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  • PlayUp’s troubled timeline: From failed merger to New Jersey licence revocation

Problems keep piling up for Sydney-headquartered PlayUp, with a revoked licence in New Jersey, stalled capital raising efforts and unpaid wages making headlines this month.

iGaming NEXT has put together a timeline of events, revealing the company’s tumultuous journey.

PlayUp was initially founded in 2014 and had a high-profile list of investors before it went into liquidation in 2016, including former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The following year, current CEO Daniel Simic (pictured) bought PlayUp’s assets, including the name, from liquidators.

The newly revamped PlayUp has managed to raise substantial funds, with investments from notable figures like Tom Waterhouse.

The platform aimed to provide punters with a comprehensive one-stop-shop experience, offering a range of services from sports betting to fantasy sports, with operations in Australia and the US.

Despite those ambitions, PlayUp’s journey has been fraught with setbacks, leaving the company facing various challenges in its operations and financial endeavours.

November 2021

Many of PlayUp’s current troubles started with a whirlwind of events in November 2021.

In mid-November 2021 reports emerged that now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange FTX was poised to acquire PlayUp for a staggering $450m.

But the deal abruptly fell through on 24 November, leading to a blame-game between Simic and former PlayUp US CEO Leila Mintas.

Simic spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald about the original vision for the acquisition, stating: “The plan was originally to have the first fully regulated sports book and crypto exchange in one.

“And that’s what we were working towards back when we announced the deal originally with FTX, and why they wanted to purchase us in November 2021.”

January 2022

Although the FTX deal fell through, PlayUp confirmed it had received a $35m investment from the crypto exchange to expedite its expansion in the US market.

July 2022

After encountering issues with FTX, PlayUP initiated a strategic review to explore potential alternatives, including strategic partnerships, a sale of the company, or other viable transactions.

September 2022

In September, PlayUp announced a SPAC merger, which would have allowed the company to list on Nasdaq through a newly formed parent company, valuing PlayUp at $350m.

The transaction was expected to close in Q1 2023.

January 2023

However, PlayUp’s plans to tap into Nasdaq were dashed in January when special purpose acquisition company IG Acquisition Corp (IGAC) terminated the business combination agreement.

The SPAC said the termination was due to PlayUp’s failure to provide them with audited financial statements.

Simic later said PlayUp did not deliver the financial accounts because the SPAC lacked the necessary funds for the transaction.

June 2023

According to the Australian Financial Review, PlayUp’s US division was struggling financially.

The paper reported that Simic asked PlayUp’s US staff if they would be willing to accept equity instead of their salaries as the company struggled to meet its obligations.

Moreover, in June, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) attempted to contact PlayUp CFO Glenn MacPherson as the company had not provided essential information regarding employee taxes, bank statements, and payroll details to the regulatory authority.

However, the regulator received no response from PlayUp. Simic eventually informed the DGE that MacPherson was no longer CFO and requested the information directly, but even then, Simic failed to reply by the DGE’s deadline.

July 2023

PlayUp decided to temporarily halt a $10m capital raise, the Australian Financial Review reported.

The company had planned to raise this amount through a trust called BetClub, with the transaction being managed by Evolution Capital, a Sydney-based firm.

PlayUp has been facing challenges raising capital due to the initial $35m investment from the now-collapsed FTX. If PlayUp were to raise more than $10m, it would trigger a clause that would result in an increase in FTX’s equity in the Australian business.

Last week, PlayUp announced the temporary shutdown of its operations in New Jersey after the DGE revoked its licence to offer sports wagering in the state. The firm’s Colorado site is also currently down for maintenance.

PlayUp was reportedly engaged in discussions to sell its US division to an undisclosed US operator. However, the current status of this potential deal remains uncertain.

iGaming NEXT has contacted PlayUp for comment.