Nevada reports year-on-year revenue increase for January

Slot machine revenue was the biggest contributor to the revenue total with $731.5m – up 39.0% from 2021 – while table gaming revenue added $347.3m.

Multi-denomination slots were the most popular format, generating $358.1m and penny slot machines had revenue of $279.6m. Looking at table games, blackjack revenue came to $106.0m, easily ahead of baccarat which brought in $64.8m.

Revenue from sports betting added up to $67.7m for the month, down 4.6% from last year. $15.2m of the total coming from mobile sports betting. Sports betting handle for the month came to $1.11bn, up 71.8% from the same period last year and slightly ahead of December 2021.

American football proved to be the most popular sport, with $36.6m of revenue representing a 42.9% increase on the previous month. Basketball followed with revenue of $11.3m, with other sports adding revenue of $2.9m.

The Clark County region – which includes Las Vegas – proved to be the most lucrative, with revenue of $928.7m. Washoe County followed with $74.3m, with Elko County contributing $31.7m

Nevada recently posted record gaming revenue figures of $13.40bn for 2021, in addition to record sports betting revenue figures of $445.1m.

Players in the state also wagered a record $179.8m for the Super Bowl in February.

Affinity Interactive to debut Daily Racing Form retail sportsbook in Iowa

Due to launch on March 3, the sportsbook facility will enable customers at the casino to place bets on a wide range of sports and competitions.

DRF Sportsbook is run by DRF, the sister company of the Lakeside casino, and is one of a number of DRF brands owned by Affinity Interactive, alongside DRF Bets, DRF Sports, and DRF Cash Grab.

DRF Bets operates as an online and mobile betting platform, while DRF Cash Grab is a free-to-play mobile sports app and DRF Sports provides fans with sports betting stats, insights, and analysis across all major US sports.

The retail launch with Lakeside in Iowa comes follows the recent roll-out of the DRF Bets online sportsbook in the state.

“The opening of the DRF Sportsbook is a significant event for Affinity Interactive’s expanding platform,” Affinity Interactive chairman James Zenni said. “This opening advances our overall strategy towards becoming the prominent omni-channel gaming provider in the US”

In January, bettors in Iowa staked $303.3m, meaning handle more than doubled year-on-year.

Amounts wagered for January was up 102.9% from January 2021’s $149.5m total, figures from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission showed.

This was driven entirely by mobile betting, with customers staking $275.9m during the month, a 128.4% jump.

Retail, on the other hand, actually declined from January 2021, with stakes down 4.5% to $27.5m.

XLMedia names Markey as interim chair after Bell exits

Bell announced his intention to step down from the role last month and has now formally left the role.

Markey, currently a non-executive director of XLMedia and also chair of the remuneration committee, will serve as interim chair while a permanent replacement is sought.

Prior to her time with XLMedia, Markey spent more than nine-and-a-half years as group people director at British online supermarket Ocado, where she was also a member of the management committee.

Markey also spent just under 13 years serving in a number of personnel positions at British supermarket chain Tesco, while she spent five years as business support manager at alcohol business Diageo.

The appointment comes after XLMedia earlier this month said it expects revenue to grow 21.5% year-on-year in 2021, with earnings to increase 41.0%, thanks to the expansion of its sports division.

Revenue for the 12 months through to 31 December 2021 is expected to reach $66.6m (£49.8m/€59.5), which would be 21.5% higher than the $54.8m reported for the prior year.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBTIDA) is also expected to increase 41.0% from $12.2m in FY20 to $17.2m.

XLMedia plans to publish the full results for its 2021 financial year next month.

IGT to sell Italian proximity payment business for $700m

Under the deal, agreed through its IGT Lottery subsidiary, IGT will sell the LIS Holding and LISPAY subsidiaries, which together conduct its proximity payment business.

The business offers services through a fully owned payment technology platform and a network of 54,000 points of sale, including bill payments and prepaid payment cards, telco and e-vouchers top up, and technological solutions such as merchant and enterprise services.

The sale price represents an enterprise value of €630.0m and approximately €70.0m of net unrestricted cash. IGT said it would use net proceeds from the deal primarily to reduce debt.

“This transaction provides us with an opportunity to monetise IGT’s market leadership in the Italian proximity payment business at an attractive value as we continue to execute our long-term strategy,” IGT chief executive Vince Sandusky said.

“Streamlining our products and solutions portfolio enables us to focus our efforts and resources on our core and strategic assets, as we position IGT for industry leadership and increased shareholder value.”

IGT’s board has approved the transaction, which, subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to conclude during the third quarter of 2022.

NSW pub fined AU$107,000 for offering gambling inducements

From 2017 to 2018, staff at the Rose and Crown in Parramatta allowed at least $145,000 in credit and debit withdrawals from the bar’s electric funds transfer machine, loaned money from the safe and provided free alcohol and cigarettes to keep people playing pokie machines.

The venue’s general manager, Samantha Glynn, was also found to have manipulated the payout system on the poker machines by changing the values on leftover credit tickets and creating fake tickets, allegedly stealing up to $400,000.

After Glynn was discovered and suspended, she reported the venue to Liquor & Gaming NSW, while the subsequent investigation revealed a series of breaches and resulted in the matter being referred to the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority and NSW Police.

The Rose and Crown was also found to be in breach of its licence for positioning an ATM in the gaming room, not making contact cards available to players, having gambling-related signage and gaming machines visible from outside the hotel, as well as supplying alcohol and operating gaming machines outside of stipulated trading hours on Good Friday.

The Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority fined RC One Pty, the venue’s licensee, a total of $107,358, while manager Paul Camkin was fined $10,000 and disqualified for 12 months from being a licensee or being the approved manager of a hotel.

Two close associates, Jason Marlow and Damien Kelly, were given a reprimand and, along with Camkin, ordered to pay the costs of the Authority’s investigation.

In addition, NSW Police charged Glynn with theft totalling $15,000 and she was sentenced to an 18-month intensive correction order.

“Staff used phantom transactions to mask cash withdrawals for gambling, but even more incredibly, they gave out loans from the safe,” Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority chair Phil Crawford said.

“At one point a manager loaned a total of $8,000 from the pub’s safe to a patron who wanted to keep playing the pokies. A security guard also used the safe to loan $800 to another gambler.

“The hotel was essentially facilitating cash advances for gambling via a system of fake transactions, and this is an obvious risk for problem gambling.

“Thanks to the tipoff from the general manager, we were able to step in and investigate the hotel, ultimately holding the licensee and its close associates to account.”

Flutter launches “comprehensive and challenging” sustainability initiative

The Plan aims to provide support to Flutter customers, staff and the communities it operates in in the fields of safer gambling, diversity and inclusion, community initiatives and environmental impact.

It focuses on three areas – “Play Well”, “Work Better” and “Do More”.

Play Well aims to ensure safer overall gambling experiences for Flutter customers, as opposed to getting involved only when problem gambling takes place. This was announced earlier this month, and involves providing players with more safer gambling information and support.

Play Well metrics will be rolled out throughout 2022.

Work Better focuses on diversity efforts, with Flutter announcing that it aims to have women make up 40% of its top leadership roles by 2026.

This comes after Flutter’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative was launched in 2021.

Do More will see Flutter work with and fund community initiatives in the areas of sports, wellbeing, health and tech.

In addition to this, the strategy will focus on reducing Flutter’s environmental impact by setting sustainability targets for 2022, in line with Flutter’s Science Based Targets initiative.

“Our Positive Impact Plan is a comprehensive and challenging strategy which demonstrates that Flutter is setting the agenda for positive change,” said Peter Jackson, Flutter CEO. “We are committed to contributing positively to our customers, colleagues and the communities in which we operate.”

“This plan builds on the strong foundations laid by each of our divisions, leveraging our global scale and positioning us at the forefront of meaningful change.”

In December last year Flutter overhauled its its board-level risk committee, renaming it the risk and sustainability committee and appointing MGM Resorts and McDonald’s veteran Atif Rafiq as a member.

OPAP scores partnership with Hellenic Basketball Federation

Under the three-year deal, OPAP will serve as a ‘Gold Sponsor’ of Greece’s national men’s and women’s basketball teams across all age groups.

OPAP branding will appear on the front of players’ jerseys, while OPAP will work with the ECC on initiatives to support the development of all formats of Greek basketball.

“Our goal is to help Greek basketball to remain in the elite of the sport internationally; at the same time, our ambition is for this collaboration to go beyond the narrow confines of a sponsorship relationship,” OPAP deputy chief executive Odysseas Christoforou said.

ECC president Vangelis Liolios added: “Together with OPAP and the strategic cooperation that we are launching today, the goal is to give impetus to the development of basketball throughout the country, at all ages, to all those currently involved. but also many more that we will bring close to basketball. 

“Together we want to celebrate the next important successes of our national tams; OPAP is a company that places great emphasis on social contribution and there we found another element that we fit.”

The deal comes after Allwyn Entertainment, the lottery giant that recently rebranded from Sazka Entertainment, this month increased its stake in OPAP to 48.1%.

Allwyn will acquire the remaining minority interest in Sazka Delta AIF Variable Investment Company Ltd, an entity through which it holds part of its interest in OPAP, for €327.4m (£273.7m/$366.1m).

Allwyn previously held a 41.2% stake in OPAP, having gradually increased its holding in the business.

Esports Entertainment enjoys “strong momentum” in first weeks of 2022

The positive financial results come after the company announced net losses of $35m for the first half of its financial year up to 31 December 2021. Alongside those results, the business revealed that it had only $1m left on its balance sheet and had been in violation of its covenants with some notesholders, resulting in these notes being modified to ensure the operator could continue to pay.

However more recently, the company has enjoyed 10 weeks of revenue over $1m dating back to December 2021. During January, the group achieved its highest ever revenue month with figures exceeding $6m.

Esports Entertainment CEO Grant Johnson said: “Despite the challenges reflected in our second quarter fiscal 2022 results announced earlier this week, our igaming business continues to see strong momentum to start the calendar year.

“Consistently eclipsing net gaming revenue of $1 million per week is a testament to the success of our work to migrate off of BetConstruct and onto our proprietary Idefix platform.”

2022 has thus far seen Esports Entertainment receive approval to operate in New Jersey, becoming the first esports operator to receive a transactional waiver in the state. The company also named Stuart Tilly as its new chief operating officer at the end of January.

The operator also announced the commencement of an underwritten public offering of shares of common stock, subject to market conditions. All securities within the offering will be sold by the company.

Losses widen at BetMakers in H1 despite revenue growth

Revenue for the six months to 31 December 2021 amounted to $43.4m, up significantly from $7.6m in the corresponding period of the previous year.

BetMakers put this growth down to the expansion of its Australia-facing platform and also its managed trading services offering, while the group also noted the impact of its purchase of the racing, tote and digital business from Sportech in June 2021.

Breaking down its performance in H1, revenue from BetMakers’ global betting services arm was 210.3% higher at $18.0m, helped by the launch of an additional two platform and managed services clients 

Two additional bookmakers have launched since the end of the half, with a further six due to go live by the end of the financial year.

Global tote revenue for the half amounted to $23.2m, with no comparable figures for the previous year due to BetMakers only acquiring the Sportech business at the very end of its 2021 financial year.

During the first full half of ownership, BetMakers was able to renew contracts with a host of key racing partners such as Penn National Gaming and Catskill Regional, while it also signed a 10-year extension to a contract with Monmouth Park in New Jersey. Other deals included a retail partnership with Caesars Entertainment in New Jersey and a commingling services extension with the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Revenue from global racing network activities also increased 27.8% year-on-year to $1.8m. After the end of the half, BetMakers signed a 15-year extension to an exclusive fixed-odds betting contract in New Jersey.

Also after the end of the period, BetMaker announced Christian Stuart, formerly of Caesars Entertainment, as chief executive of its North America business, while it appointed lawyer Rebekah Giles as its independent non-executive director.

In addition, BetMakers last month agreed a deal to power Australian operator CrossBet’s entry into Ontario’s sports betting market.

Gross profit for the half was 700.0% higher at $32.0m, but BetMakers noted a sharp rise in operating expenses, with these rising 426.5% year-on-year to $35.8m, excluding share-based payment expenses, which on their own increased 713.2% to $25.2m.

Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) improved from a loss of $847,000 in the first half of the 2021 financial year to a positive of $2.3m during the most recent half.

However, the sharp increase in costs offset revenue growth, with loss after tax widening from $4.4m to $27.8m. Despite this, closing cash balance for the business at the end of H1 amounted to $110.9m, up 61.7% year-on-year.

Looking ahead to H2, BetMakers set a number of core strategic focus areas, including the ongoing execution of its B2B strategy across Australia and the US, the launch of more Australian bookmakers on its platform and expanding its tote network with new clients in the Northern Hemisphere.

BetMakers also highlighted growth plans in New Jersey, including the launch of fixed-odds race betting in the state and establishing a fixed-odds model in the market that can then be expanded into other states.

Livespins aims to redefine slots

Slots have long been known as a solo way to gamble. The sector’s somewhat solitary, companionless reputation is something that casino-streaming platform Livespins is looking to change with its entry into the slots market, creating a shared streaming experience where patrons can bet together. The company’s move is underpinned by a sector-wide push for more shared experiences, particularly in the wake of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 

Streaming, at least in igaming, is in its infancy. Right now, the likes of SharedPlay, Interactive Gaming Group and CasinoGrounds are vying for position as the company that cracks the streaming conundrum. 

At the same time, there’s a push by developers to create multiplayer slots – something many argue could be as big a game-changer for the industry as the first online casinos. 

But as evidenced by streaming site Twitch’s ban on casino links during streams, can such a traditional mechanism prosper with a more modern feel to it? Livespins’ Michael Pedersen certainly thinks it can. 

Michael Pedersen, Livespins COO

Talk us through how Livespins works. What makes it different from what else is out in the market? 

The best way to explain it is through the old-school land-based mechanic called ‘bet behind’. 

You know when you go to a land-based casino and you don’t have to sit at the table, and you can place bets behind the person sitting at the table? We’re taking that mechanic and we’re smashing that together with casino streaming. Instead of passively looking at a casino streamer, you can join the ride and bet behind the streamer yourself and also with other players simultaneously. 

There’s that community aspect to it that maybe 50 players are betting behind the streamer and if he wins, you win, so you can all celebrate together. To our knowledge, we are the first company in the market to be able to do that. It’s built on a proprietary platform, so we’re not relying on Twitch or YouTube or any other streaming platform. 

Slots have traditionally been a solo product. Why did you decide to launch a social gaming experience? 

Something that we see when we look at statistics and data around the world, and the consumption habits of consumers, is the lean more towards streaming. In Asia, about one third of all online shopping now takes place through streamers. The normal Amazon shopping experience is now outdated, especially in Asia. We’re seeing that trend in the West. 

The consumers out there, especially Gen-Z, are looking for more engagement. Apple are doing SharePlay, where you can watch a movie or listen to music together. Disney+ is coming out with a new feature called GroupWatch, where you can stream a movie into 20 different living rooms but watch it at the same time. Outside the industry we’re seeing these social tendencies kicking in. 

We’ve been speaking about it for a long time in igaming, but I think that 2022 will be the year where it will become mainstream and it will no longer be a niche adoption. 

Considering the wave of gamification and engagement features rolled out in recent years, it feels as if developers have not yet been able to create a genuinely multiplayer product – why is this? 

That’s probably why I fell in love with Livespins. When Robin [Reed] presented this product to me, it was the first time I thought, this is relevant to the masses. It’s not some outlier niche. So far, the multiplayer experiences have been somewhat clunky or very niche. 

Whereas Livespins is less so. Of course, there will still be players who will want to play on their own, who are not interested in all the givings, but I think Livespins is positioned much less niche and much more appealing to the mass consumer and player. 

Is that the ultimate goal for Livespins? 

The ‘bet behind’ product that we’re launching through Livespins is definitely not the last from our side in terms of product. It’s very much the beginning. We see Livespins as a brand new category. 

When you go on an operator’s website, you see your live casinos and table games. Livespins will effectively become a separate and new category for these kinds of live experiences. We will build the product portfolio over time. It’s like we are laying the foundation right now for the new way of playing casino games. There will be many different variations coming up in the near future. 

Do you feel that the slot sector in particular is in need of more disruption? Considering the core gameplay is essentially unchanged since machines moved online, do you feel there is scope for serious innovation? 

Absolutely. I think there is plenty of room for innovation. I think the trick is to find innovation that makes sense. I’ve seen a lot of incremental development in slots, with tournaments, races. There are a lot of things that are utilising the core gaming experience. 

Livespins is coming up with something that is a new core product. It’s not something like it – it’s literally a way of consuming slots content as a group. I hope to see much more of that coming up, because it is definitely in need of innovation. But it also needs to be sensible innovation, where there is actually a consumer need for it. Don’t innovate for innovation’s sake. 

Do you think this innovation will come from the industry itself, or from other sectors such as video gaming? 

I would like to think it’s both. We’re definitely pushing from within the industry, but there’s also a massive push coming from the US. We jokingly speak about what will happen if Amazon enters online gambling. 

We’re already seeing it. Netflix is moving into gaming, not gambling. That trend will only continue. What is unclear right now is whether they’ll draw the line at social gaming or fun-to-play, or whether they’ll enter the real-to-play space. Who knows? 

The main thing we’re trying to get across is that it’s not just another type of game, it is literally a new category. It is a new way of playing slots that hasn’t been seen before.