Inside Entain’s Unikrn acquisition
Global sports-betting, gaming and interactive entertainment group Entain has agreed to purchase esports betting company Unikrn for a reported £50m ($68.9m). The acquisition will include Unikrn’s technology platform, products and team. Heading Entain’s esports efforts will be Justin Dellario, former VP of content and esports for Twitch.
Entain estimated that the esports wagering and social casino-related markets could add an incremental $20bn or more in addressable markets by 2025. The company plans to build the “first scalable platform” to address the growing esports kills-based wagering market.
Earlier this year, Unikrn announced a strategic partnership with startup FYX Gaming to collaborate on new blockchain-based gaming products and monetisation solutions. It is uncertain if the company’s new owner Entain will continue this partnership, but blockchain and NFTs have become a popular method of operations and fan engagement throughout the esports industry.
Why we might see more esports betting acquisitions
Acquisitions like this are part of a growing pattern as bookmakers specialising in traditional sports and ibetting recognise the potential of esports. BetMGM offered to purchase Entain for $11bn, for example, but the company refused, saying the price was too low.
This past March, casino giant Bally’s Corporation offered to purchase Allied Esports Entertainment, Inc. for roughly $100m. Allied Esports owns and operates the HyperX Esports Arena inside the Luxor Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
The acquisition trend goes both ways. Esports Entertainment Group (EEG) purchased B2C sports betting and online casino operator Bethard from its parent company Gameday Group.
The transaction includes a €16m ($18.9m) cash payment and a 12% net gaming revenue share for two years. Per a release, Bethard generated $31m (£22.4 m) in revenue in 2020.
As more states in the US pass legislation that adds esports to the list of permissible online wagers, betting operations will pursue the acquisition of esports gambling companies and vice versa.
Why we might not see more esports betting acquisitions
It makes business sense to acquire an esports betting operation rather than build one from the ground up. However, not all operators think the same way. Sometimes, online betting and igaming sites find it more advantageous to “join” rather than “beat” the esports competition.
Online bookmaker Betway recently formed a two-year partnership with Berlin-based esports organisation G2 Esports. The two companies will collaborate on a series of fan-focused promotions that include conducting and co-creating show matches, live streams, fan activations, giveaways and a variety of other video content.
Likewise, igaming brands have already begun to add esports to their offerings, such as mobile casino operator Leo Vegas. This year, the company partnered with esports data and technology company Abios to add widgets across its website and apps, including bet.uk and bet21. (Abios was acquired by Kambi last month.)
We will likely see more deals like Entain and Unikrn, but there are many ways to integrate esports into one’s gambling propositions beyond an outright purchase.