As a year in which normality has returned for many draws to a close, and increasingly fleeting glances begin to be taken towards what lies ahead, CasinoBeats is once again revisiting an unexpected 12 months full of ups, downs, and everything in between.

With a new year beginning in the same vein as how it ended for many, that being in lockdown, the uncertainty that so often lies ahead as January commences was significantly ramped up for organisations across many industries.

Within gaming, M&A, a trend that has continued to gain traction throughout the year, was firmly on the agenda, with expansion strategies across both land-based and online sectors attracting the attention of many, Japan and the US often being the common culprits.

Feature of the month

After a seemingly never ending, and ever rising, degree of uncertainty, the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union at the turn of the year as the Brexit transition period came to its scheduled end on December 31, 2020.

Many questions remained, and numerous more expectedly came to fruition during the weeks and months ahead, however, midway through January CasinoBeats’ attention switched to look into the potential ramifications for one particular overseas territory, Gibraltar.

Despite mounting fears to the contrary, the home to many gambling incumbents was the subject of an 11th hour deal between ministers and the Spanish government over the region’s post-Brexit future. 

Under these terms, Gibraltar could join the Schengen Area, a zone that spans 26 countries and allows for the free and unrestricted movement of people. 

Subsequently, we spoke to Andrew Lyman, executive director at the government of Gibraltar – gambling division, who dissected the potential fallout for the industry. 

In the news

As we entered the new year, a pair of acquisitions that were nudged over the line towards the end of December 2020 continued to capture the attention of readers, with Flutter Entertainment taking its FanDuel stake to 95 per cent and Rush Street Interactive completing its business combination with dMY Technology Group.

Sticking with the same theme, and the independent bid committee of Enlabs unanimously resolved to recommend a £250m Entain offer, with the latter itself becoming the subject of acquisitive glances from its MGM Resorts US-partner.

Furthermore, the US-based casino operator itself was urged to divest a stake in its MGM China subsidiary to become “the biggest winner of the Japanese gaming opportunity,” before being ultimately as an integrated resort partner in Osaka. 

In the UK, the Gambling Commission said that its latest data showed that across the population as a whole “there is no evidence of a significant or sustained increase in gambling activity” during the COVID-19 period.

Moreover, White Hat Gaming was sanctioned to pay £1.3m in lieu of a financial penalty, which would be directed towards delivering the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms, after the regulator’s investigation into the group’s handling of seven customer accounts.

This came as the chair of Burnley Football Club announced the undertaking of a review of its relationship with the gambling industry, with the region also grabbing the attention of Hard Rock, which unveiled the acquisition of a casino premise licence in London. 

Finally, and as the US igaming gold rush continued to grab the attention of many, Bragg Gaming Group detailed its plan to accelerate its rate of expansion across the country as well as neighbouring Canada.

Recommended reading

We near the end in the first of our yearly reviews by revisiting another region which found itself very much shooting towards the forefront of the industries agenda, namely the CIS. 

Here, Andrey Astapov, managing partner at Eterna Law, elaborated on the latest developments emanating from the region by looking at the latest “big news”.

Video of the month

In a continuation from above, SBC’s ‘Welcome to Ukraine’ panel from the SBC Digital Summit CIS conference looked at how the company had become one of the most sought emerging markets in 2020 after President Volodymyr Zelensky permitted the legalisation of regulated gambling in the nation. 

Here, our panel explored the range of opportunities presented, and how international operators evaluate Ukraine as a new market in terms of regulation, taxation and marketing.