The UK government has responded to a petition calling for it to abandon plans to implement so-called ‘affordability checks’ for gambling customers.

The petition, launched on 1 November, has more than 86,000 signatures at the time of writing. 

The government is obliged to respond to any petition which exceeds 10,000 signatures. At 100,000 signatures, the petition must be legally considered for a debate in parliament.

DCMS response

In its written response to the petition, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) reiterated several previously argued points around the frictionless nature of the proposed checks.

“We are committed to a proportionate, frictionless system of financial risk checks, to protect those at risk of harm without overregulating,” it said.

Both the government and the Gambling Commission (UKGC) recognise concerns over the checks, it added. 

The government and UKGC agree that the new system “should not unduly disrupt the millions of people who gamble without suffering harm, and should not cause unnecessary damage to sectors which rely on betting, in particular horseracing,” it said.

DCMS also suggested that the proposals will represent a “significant improvement” for businesses and customers alike when compared to the current situation.

At present, it argued, operators are applying “inconsistent” affordability checks on customers, often without clearly explaining why, and requiring customers to provide data to them manually.

The government has “challenged operators to be more transparent with customers in the interim,” it said, but the industry will benefit from the introduction of clearly defined rules by which all operators must abide.

Further, the proposed system will allow financial data to be “shared seamlessly with operators instead of burdening customers with information requests,” it added.

It also insisted that the government and UKGC will not mandate the proposed checks “until we are sure that they will be frictionless” for the vast majority of customers checked.

Horseracing support

In its response, DCMS also pointed to the “important link between betting and horseracing” raised by the petition.

The government recognises the “enormous value of horseracing,” it said, both as a spectator sport and through its contribution to the UK economy.

It pointed to previously published estimates from the Gambling Act review white paper, which suggested financial risk checks would reduce online horseracing betting yield by between 6% and 11%.

That, in turn, would reduce the income of the racing industry by between £8.4m and £14.9m annually, it said, or around 0.5%-1% of its total income.

The drop in income would come about via a reduction in levy, media rights and sponsorship returns, it said, but the government is “working with racing and refining that estimate”.

It has also “commenced a review of the Horserace Betting Levy to ensure a suitable return to the sport for the future,” it added.

Both the government and UKGC continue to work with the industry to ensure checks can be implemented in an effective but proportionate way, the response said.

They are also “exploring the role of pilots or phased implementation to help ensure this.”

The UKGC is expected to set out more detailed plans related to the checks in due course.

NASCAR and nVenue have announced a groundbreaking multi-year partnership to develop in-race micro-betting markets and predictive content for race fans nationwide.

As part of the agreement, NASCAR will work with nVenue, an innovative micro-betting technology company, as an official micro-betting data and technology provider.

NASCAR’s active commitment to fostering innovation and enhancing the fan experience, combined with nVenue’s specialized technological expertise, has strategically positioned the collaboration for a resounding success.

Joe Solosky, NASCAR managing director of sports betting, said: “This collaboration epitomizes a shared vision to entertain fans and enhance the race viewing experience.

“We are thrilled to pair our racing product with expert technology like nVenue’s to bring micro-betting to NASCAR fans going forward.”

As an official micro-betting partner, nVenue will collaborate directly with the league to design and develop in-race odds for delivery to NASCAR fans via sportsbooks and operators.

Unlike traditional betting markets focused on the end-of-race outcome, in-race markets will include unique betting windows such as stage results, qualifying, pit-road betting opportunities and more.

nVenue will leverage official live racetrack data along with historical race data points to generate predictions and odds for each race and driver. These newly developed betting opportunities present thousands of additional ways for fans to engage throughout a single race.

Kelly Pracht, CEO and co-founder of nVenue, said: “nVenue is thrilled to partner with the NASCAR team to build the future of in-race betting and live engagements to delight fans for years to come.

“It is a terrific match: nVenue brings the real-time predictive sports platform designed for micro-bets and media, and NASCAR brings the mind-share and reach of a league ready to innovate leveled-up fan experiences.

“We predict this industry-first collaboration will be significantly beneficial not only for sportsbooks and media, but also for NASCAR’s base of knowledgeable, and new fans.”

Altenar, the leading sportsbook and iGaming software provider, has entered into a strategic partnership with Vermantia to deliver groundbreaking online racing entertainment.

The agreement sees Altenar bolster its reputation as one of the industry’s most established sportsbooks, having signed numerous deals in the past 12 months across a number of regulated markets. 

Altenar, known for its commitment to delivering exceptional gaming and betting experiences, has enhanced its horse racing offering to satisfy the demands of its online customers worldwide.

This collaboration ensures that players are able to fully immerse themselves within a unique racing experience, elevating the entertainment value for all.

Vermantia’s premium racing content and complete racing data is set to be readily available to Altenar’s customers globally.

Catering to both established European markets and the rapidly emerging regions of Latin America and Africa, with its first partners already live with Vermantia content, Altenar is also planning to expand the offering to retail.

The seamless integration has been a resounding success, with the most prestigious international live horse and greyhound racing events from the UK, Australia, and New Zealand becoming accessible online.

Commenting on the deal, Dinos Doxiadis, sportsbook product development manager at Altenar, said: “Our partnership with Vermantia solidifies our position as a leading iGaming software provider. 

“We are proud to incorporate top-quality horse and greyhound racing content into our online offering blended with top quality and complete data, providing our customers with the most comprehensive racing portfolio on the market.

“The racing product holds immense growth potential, and together with Vermantia we are committed to continually enriching it with premium global content to meet the evolving demands of our players.”

Spyros Stavropoulos, commercial director of Vermantia, added: “We are thrilled to embark on this content and data deal and forge a long and successful strategic partnership with Altenar.

“By integrating Vermantia’s world-class racing content, Altenar’s iGaming customers can now offer their players a top-quality live racing experience from international racecourses. Our ultra-low latency streaming solution ensures that players worldwide can enjoy action-packed horse and greyhound racing like never before.

“Additionally, this collaboration allows Altenar to diversify its product offering, further cementing its position as a pioneer in the industry.”

ASX-listed BlueBet will consider launching a B2B sportsbook solution for US partners after revenue fell by 5.1% in the first half of its 2023 financial year.

Topline numbers

In H1 FY23 (six months ended 31 December 2022) total amount wagered with BlueBet increased 6.1% year-on-year to A$280.5m, resulting in wagering revenue or net win of A$27.1m.

That net win was down 5.1% against the prior-year comparative period, while gross profit also slipped by 10.7% to A$13.1m.

EBITDA losses for the half reached A$10.5m, compared to A$0.2m in H1 FY22.

Losses after income tax hit A$9.9m, compared to A$0.8m, while net cash from operating activities was a negative A$8.6m, compared to positive net cash of A$2.5m.

Earnings breakdown

BlueBet said the decrease in net win was the result of a mix shift away from racing and towards sports betting, as well as increased promotional investment.

Net margin for the company is expected to return to above 10% in H2, it added, compared to the 9.7% margin recorded for H1 FY23.

BlueBet CEO Bill Richmond: “We have had strong early interest for our white-labelled sportsbook-as-a-solution B2B offer in the US, with discussions underway with multiple potential B2B partners.”

The operator said its significant investment in product and marketing “positions BlueBet for continued market share growth,” a claim backed up by the 60,328 active customers recorded during the period, up 33.8% year-on-year.

The average cost to BlueBet of acquiring a first time depositor (FTD) was A$447 on a 12-month rolling basis, while the average annual customer value was A$884.

The company’s total cash balance was A$32.2m as of 31 December 2022.

Geographical and vertical mix

The firm’s US operations are off to a relatively sedate start, with its ClutchBet brand having soft launched in Iowa in August. The brand is expected to launch in Colorado in March.

BlueBet also holds market access in Louisiana and Indiana, but said it is taking a ‘capital lite’ approach to entering US markets.

Its $500,000 strategic investment in fantasy sports provider Low6 was leveraged to launch BlueBet’s first free-to-play game ahead of the NFL Super Bowl.

The operator also revealed “significant interest” in the creation of a B2B sportsbook-as-a-solution model using BlueBet tech in the US. Discussions are reportedly underway with several potential partners.

BlueBet’s domestic Australian operations, meanwhile, are expected to return to operating cash flow positive in H2.

Just over half of the firm’s betting handle in Australia came from thoroughbred horse racing, at A$143.5m, up 4.8% year-on-year.

Greyhound racing was the next most popular sport by handle, with customers placing bets worth A$70.1m, though this was down 3.6% on the prior year.

Bets placed on harness racing totalled A$24.5m, up 0.5%, while betting on other sports grew by 34.7% to A$41.2m.

Management commentary

“The BlueBet team delivered a strong performance in H1, remaining focused on delivering the strategy and on providing an excellent experience for our customers in the face of increased market competition,” said BlueBet CEO Bill Richmond. 

“As a result, we continue to gain market share in Australia and make strides in our US market entry. Our effective investment in brand and product continues, with our differentiated approach winning new customers and delivering marketing efficiencies.

“In the US, the rollout of ClutchBet continues, with first bets taken in Iowa in August as we head towards an expected go-live in Colorado in March. We have had strong early interest for our white-labelled sportsbook-as-a-solution B2B offer in the US, with discussions underway with multiple potential B2B partners.

“We are well capitalised to execute our growth plans in Australia and the US, and with a strong US team now in place, we are well placed to deliver our growth strategy in H2 and beyond.”

Priorities for H2 FY23

Besides returning its Australian operations to positive operating cash flow and continuing to expand operations in the US, BlueBet’s priorities for H2 23 include improving its use of customer segmentation to drive “more efficient media targeting, improved promotional effectiveness and better conversion.”

The brand will also increase its investments in marketing tech to help deliver improved channel efficiency, better personalisation and higher customer conversion rates.

Another free-to-play game is also in development with Low6, with a view to launching by the end of H2 23.

The firm said it would take a “hyper-local” approach to market entries in the US. For example, in Iowa, the operator runs three ClutchBet Sports Lounges in Dubuque, North Liberty and Iowa City, as well as holding a partnership with the US Hockey League’s Dubuque Fighting Saints.

That strategy reflects BlueBet’s brand presence in Australia, where it holds partnerships with the National Rugby League (NRL) Dolphins and with Penrith Panthers, whose home stadium is now called BlueBet Stadium.

ASX-listed betting and racing supplier BetMakers generated A$91.7m in revenue during its full year 2022 (12 months ended 30 June), more than quadrupling the A$19.5m revenue registered in FY21.

Revenue growth was driven in large part by the firm’s acquisition and integration of Sportech’s racing, tote and digital assets, but was also helped by growth from its existing platform and managed trading services clients, as well as expansion in its content distribution rights and operator integrations.

A$40.7m of the revenue came from the firm’s Global Betting Services segment, more than doubling its result in the full year 2021, when revenue totalled just A$14.6m.

Betmakers’ Global Tote division – formerly the Sportech tote assets – delivered a further A$46.9m, having signed agreements with Monmouth Park, Norway’s Norsk Risktoto, Caesars Entertainment, and other deals in Puerto Rico, Peru and Chile during the period.

The acquisition was completed just some 12 days before the beginning of the reporting period, meaning comparisons to its contribution during FY21 (A$1.7m) are immaterial.

A further A$4.1m came from the firm’s Global Racing Network, representing year-on-year growth of 28.1%.

From its total revenue, the business generated gross profit of A$66.3m at a margin of 72%, up more than sixfold from A$10.2m at a margin of 52% in the prior year.

After operating expenses of A$64.1m, the business declared adjusted EBITDA of A$2.2m, at a margin of just 2%. That is an improvement over the prior year period, when the business declared a negative adjusted EBITDA contribution of A$2.9m.

When accounting for share-based payment expenses (A$71m), deal costs (A$16.5m) and impairment of receivables (A$772,000), however, the business declared an overall EBITDA loss of A$86.1m, compared to an A$18.1m EBITDA loss in FY21.

Subsequent depreciation and amortisation expenses of A$9.7m, finance costs of A$541,000 and a A$7.1m tax benefit, left the business to declare a loss after income tax of A$89.2m, and after A$3.2m in other comprehensive income, a total comprehensive loss for the year of A$86m, down from a A$17.5m net loss in 2021.

As of 30 June, the business had 479 employees across 11 offices globally. It offers services in more than 30 countries to over 60 online betting operators and 225 racing partners, operating under more than 45 regulatory licences.

Looking ahead to the full year 2023, BetMakers intends to grow the global presence of all three of its main business divisions.

In the Global Betting Services segment, the firm intends to launch its customer-facing data platform, NTD, in Australia using BetMaker’s proprietary Next Generation digital wagering platform. It expects to on-board nine new recently contracted platform operators during the first half of the year, and expand the software into the US market.

The Global Tote division is expected to launch its Global Tote Hub, to connect existing and new tote customers, and continue the rollout of its BetLine terminal hardware and technology in the US and new markets.

In the Global Racing Network division, the business intends to expand its New Jersey rollout of fixed odds racing, deploy its proprietary racing integrity and reporting platforms into new jurisdictions globally, and export more than 12,000 races into international markets for US racing partners including Penn, Monmouth Park, Kentucky Downs, Century Downs and others.

Entain is on a mission to innovate its Australian product offering according to CFO Rob Wood, with the operator locked in a battle for market share. 

During a Q2 earnings call with investors this month, Wood shed some light on the firm’s strategy down-under – a region where major international brands compete with a domestic giant in Tabcorp.

He told investors: “In terms of Australia, are we taking share? Yes, it’s been clear that we’ve been taking share for some time. Obviously, there’s the large operator in Tabcorp, which is not so strong online and that is benefiting us, but also taking share from the number one operator [Flutter-owned Sportsbet] as well. 

“I’m just looking at a market share chart in front of me right now and it’s a very healthy picture over the last few years and it continued to accelerate through 2021 and, we believe, the first half of 2022 as well.”

What helps differentiate the operator from the competition is, in Wood’s view, its product and customer proposition.

“We launched something called Mates Mode earlier this year, which is seeing great adoption. I think [CEO of Entain Australia] Dean [Shannon] told me there’s been 250,000 chats using that feature since it launched a few months ago,” Wood explained. 

“So this is a way of creating an account for a group of people with their own private chat functionality within it. We’re working on more social experiences that are exciting, and also building a new racing channel, which hopefully will be going live in due course. 

Entain Australia chief executive Dean Shannon: “Our ambition is to have wall-to-wall Australian and international racing broadcasts for customers and build a lot of bespoke content around that.” 

“So it’s sort of nonstop development of the customer proposition in a really interesting and innovative way,” he concluded.

Indeed, last week Entain further improved its product offering in Australia with the launch of four online television channels focused on horse and greyhound racing. As first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, the channels make up part of the operator’s broader media arm, which is also producing written content and documentaries for punters.

The division, led by general manager of content and entertainment Andy Hoad, boasts a headcount of around 30, and is currently recruiting commentators and writers for pre-race programmes, social media and online content.

Australia CEO Shannon said: “Our ambition is to have wall-to-wall Australian and international racing broadcasts for customers and build a lot of bespoke content around that.” 

While he did not reveal how much Entain was investing in the project, Shannon did say it was a “serious” amount of money.

Content specialist Hoad said the intention was to build a full-fledged media business to help it keep pace with other operators in Australia, including Tabcorp and Racing Victoria, which run a number of their own racing and betting-related media channels.

Entain’s NGR from Australia, where it is live both Neds and Ladbrokes, climbed 21% year-on-year in Q2.