiana & Michigan

Casino operator Penn National Gaming (PNG) has opened three Barstool-branded sportsbooks, at the Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg and Ameristar East Chicago Casino & Hotel in Indiana, and Greektown Casino Hotel in Detroit, Michigan.

Existing sportsbooks at Hollywood Lawrenceburg and Ameristar East Chicago were rebranded to “incorporate the spirit of the Barstool Sports brand”, while a new sportsbook was opened at Greektown Casino.

Colorado sportsbook stakes continue growth in November

Colorado’s regulated sports betting market continued its upward trajectory into November, with amounts wagered growing 9.7% month-over-month to $231.2m.

After players won back $212.9m – up from $193.3m in October – gross revenue for November was up 5.5% at $18.4m.

GAN completes $175.9m Coolbet acquisition

iGaming solutions provider GAN has completed its acquisition of Vincent Group, the parent company of operator Coolbet, for $175.9m (£129.6m/€149.1m) in cash and stock.

The deal, GAN said, positioned the business as a full-service B2B solutions provider for real-money gaming in the US, and as a vertically integrated B2C competitor in selected international markets.

Report: NY Governor changes tack on mobile wagering

New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, is expected to announce his support for legal mobile sports betting, marking a major shift in his approach to the product.

According to reports in the US press Cuomo is set to deliver his State of the State address next week, in which he will set out goals for the upcoming legislative session.

Landcadia Holdings completes GNOG combination

Special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Landcadia Holdings II has completed its combination with Golden Nugget Online Gaming, the igaming division of the land-based brand, with shares in the new business trading on the Nasdaq from December 30, 2020.

Lancadia’s shareholders approved the combination on December 29, allowing for the company’s shares to begin trading under the GNOG ticker a day later.

CDI to unify betting and igaming products under TwinSpires brand

Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) will rebrand its sportsbook and online gaming product from BetAmerica to TwinSpires, the name it currently uses for its online pari-mutuel racing wagering product.

The TwinSpires product will launch first in Michigan, where Churchill Downs is one of 15 initial online gambling licensees and hopes to launch later this month.

Cordish to open new Pennsylvania casino on January 19

Real estate and entertainment business Cordish Companies has announced that it is to open its new Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia venue in Pennsylvania on January 19, just two months after work started on the project.

The facility will host a series of reservation-only preview days for Live! Rewards Club members, before opening to the general public on February 11, pending final regulatory approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Elys joins National Council on Problem Gambling

Elys Game Technology, the online gambling operator and supplier previously known as Newgioco Group, has joined the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) in the US.

Elys will work with the NCPG and its other members to develop and implement the association’s responsible gambling practices.

FSB expands senior team ahead in preparation for US launch

Sportsbook technology supplier FSB has made two appointments to its senior management team as it prepares to compete in the US wagering market.

Larry Pelzer has joined the supplier as vice president of sales for North America, while Mike Van Ermen has taken on the role of vice president of pre-sales.

IGT cashless Resort Wallet solution approved for Nevada roll-out

iGaming solutions giant International Game Technology (IGT) has successfully completed the final stage of Nevada regulatory approval for its Resort Wallet carded cashless module, a payment solution forming part of its IGT Advantage casino management system.

The solution is now approved to be deployed in casinos throughout the state, which the supplier said would allow its customers to offer their patrons the option of a reduced-contact, safer cashless slot gaming experience.

Las Vegas Sands hits two of three sustainability targets in first ESG report

Las Vegas Sands has hit two of its three environmental sustainability goals and is on course for a third, according to its first ever Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Report.

The operator drastically reduced its greenhouse gas emissions since 2015, with its 12.4% emission reduction well above the 6% goal it set in alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for 2020.

Rush Street Interactive completes NYSE listing

Rush Street Interactive has completed its combination with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) dMY Technology Group, with trading of its shares on the New York Stock Exchange beginning on December 30.

The deal was finalized after dMY shareholders backed the transaction at a shareholder meeting on December 29, resulting in the business changing its stock market ticker to RSI.

Tennessee bettors stake $131.4m in first month of mobile wagering

The launch of sports betting in Tennessee has set a new record for the first month of legal wagering in a state, with bettors staking $131.4m in November.

The state’s first bets were placed on 1 November, with players staking $27.4m in the first week, a period which saw the National Football League well underway.

IGT extends instant games contract with Michigan Lottery

International Game Technology (IGT), through its IGT Global Solutions subsidiary, has agreed a contract extension with Michigan Lottery to continue providing instant ticket games and related services until December 2021.

IGT has been supplying instant ticket games to the lottery since 2017, most recently launching games such as $10 Ruby Mine and $30 Ultimate Millions.