EGR Intel – ‘View from the City’

Alex Brennan, partner at Hudson Sandler, analysed the month that was for EGR Intel, the leading online gambling industry publication. This column first appeared in the EGR Intel edition #189 first published on January 31st 2020

Whilst many were off scoffing mince pies and glugging mulled wine during the festive period, there was little respite for the gambling sector as news continued to develop thick and fast.

Initially all eyes were on December’s UK General Election and, momentarily at least, many operators and investors alike might have been forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief at the Conservative’s emphatic majority, assuaging initial fears of potentially draconian policy reform. However, despite increased clarity on the UK’s political landscape, the shadow of gambling policy uncertainty seems set continue to hang over the sector in the year ahead.

On the other side of the Atlantic there was an early Christmas present for DraftKings as the company announced that it will list on NASDAQ in 2020 and, concurrently, acquire SBTech, a major B2B sports betting technology provider. As well as creating a US sports betting behemoth with its own technology, analysts suggested that the deal provided the first major valuation reference point for sports betting assets in the US market. Whilst shares in Kambi, DraftKings’s current sportsbook provider, fell on the news, the Stockholm-listed company re-assured investors with a statement that reiterated the Group’s strong position across the US.

888 kicked off 2020 with a trading update that revealed the company had finished the year particularly strongly a record revenue month for the Group in December.

The first week of January also saw 2020’s first major media controversy as the FA was attacked for a rights agreement that enabled several operators to live stream a number of FA Cup third round ties. The story splashed across the front pages and sports pages and Westminster’s major political actors all had a view. If operators had hoped for an easier ride in 2020, this was a stark reminder that the future shape of the industry in the UK remains high on the media and political agenda.