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State of the Union: Penn National Gaming, PointsBet, Google and more

Insight | Analysis

This week’s State of the Union, in partnership with Segev LLP, covers the start of annual results season – with Penn National Gaming and PointsBet reporting, alongside full-year Nevada gaming figures – as well as moves to welcome online gambling from both Google and Las Vegas Sands.

Penn National posts $669.5m loss as Covid-19 drives revenue drop in 2020

Penn National Gaming (PNG) has reported a $669.5m net loss for 2020, primarily due to a sharp decline in revenue caused by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Revenue for the 12 months through to December 31 2020 amounted to $3.58bn, down 32.5% from $5.30bn in the previous year. Gaming revenue was down by 27.4% to $3.10bn, while food, beverage, hotel and other revenue fell 48.9% to $527.6m.

Like all other casino operators in the US, PNG was hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis in 2020, with its venues forced to close for large period of the year, in line with state restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.

PointsBet H1 revenue soars though net loss widens

PointsBet saw turnover and revenue for the first half of its 2020-21 fiscal year grow rapidly, though high advertising spend and R&D investment hit its bottom line.

The operator also revealed that its January figures suggest it is on course to shatter its previous quarterly revenue records, thanks to improved US margins.

For the first half of the year, PointsBet’s turnover came to AUD$1.89bn (£1.06bn/€1.19bn/$1.45bn), up 254.5% from 2019–20. Australia made up the bulk of this total, contributing $1.07bn, a 206.6% increase. US turnover grew 335.1% to $819.0m.

Google opens US Play Store to gambling apps

Search and technology giant Google has announced major changes to the Developer Programme Policy, that will see players in 15 countries, including the US, permitted to download gambling apps from the Play Store.

Currently gambling apps are only permitted in the UK, French and Irish Play Stores, while Brazilian players can download apps for horse racing and lotteries operated by the country’s central bank Caixa Econômica Federal.

This changes from 1 March. From that date, gambling apps will be available in the Australian, Belgian, Canadian, Colombian, Danish, Finnish, German, Japanese, Mexican, New Zealand, Norwegian, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish and US Play Stores.

Nevada gaming revenue falls to 24-year low in 2020

Nevada gaming revenue declined 34.6% to $7.87bn in 2020, the lowest annual total since 1996, after closures and ongoing property restrictions as a result of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

Slot machines made up more than two thirds of revenue, at $5.42bn, down 31.7% year-on-year, as players staked $78.61bn.

Multi-denomination and penny slots made up the majority of revenue, with the former bringing in slightly more at $2.38bn, down 27.3% compared to the latter’s $2.35bn, down 32.8%.

Golden Nugget parent to go public through SPAC combination 

Fertitta Entertainment, the parent company of Golden Nugget operator Landry’s, is to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange through a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Fast Acquisition Corporation.

The deal will see Fertitta Entertainment owner Tilman Fertitta sell a minority stake in the business to investors.

Sands exploring igaming opportunities, Goldstein reveals

Las Vegas Sands’ new chief executive Robert Goldstein has revealed that the operator is exploring “a few opportunities” to expand into online gambling.

In the operator’s earnings call discussing its fourth quarter and full year results, Goldstein said the operator was exploring a number of options for growth, including expansion in the US land-based market.

BCLC urges government to pass single-event betting amendment

Canadian provincial lottery operator the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) has thrown its backing behind a bill that proposes legalizing single-event sports betting in the country.

Introduced in the Canadian House of Commons in November of last year, C-13 seeks to amend paragraph 207(4)‍(b) of the Criminal Code to make it lawful for bets to be placed on a single sports or athletics event.

PlayStudios to go public with $1.1bn valuation

Free-to-play mobile gaming business PlayStudios is to merge with special purpose acquisition company Acies Acquisition Corporation to list on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.

Founded in 2011, PlayStudios secured strategic investments from MGM Resorts International and console gaming giant Activision Blizzard in its early stages.

Ontario’s OLG group appoints Basi as new CFO

Ontario’s state-run gaming and lottery operator, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), has appointed Pinder Basi as its new chief financial officer.

Basi (pictured), who begins his new role with OLG today (1 February), previously served as the executive vice president and chief financial officer at retailer Mastermind Toys.

Minnesota introduces retail and online sports betting legislation

A bipartisan bill allowing for the regulation of sports wagering at racetracks and casinos, as well as online, has been introduced in the Minnesota State Senate.

Under the bill – Senate Bill 410, introduced by Karla Bingham and Jeremy Miller – bookmaker licenses will be issued valid for one year to applicants who comply with the forthcoming regulations. An application fee, license fee and renewal fee will apply, however the cost of each has not yet been specified.

New bill proposes legal online and land-based sports betting in Alabama

Legislators in Alabama are to run the rule over a new bill that seeks to legalize online, mobile and land-based sports betting in the US state.

Introduced by Representative John Rogers, House Bill 161 would permit betting on professional and collegiate sports events in Alabama, with consumers able to bet in person at licensed venues or with approved online and mobile operators.

Poker comes to Michigan as PokerStars launches alongside Fox Bet

Flutter Entertainment’s Stars Casino and Fox Bet brands have launched in Michigan, while the roll-out of PokerStars marks the beginning of online poker in the state.

The brands are licensed through a deal with the Odawa Casino in the Northern part of the state, which is operated by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

Arizona bill would allow betting from pro sports venues

Sports betting could be coming to Arizona after legislation was introduced that would significantly expand the state’s gambling sector and allow wagering from major sports venues.

Under HB 2772, introduced by Rep Jeff Weninger, Arizonans would be allowed to bet on professional and college sports at tribal casinos and at sites owned by major league sports teams.

William Hill launches online and mobile sportsbook in Virginia

William Hill has become the latest gambling operator to launch sports betting in Virginia, going live in the US state with its online and mobile sportsbook offerings.

Built on William Hill’s proprietary platform, the sports betting mobile app allows players to place pre-game and in-play wagers from anywhere inside Virginia.

Super Bowl LV set to attract record legal betting handle

Americans are set to place bets worth a combined $4.3bn – including the largest legal US betting handle of any single sporting event in history – on Super Bowl LV, according to research from the American Gaming Association (AGA).

The AGA – following a weighted survey of of 2,198 adults conducted by Morning Consult – said 23.2m Americans are set to place bets totalling $4.3bn – across licensed and unlicensed channels as well as private bets with friends – on the game this Sunday between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

PlayStar partners Ocean Resort for NJ market access

Online casino start-up PlayStar Gaming is preparing to launch in New Jersey’s igaming market, after sealing a market access deal with Atlantic City’s Ocean Casino Resort.

The operator plans to roll out its PlayStar Casino brand in the state in the fourth quarter of 2021, with a view to expanding into additional states in the following year.

Georgia House committee approves sports betting bill

The Georgia House Committee on Economic Development & Tourism has passed the state’s Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act (House Bill 86), which would permit both retail and online sports betting.

The bill allows for the Georgia Lottery Corporation and its board of directors to provide oversight for sports wagering in the state, while also allowing for the regulation of wagers and the provision of certain requirements for bettors.

BetMGM secures industry-first deal with Nascar team

BetMGM has become the first gambling operator to officially partner with a professional Nascar team after it secured a deal with Richard Childress Racing (RCR).

Under the agreement, BetMGM, the betting brand operated via the joint venture between Entain and MGM Resorts, will become the official sports betting operator of the team.

GAN to power Seneca Gaming social casino

Online gaming solutions provider GAN is to provide its social casino and simulated gaming products to New York casino operator Seneca Gaming Corporation (SGC).

GAN is to replace the existing simulated gaming solution with a bespoke product for the operator, which runs three of New York’s leading casino establishments on behalf of the Seneca Nation of Indians.

Betting sponsorships worth $396.6m to US sport, research claims

The betting industry has invested almost $400m in sponsorship investments in US sport since the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, according to new research.

The research from GlobalData shows that some $396.6m has been transferred from betting operators to the five major sports leagues in less than three years.

Casino closures hit Rhode Island betting market in December

The closure of Rhode Island’s two casinos for much of December led to the state’s sportsbook handle and revenue falling during the month.

The Bally’s Corporation-owned venues were closed from 29 November to 21 December amid a surge in novel coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in the state.

NCAA conference brings in Sportradar for integrity education drive

The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) affiliated America East Conference has partnered Sportradar’s Integrity Services division to launch an integrity education program for its student-athletes.

This will see Sportradar design educational material to be distributed to America East athletes, which comprises students from colleges in the Northeastern US.

Genius Sports signs with new US motorsport series SRX

North American motorsport series Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) has signed up Genius Sports to become its exclusive data partnership ahead of its inaugural season.

Genius will utilise SRX’s official data feed to power a wide range of in-play betting markets, as the series seeks to launch its first official betting platform.