Caesars’ announcement that it is expanding sports betting to its casinos in New Jersey and Mississippi was good news for its technology partner Scientific Games.
One aspect of the story that went virtually unmentioned is that Scientific Games is an American company.
The other major deal announcement came from MGM, which is entering a 25-year joint venture with GVC to take advantage of interactive gaming opportunities in online casino, poker, and sports betting.
GVC is a British company. And that’s not surprising, since the majority of online gaming operators and gaming technology suppliers are not US companies.
As part of the deal presentation by MGM and GVC, the companies presented slides explaining what they were each bringing to the deal. The GVC’s slide ranks it number one among its peers by annual revenues as an online gambling operator.
Market leaders in the gambling industry
The other eight companies GVC compares itself to are:
- PaddyPower Betfair—British
- William Hill—British
- The Stars Group (incl Sky Betting and Gaming)—Canadian
- Kindred Group—Swedish
- 888 Holdings—British
- Jackpotjoy (owner of Intertain)—British
Not a US company in sight. If we expand our list of gaming companies to those involved in gaming technology, we might expect a greater US presence. After all, the US leads the world in IT:
- SBTech—Isle of Man
- CG Technologies—USA
- Scientific Games–USA
Finally, an American company! CG Technologies operates in Nevada. It is licensed as the operator of the CG race and sports book. It also provides technology to partners such as the Atlantis Casino on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
Scientific Games owns a few other gaming technology companies whose names are familiar:
- NYX Gaming Group Limited
- WMS Industries
- Bally Technologies
Scientific Games created the first secure instant lottery ticket in 1974. Since then, it has grown into a multi-billion dollar company with a NASDAQ market capitalization of over $4.5 billion. The company calls Las Vegas, Nevada home base. Scientific Games employs around 9,500 people worldwide.
Why is the US so far behind?
The Europeans seem to dominate online gambling either as operators or technology suppliers. With a few honorable exceptions such as Scientific Games, American companies and even Chinese companies don’t get a look in.
Gambling has long been illegal in China. Resultingly, its largest companies have generally stayed away from the area. Companies like Tencent, which have a major ownership stake in esports titles have tried to keep out of the real-money gambling business.
In 2016, Caesars sold its online gaming business to a consortium of Chinese companies fronted by Alibaba founder Jack Ma. The one piece of the business which stayed in Caesars’ hands was WSOP.com, the real-money online poker site active in New Jersey and Nevada.
In the US, the barriers to developing an online gambling business have been the Wire Act, PASPA, and the UIGEA.
The Wire Act has now been re-interpreted to apply only to sports betting with the result that states can legislate to establish their own online casino and poker games.
PASPA has been overturned by the US Supreme Court, so now states can add sports betting to their online portfolios.
Tide turning for US gaming companies
The spread of legalized gambling is making it more attractive for the banks to revise the blanket anti-gambling transaction policies enacted post-UIGEA. Easier deposits and withdrawals make it more likely that casual US bettors will get online.
In short, many of the barriers that prevented US companies from becoming global online gaming players have now been dismantled.
The online gambling market may be dominated by foreign companies, but the expansion of state-regulated sports betting could change all that.
Mergers and acquisitions to take US casino companies into the online space are something to look out for over the next couple of years. Within a decade, it may no longer be unusual for a US casino company to partner with a US online technology provider.