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Could Tipico be the final piece to Hornbuckle’s digital ambitions?

| By nicolemacedo | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Analysts and industry commentators believe Tipico US' proprietary betting platform could signal a huge opportunity for BetMGM in the newly regulated Brazilian market; while also providing a safety net in the US should MGM ever consider parting ways with Entain.
Bill Hornbuckle, MGM Resorts

“It’s a phenomenal piece of kit with no customers; [Tipico] has been trying to sell it for a year,” one M&A advisor told iGaming Business, of the platform.  

“And by having a player database in the US, MGM could negotiate its way out of the Entain BetMGM joint venture without worrying about losing the technology,” they said.  

Earlier this week (24 June), MGM announced it would acquire Tipico’s US tech stack and its trading teams in Columbia, Europe and the US, to utilise across LeoVegas’ international betting offerings.  

“[The deal] drastically shortens the timeline to LeoVegas gaining control over their tech stack compared to developing these capabilities in-house and should improve their ability to have a strong start out of the gates in emerging markets such as Brazil,” Aaron Lee, an equities research analyst at Macquarie US Equity Research told iGB.  

Brazil’s online betting regulations are expected to be finalised in July and launched early in 2025.

Speaking at JP Morgan’s Gaming, Lodging, Restaurant & Leisure Management Access Forum in March, MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle highlighted his desire to enter Brazil and other new LatAm markets.

“We see that [LeoVegas] as scalable if you think about a place like Brazil or some other new markets in LatAm, we think we’re positioning ready to go after and we’re excited about that,” he said.  

Macquarie’s Lee is less bullish on the likelihood of MGM exiting its BetMGM JV any time soon.  

“Both sides have consistently signalled their commitment to the JV and that BetMGM will remain the vehicle for the US and Ontario,” he said.  

But Lee believes MGM would like to solve for the JV structure eventually. “It is unlikely that Entain would part with its technology, so the Tipico deal is a way to secure a complete tech platform for the BetMGM brand,” he added.  

MGM made a poorly received £8.1bn bid for Entain in 2021, and Hornbuckle has since confirmed he would not make another offer.

An MGM spokesperson declined to comment on whether the operator would consider branching out with an independent betting offering in the US. “We are exclusive to BetMGM in the US,” they responded.  

Migrating off Kambi’s platform  

LeoVegas will need to switch from its current Kambi sportsbook. At the time of the announcement, Kambi’s share price dipped 9%.  

In response to questions from iGB, Kambi pointed to the multi-year partnership extension it signed with LeoVegas in June 2023.  

An ABG Sundal Collier analyst note dated 25 June said LeoVegas would likely migrate onto the Tipico platform once its Kambi contract ended. It expects that LeoVegas accounts for approximately 3% of Kambi’s revenues.  

“[Kambi’s] long-term earnings will likely take a hit. However, we do not rule out the potential of MGM becoming a modular client; for example, we see BetBuilder as an attractive product for a company building an in-house sportsbook, as many big operators have out-sourced that product according to our research,” the note said.  

Hornbuckle’s four-legged ambitions  

At the JP Morgan forum, Hornbuckle said the firm was actively seeking a sportsbook platform as “sports betting and sports betting technology” were the two things its LeoVegas business was missing.  

“There’s four legs to that stool,” Hornbuckle said at the time, praising the success of LeoVegas’ core casino technology and brand. Beyond casino and sports betting, Hornbuckle said he was looking to develop an in-house live casino offering and he hinted the firm was close to securing that, as well as a betting platform to power BetMGM internationally.  

On 20 June, MGM also announced a partnership with Playtech to stream live casino games from two of its Las Vegas Strip properties in a unique offering that the two companies said would provide users with the real land-based casino experience. 

Speaking to iGB in December, the CEO said he sees online as MGM’s new frontier. 

“Through BetMGM, both domestically and ultimately through what we do with LeoVegas – whether that’s in Europe, Canada or South America – we want to diversify into digital. We think it’s a meaningful way to continue to reach customers 365 days a year,” he said at the time, cementing MGM’s intentions for a major digital push.

In the background MGM has quietly been assembling a top tier team, led by interactive president Gary Fritz. Fritz was previously head of gaming for IAC which developed online dating platform Match.com, before spinning out the business in 2020. Fritz is responsible for the company’s growth strategies in digital gaming, including both organic growth and M&A activities.

Under Fritz is MGM head of interactive, international James Brodie, an ex-Goldman Sachs director for European gaming, leisure and real estate.

“Tipico is irrelevant to the US market” 

It’s unlikely Tipico will be missed in the US as the operator had failed to gain any real market share, particularly against betting and gaming giants DraftKings and FanDuel.  

“Tipico is irrelevant to the US market,” one industry commentator told iGB. The wider Tipico group is majority owned by private equity vehicle CVC Capital Partners, which previously held a stake in William Hill.  

“Did the US entry make Tipico more sustainable in the gaming industry?” the commentator asks. “Has it made the group more IPO-able?”  

Various casino staff from Tipico US are at risk following MGM’s announcement. A LinkedIn post by VP casino for the business, Claire Alexander, said: “Following on from the recent acquisition of Tipico by MGM I have some fabulous casino staff who won’t be on the market for long! Please reach out if you want more details!”  

On the deal, Tipico’s group CEO Joachim Baca said the firm had spent five years heavily invested in the creation of its own proprietary sports betting and gaming platform for the US.

“On behalf of the board of Tipico Group I want to thank the teams in our US operations for the last years of dedication, innovation and passion, that made our US sportsbook and online casino platform the attractive venture it is today,” he concluded.

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