Malta-headquartered Glitnor Group is set to acquire a 37.5% stake in PlayStar Gaming Group in an effort to advance its expansion into the US market.

Financial and transactional details of the deal were not disclosed.

The transaction was agreed through Glitnor’s new venture capital arm – Glitnor Ventures – and is aligned with the company’s growth strategy to expand into North America this year.

Joel Wikell’s start-up

PlayStar, founded by its current chairman and online casino pioneer Joel Wikell, emerged onto the iGaming scene last summer with its launch in New Jersey.

In December 2022, PlayStar secured $15m in equity funding to support its launch in Pennsylvania.

Led by former Catena Media CEO Per Hellberg, PlayStar has established itself as a challenger brand in the market due to its “distinctive localised marketing approach”, Glitnor Group said.

In its first year of operation, the brand surpassed its targets and both parties are holding “incredibly high hopes” for their joint endeavours moving forward.

Glitnor Group co-founder Jörgen Nordlund (pictured) said: “Through our investment work with Glitnor Ventures, Glitnor Group aims to identify the best up-and-coming talent the iGaming industry has to offer – and in PlayStar, we believe we’ve identified the perfect partner in the US.

“Our investment in PlayStar comes off the back of an incredibly successful debut year for the brand that was characterised by an extensive range of locally-specific, community-focused promotions and we hope with our backing, they can go on to achieve bigger and better things in 2023.”

PlayStar Casino CEO Per Hellberg added: “PlayStar is delighted for Glitnor Group’s committed investments and we believe their ongoing interest in our brand is a fitting reward for what has been a remarkable debut year for us in the New Jersey market.

“With Glitnor Group’s funding and support behind us, I’m sure PlayStar will go from strength to strength in 2023 and beyond, enabling us to further cement our position as the preferred online casino in the thriving US market.”

Glitnor Group’s expansion

Glitnor Group’s operator brands, including LuckyCasino and HappyCasino, along with the B2B retention specialist Swintt, have experienced sustained growth in recent months.

In line with this growth, the company has recently relocated to a larger office space.

From 2024, the company is set to enter a new era under the leadership of newly appointed CEO Richard Brown.

PlayStar online casino has gone live with a full rollout in New Jersey, built on Gaming Innovation Group’s (GiG) iGaming platform.

The privately owned operator, set up by Hexigames, Blinto and Readly founder Joel Wikell alongside former Yggdrasil and Play’n GO executive Adam Noble, partnered with Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City in 2021 to secure access to the market.

The agreement between GiG and PlayStar is based on a revenue share model and will last for a minimum duration of four years.

The two companies first signed a US iGaming platform agreement in February 2021, at which point the brand was expected to go live in New Jersey during Q4 of that year.

Following some delays, PlayStar entered into a soft launch phase in the Garden State in August 2022, before rolling out its full product offering in the state today (13 September).

While New Jersey is considered to be the US’ most mature online sports betting and iGaming market, GiG pointed out the potential growth still available in the state, with statewide gaming revenue up 31% year-on-year in August 2022.

The supplier added that PlayStar aims to provide a unique online casino experience in regulated states through personalisation, engagement and exemplary customer service.

Richard Brown, CEO of GiG, said: “From the beginning of our agreement, we at GiG have been impressed with the extremely strong product vision at PlayStar, backed by what is a very experienced industry team. 

“We’re delighted that our technology has played a central role in the New Jersey launch, and can be proud that, as PlayStar establishes themselves as a strong and innovative iGaming brand in the US, the success of our partnership will further demonstrate and drive our ambition to be the platform partner of choice for operators in regulated markets.”

PlayStar CEO Per Hellberg: “Of course, to have a great product you need a great platform and we’re very pleased with how the GiG platform has helped to bring our product vision alive. It’s only early days, but we’re seeing great numbers and confident we can build on that as we ramp up in New Jersey.”

Former Catena Media CEO Per Hellberg, who has headed up PlayStar as chief executive since March 2021, added: “There has been a tremendous amount of work put into getting this far, and to now be live in New Jersey is a major milestone. 

“Of course, to have a great product you need a great platform and we’re very pleased with how the GiG platform has helped to bring our product vision alive. It’s only early days, but we’re seeing great numbers and confident we can build on that as we ramp up in New Jersey.”

In addition to its New Jersey launch, PlayStar is expected to go live in Pennsylvania before the end of 2022, pending approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

After signing a platform agreement for its Pennsylvania launch in July 2021, Per Hellberg commented: “With our preparations firmly underway for our New Jersey launch with GiG, it was a natural progression to leverage that work and replicate our casino offering over the border in Pennsylvania. 

“This will mark the second market entrance for PlayStar in the USA with GiG and we’re looking forward to launching a casino experience like no other.”

PlayStar is the latest operator to go live in the New Jersey online gambling market in recent weeks. At the end of August, peer-to-peer betting operator Prophet Exchange marked its US debut by going live in the state, in the process becoming the only regulated betting exchange available in the country.

Then, last week on 7 September, sports streaming service FuboTV’s Fubo Sportsbook went live in the state, in a move which the business said reinforced its commitment to interactive wagering.