Fox Entertainment’s Pierre Cadena will join Catena Media as VP corporate strategy, effective 1 November. 

He will be responsible for developing corporate strategy and supporting execution across the organisation and will be based in the US.

Cadena currently serves as Fox Entertainment’s senior vice president, head of revenue and strategy, for the news and entertainment brand TMZ. 

He joined Fox in May 2022 and set the vision and strategic direction for TMZ across its digital, television, originals, and experiential businesses. 

Prior to his role at Fox Entertainment, Cadena served as senior vice president and chief strategy officer at WarnerMedia’s anime brand Crunchyroll.

Between 2016 and 2021, he also held various other senior strategy and corporate development roles at WarnerMedia.

Industry experience

Cadena brings a wealth of industry experience to the table. 

Between 2011 and 2016, he was VP of strategy and corporate development at Caesars Interactive.

Prior to that, he also spent nearly 1.5 years at IGT, serving as director of strategy and corporate development.

Moreover, as a non-executive director of Raketech, he has experience in sports betting and affiliation.

He also provides advisory services to gambling advisory SCCG Management, as well as esports, gaming, and entertainment agency Gaud-Hammer Gaming Group.

Earlier in his career, he worked in investment banking and private equity investing. 

North America strategy

Catena Media CEO Michael Daly commented: “We’re excited to welcome Pierre to Catena Media. His extensive expertise in strategic planning and executing growth for digital media and gaming companies will be a valuable asset for us and enable Pierre to play a core leadership role in our continued evolution in North America and beyond.”

Following lacklustre Q2 results, Daly had to defend the company’s decision to prioritise the North American market and insisted that the firm is ready to compete. 

Catena Media witnessed a 16% revenue dip in North America, primarily due to a “temporary slowdown” in state openings. 

Nevertheless, at the time, Daly had remained optimistic, emphasising the potential for a substantial growth phase in North America as more states move towards regulating iGaming and sports betting.

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.

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.

Continent 8 Technologies is continuing its North American growth strategy by launching additional site service capabilities in the states of Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, and Louisiana and the US territory of Puerto Rico.

The hosting, connectivity, cloud and security provider launched its initial services in Iowa back in 2019, before Illinois in 2020, and Kansas and Louisiana in 2021. It opened its first site in Puerto Rico in 2022.

Each of these five markets now has an additional Continent 8 site, offering secondary and disaster recovery solutions.

This adds to Continent 8’s existing multi-site in-state infrastructure capability in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey (Atlantic City), and Pennsylvania.

Justin Cosnett, chief product officer at Continent 8, said: “Data centre resilience is an important consideration for infrastructure planning. We also know that regulators across various states want to see licensed operators deliver resilient and reliable services to customers and partners.

“We have built our offering so that operators and suppliers to the industry can use our diverse MPLS-connected backbone to create disaster recovery, back-up, or even active-active capabilities to guarantee availability.”

The multi-state infrastructure will also allow Continent 8 to offer its own off-site back-up service via a regulated Public iGaming Cloud solution.

The launching of additional US sites is likely to continue as new states regulate online gambling. The company appointed Kristian Valenta to the role of chief financial officer last year, with the aim of supporting continued growth.

The company spans 90 locations globally across four continents, including 25 US states.

Affiliate group XLMedia has pledged to explore the potential sale of its Personal Finance assets as part of a wider restructuring exercise.

The company said the process is currently underway and the business is in talks with “a number of potentially interested parties”.

However, it added there can be no certainty that any offer will be received, nor as to the terms on which any such offer might be made.

The London-listed company further said that the move reflects the “decision to prioritise resource allocation to its core activities” and to remain “focused on fully capturing the North America market opportunity in sports and gaming,” while also rebuilding its European sports and gaming operations to seek maximum value for shareholders.

Personal finance contributed just 2% to XLMedia’s total revenue of $44.5m in the first six months of 2022, down from 15% in H1 2020.

Presenting its half-yearly results, the company said the business unit was not profitable and had estimated that it would post a loss in the region of $1-2m for 2022.

US sports betting revenue, however, increased more than fivefold annually to $30.2m for H1 2022, up from just $5.9m in the prior-corresponding period.

To bolster its US presence, XLMedia made an early move into Massachusetts via an expanded partnership with US publisher Advance Local.

In October, XLMedia appointed its VP of sports media Kevin Duffy to the newly created role of VP of North America sports, while most recently, the firm struck a sports content partnership deal with publishing brand Newsweek.

Newsweek has since become XLMedia’s largest national media partner to date, offering the affiliate substantial audience reach across the US.

This year has seen several online gambling companies look to shift their financial trading assets in a move to focus on core assets.

XLMedia’s affiliate rival Catena Media put its trading assets up for grabs as part of a strategic review, while Playtech finally completed the $250m sale of financial trading division Finalto to Gopher Investments.

Malta-based reactivation and retention specialist Enteractive has expanded its US market reach with a new service licence granted by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

The new licence adds to Enteractive’s existing US service licences in Illinois and New Jersey.

The firm will now have the ability to work with sportsbook brands operating in the state and engage on their behalf with the 9.5 million people of betting age living in Pennsylvania.

Enteractive’s chief business officer Andrew Foster commented: “After the early success Enteractive has seen in the US market and the positive way players are responding to our one-to-one personal approach, we’re proud to announce that we are expanding our reach into Pennsylvania state.

“It’s encouraging to see that the US audience is as appreciative of a personal, qualitative approach as the other global audiences we engage with on behalf of operator brands.”

Enteractive’s (Re)Activation Cloud platform allows operators to target selected audience segments, such as registered users who have not yet deposited as well as earlier depositors of different activity levels.

Using Enteractive’s API technology, operators can deploy database segments to Enteractive’s teams for personalised one-to-one engagement with players at the click of a button.

Enteractive CEO Mikael Hansson: “With some leading US brands already working with our stateside teams, our journey across the pond gets more exciting each day.”

Enteractive CEO Mikael Hansson added: “With this Pennsylvania licence in addition to our licence in New Jersey, we’re available to support player retention for sportsbooks in the two largest online gambling states of the US.

“With some leading US brands already working with our stateside teams, our journey across the pond gets more exciting each day.”

Beyond reactivation services, Enteractive’s one-to-one conversations with players also act as frontline protection against problem gambling.

Since the company was founded in 2008, Enteractive has seen exponential growth from long-term clients such as Betsson, Kindred and Hero Gaming.

In April, Enteractive secured a multi-million-euro equity investment from Yolo Investments, intended to boost its ability to scale globally.

At that time, the business said the investment from Yolo would help expand its footprint globally, enabling growth in key US, Latam and Asian markets.

Marketing technology provider Betegy has appointed TV and brand expert Phil McIntyre to its senior team as executive VP for North American sales.

The announcement comes as the company seeks to bolster its standing across the US gaming and broadcast industries after receiving a multi-million euro cash injection from venture capital firm Yolo Investments in September.

Based at the company’s newly established New York City office, McIntyre will be responsible for expanding the company’s relationships with the US and Canadian entertainment sectors.

McIntyre’s appointment will further complement the company’s European growth, which has seen Betegy sign content deals with some of Europe’s biggest broadcasters and operators, including Entain, Parimatch and Tipico.

Prior to Betegy, McIntyre held executive positions as senior VP and business development consultant at media group Nexstar Digital and has also served as senior VP and business development consultant at media consultancy SmithGeiger.

He has managed campaigns for many of the world’s most recognised brands in media, sports, entertainment, consumer products, and luxury goods – including CBS, Univision, Sony Entertainment, Sinclair, CNN, Bloomberg Television, Comcast, ESPN, Starwood Capital and Hearst.

Betegy CEO Alex Kornilov: “[McIntyre] brings nearly three decades of sales, branding and entrepreneurial experience, and an unparalleled network of contacts throughout the US media business.”

Commenting on the appointment, Betegy CEO Alex Kornilov said: “Phil has been a consultant and great supporter for Betegy for a few years now, and we are thrilled to finally have him on board. He brings nearly three decades of sales, branding and entrepreneurial experience, and an unparalleled network of contacts throughout the US media business.”

He highlighted that McIntyre’s expertise helped companies leverage research and data for both brand development and visual optimisation across digital, mobile, social, multi-screen, ecommerce and even the world of VR.

“This is exactly what we are set to do at Betegy, and with serious plans to disrupt the future of sports and gaming, we’re fully confident that he’ll be able to help the largest global brands capitalise on our technology,” Kornilov said.

McIntyre added: “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and excited to join a strong team of innovators and complement it with everything I have to bring aboard.”

Established in 2012 in Warsaw, Poland, Betegy operates an automated content generation and production system that turns complex sports data into personalised digital and broadcasting graphics, as well as animations, banners, landing pages, widgets, and texts.

Data and AI specialist Future Anthem has appointed former Churchill Downs executive Matt Nichols to the newly created position of general manager of the Americas.

Nichols will be responsible for leading Future Anthem’s business and building an on-the-ground team in the Americas as the company aims to deliver on its regional growth strategy, following its recent multi-million dollar Series A financing round.

US-based Nichols joins Future Anthem from Churchill Downs Incorporated, where he was senior director of corporate development, working on numerous land-based gaming projects while also developing strategy for a B2B online horse racing product.

Before Churchill Downs, Kentucky-born Nichols traversed a variety of disciplines and industries, including strategy, project management, commercial banking, and wealth management at companies including Bank of America and US convenience store brand Thorntons.

“I am beyond thrilled to join the Future Anthem team to lead their growth into the Americas’ online gaming markets,” Nichols commented.

Future Anthem CEO Leigh Nissim: “This is a huge step in the development of Future Anthem – we have always been keen to establish ourselves locally in the US market and to be able to respond to customer needs quickly.”

He said Future Anthem CEO Leigh Nissim “has identified a compelling market gap”, while the company’s “first-class team is building industry-best AI and data products that add tremendous value to operators and game studios by personalising player experiences across sports betting and casino.

“Future Anthem is already in advanced discussions with a number of prospective new partners in the Americas,” he added.

Nissim, meanwhile, highlighted that the “Series A financing has unlocked a monumental shift” for Future Anthem.

“We have wasted no time in delivering on our vision and strategy for the Americas by hiring Matt to lead our growth in this key market.

“This is a huge step in the development of Future Anthem – we have always been keen to establish ourselves locally in the US market and to be able to respond to customer needs quickly. Matt’s experience makes him the perfect appointment for this crucial new role,” he added.

Future Anthem’s clients include more than 20 leading operators and studios such as Bally’s, Betfred, Big Time Gaming, Blueprint Gaming and Paddy Power Betfair.

In August, Future Anthem welcomed Julie Haddon as non-executive director and Ian Tibot as chief product officer.