Sazka Group revenue boosted by Stoiximan and Casinos Austria deals in 2020

In releasing its results for 2020, the pan-European lottery and gaming group said consolidated gross gaming revenue reached €597.2m in the three months to 31 December 2020.

The final quarter of the year saw a new wave of Covid-19 restrictions introduced in October and November mainly impacting its physical retail businesses in Greece and casinos in Austria and internationally.

Prague-headquartered Sazka saw a 12% increase in GGR to €96.3m in the Czech Republic, where physical retail businesses remained open and functional, although this was impacted by an increase in lottery taxes from 23% to 35% at the start of the year.

The group saw a 24% drop in GGR in Austria to €270m – this included €235m from its Austrian Lotteries (CASAG) business, which was consolidated into the group in June and benefitted from new lottery initiatives and growth in online and digital.

Greece and Cyprus saw a 48% year-on-year decline in GGR to €230.8m due to agents’ stores and gaming hall closures in Q4. Stoiximan, which was consolidated into the group in November, injected €92m into the business.

In the quarter, consolidated operating EBITDA decreased by 41% year-on-year to €96m, while consolidated profit after tax increased by 42% year-on-year to €134m.

Taking the year as a whole, Sazka reported GGR of €2.02bn, which was up 6% compared to the prior year.

The group acquired a 17.19% stake in CASAG in June, taking the shareholding to 55.5%. In July and November, it acquired an additional stake in Stoiximan, the leading online gaming business in Greece and Cyprus, giving an 84.5% combined effective stake. Excluding the addition of Stoiximan and Casinos Austria (CASAG), GGR was down 26% to €1.41bn in 2020.

When breaking its results down by region, Sazka provided full-year revenue for its 2020 acquisitions, meaning the combined revenue figure is higher than its €2.02bn.

Austrian operations were down 21% for the full year to €1.08bn, with €850m from Austrian Lotteries. Czech Republic business was up 10% to €315.2m, with Greece and Cyprus down 30% to €1.13bn and Stoiximan making up €268m of that.

During the year, Sazka saw strong growth in revenues from digital-only games and

sales of other products through online channels sustained. Total amounts staked with the business were up 25% during the course of the 12 months.

Operating expenses increased by 7% year-on-year to €1.0bn, leaving consolidated operating EBITDA down by 22% year-on-year to €459m. Excluding CASAG and Stoiximan, operating EBITDA decreased by 38% year-on-year to €335.4m.

Adjusted EBITDA was down 11% but margin was down only 1.6%, supported by a large proportion of variable costs, specific cost-saving initiatives and a targeted approach to marketing.

Restructuring personnel costs of €50.6m, €115.6m in financing costs and a €142.7m gain from the revaluation of its Stoiximan stake led to the group reporting profit before tax of €260.1m, which was down 27% year-on-year. Profit after tax was down 28% to €224.4m.

Excluding the addition of CASAG and Stoiximan, profit before tax was down 72% to €86.9m and the after-tax figure was down 78% to the after-tax figure was down 78% to 57.9m.

Gamanza Group to be split into two units

Stadtcasino Baden already held – through Grand Casino Baden AG – a 50% stake in Gamanza Group, while Lindberg co-founded the company.

Grand Casino Baden AG has become a major player within the Swiss gaming market, which has been growing steadily since 2019.

Stadtcasino Baden Group will take over the units of Gamanza’s player account management system and customer engagement platform, continuing to manage these under the Gamanza brand.

Lindberg will assume control and management of Gamanza’s game development and sports betting divisions.

Furthermore, Grand Casino Baden AG – which became the first gambling venue in Switzerland to roll out an online casino service in 2019 – will assume responsibility for around 60 Gamanza employees based in offices in Slovenia and Costa Rica, while approximately 30 employees at the locations in Serbia, Sweden and Malta will move with Lindberg. 

All parties have agreed to keep the financial terms of the deal undisclosed at this current time.

BetRivers becomes betting partner of Indy Eleven soccer team

Features of the partnership include a sleeve logo placement on all of Indy Eleven’s 2021 jerseys, a ‘presenting partner’ night in conjunction with a 2021 home game, sponsorship of the post-game show following all local television broadcasts, signage and digital assets, and sponsorship of the opening segment of the weekly Soccer Saturday radio show.

“Since the legalization of sports betting in Indiana in late 2019, Indy Eleven has been extremely focused on finding a true partner to maximize what has become a pivotal area for growth in all corners of the sports industry,” said Indy Eleven president and chief executive Greg Stremlaw.

“I want to thank BetRivers for the tremendous commitment they have shown to our club. We look forward to working with them in a myriad of ways beginning with the upcoming 2021 season.”

Mattias Stetz, chief operating officer of RSI, added: “ is excited to be an official sports betting partner of Indy Eleven. This partnership combines two organizations that share an unwavering commitment to excellence in providing sports fans with unparalleled experiences.”

Read the full story on iGB North America.

BtoBet to sponsor North Macedonian football club

Under the multi-year partnership, BtoBet will benefit from branding placement on the front of players’ shirts.

BtoBet, which is part of Aspire Global, will also have a presence on advertising hoardings inside the team’s Toshe Proeski Arena home stadium.

“BtoBet’s exponential growth matches their technological accumen in the entertaiment industry,” FK Rabotnicki chief executive Ivan Poposki said. “It is vital for us to work with a partner that is passionate about all aspects related to sports. I am sure that together we will embark on a journey of great success.”

BtoBet managing director Zoran Spasov added: “FK Rabotnicki are highly ambitious and target to be a force to be reckoned with in the domestic football league, matching our own ambitions to be at the forefront of the igaming industry’s platform provider league. 

“I am confident that the partnership between BtoBet and FK Rabotnicki will be a winning partnership both on and off the pitch.”

IMGL Magazine: Spring 2021

IMGL’s successor to its European Gaming Lawyer magazine, previously published by iGB, sees contributors drawn from its network of more than 350 leading international gaming lawyers explore global developments as diverse as mobile sports betting in New York, loot boxes and the Gambling Review in the UK, gaming in Africa, the New South Wales Casino Inquiry, fantasy cricket in India and tribal government gaming in Hawaii.

Kindred launches Unibet mobile sports betting brand in Virginia with Pala

Consumers in the state will now have access to wagering options across a range of sporting events, with Kindred’s Unibet Interactive subsidiary having last week been awarded a direct market access mobile sports betting permit in Virginia.

Unibet will use Pala Interactive’s online gambling platform and the Kambi sports wagering solution to run in the state.

Kindred also operates Unibet brand in partnership with Pala Interactive in Pennsylvaniaand Indiana, while the brand is also active in New Jersey via a deal with the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.

The operator also has agreements in place to launch Unibet in a further eight states.

“We are thrilled to launch Unibet in Virginia and to continue to provide a safe, secure and fantastic entertainment service in our fourth US state,” Kindred Group senior vice president Manu Stan said. “Pala Interactive has proven once again to be a reliable partner delivering our launch on time.”

Read the full story on iGB North America.

Rhode Island sports betting revenue rockets 372.4% YoY in March

Revenue for the month amounted to $4.0m (£2.9m/€3.3m), up from $841,767 in the same month last year, with this rise primarily down to the improving situation regarding novel coronavirus (Covid-19) compared to March 2020.

As in all other US states, Rhode Island’s retail sportsbooks were forced to temporarily close half-way through March 2020, meaning players could only bet via mobile. Wagering options were also limited due to sports events being cancelled or postponed as a result of Covid-19.

This year, retail sportsbooks at the Tiverton Casino and Twin River accounted for $2.1m in revenue, up 235.5% from $625,965 in March 2020. Mobile revenue also rocketed 766.9% from $215,802 to $1.9m.

Read the full story on iGB North America.

Lithuanian regulator threatens to block illegal operators

Operators must hold the correct licence in order to legally offer gambling in Lithuania, with those running in the country without approval being regarded as illegal operators.

Gambling laws in the country permit the Control Authority to take action against unlicensed operators, including blocking access to their websites in the country.

Any operator that is blocked is also added to the Control Authority’s blacklist of unlicensed and illegal operators, which is updated regularly on its website.

The only way an operator can be taken off the blacklist is if it secures the relevant licence to offer online gambling in Lithuania. 

“The Control Authority strongly recommends all online gambling operators review all their activities related to remote gambling in Lithuania and take actions to ensure that such services are not available for Lithuanian customers,” the Control Authority said.

“After having identified the fact of illegal remote gambling activity in the Republic of Lithuania, the Control Authority is authorised to take measures established in the Gaming Law.”

The warning comes after the Gambling Supervisory Authority last month imposed its first ever fine against an operator. UAB Tete-a-Tete Casino, operator of the CBet brand, was told to pay €15,000 (£13,049/$18,145) for unreasonably setting betting limits on an online customer.

Also last month, the Gambling Supervisory Authority fined an employee of a digital media business for placing illegal gambling advertisements on basketball news and information website Krepš

The site was found to be hosting gambling ads with slogans and animated backgrounds, and featuring promotional bonuses, which are prohibited under Lithuanian regulations. The ads also lacked the mandatory warnings required in gambling adverts.

Crown Resorts Perth to reopen after Western Australia’s three-day lockdown

All facilities, including gaming and non-gaming operations, can open from 1 May 2021 under continued restrictions.

Social distancing and hygiene protocols will remain in place.

The lockdown began on Tuesday, 27 April and prohibited gaming activity, food services and conventions from happening in casinos. Hotel and ancillary services, like takeaway dining, could continue to run.

Pubs and café’s continued to operate as normal during the lockdown, but casinos, gyms and nightclubs had to remain closed.

Reports say the lockdown was announced after a man contracted Coronavirus in hotel quarantine and socialised in the community while infectious.

In March, Crown upped activity at its Melbourne location after Coronavirus restrictions were eased by the Victoria state government.

Following the Bergin inquiry and subsequent report into Crown’s New South Wale licence in February, state authorities launched an investigation into Crown Melbourne’s ability to hold a casino licence. A similar review then commenced for its suitability to hold a licence for the Perth location.

The report found evidence to suggest failing to comply with regulatory requirements relating to junket operations, resulting in a AUS$1m fine.

In March, private equity company Blackstone placed a bid to acquire Crown for AUS$8.02bn (£4.47bn/€5.21bn), but later added a condition allowing it to cancel the deal if a regulator suspended its licence.

YGAM launches new Parent Hub website

Features of the website include a gaming glossary and guides, which help parents better understand the mechanics of the games their children are playing.

Kev Clelland, director of operations at YGAM said: “Our priority is safeguarding children and young people growing up in the online galaxy of gaming. A key part of this is demystifying the world of video games for parents and highlighting the many positive experiences gaming can provide whilst increasing their awareness of the potentially harmful aspects.

“The parent hub will empower parents with the knowledge and understanding to help their children access the world of gaming in a safe and secure manner.”

The website launch is in keeping with YGAM’s commitment to greater education in the gaming world, after earlier this month it demanded that education support be included in the Gambling Act Review.

Head of delivery for YGAM’s parent programme Amanda Atkinson added: “It’s been fantastic to launch the newly designed parent hub this week.

“It has been a fascinating process as we have collaborated with parents, gamers, young people, academics and educators to create a website that gives enough information and support to parents without being overwhelming and inaccessible.”