Entain entered esports, but not in the US. One of the joint owners of the top US online casino, BetMGM, introduced its esports brand, Unikrn, on Thursday to consumers in Brazil and Canada – outside of Ontario. However, Unikrn may enter the US and Ontario during 2023.
So says Justin Dellario, Entain’s esports managing director and CEO of Unikrn.
In a LinkedIn post on Thursday, Dellario emphasized that this is Unikrn’s relaunch:
Initially introduced eight years ago, unikrn is the most expansive video games and esports betting platform on the market.
Dellario said in the LinkedIn post that Unikrn has an existing audience, and relaunching with Entain will introduce it to new esports bettors.
However, he didn’t respond to Bonus questions first emailed on Thursday, including where and when Unikrn will launch in regulated markets in the US and Ontario. He simply said on LinkedIn that regulated markets will see Unikrn in 2023.
Entain, known in the US for owning BetMGM along with MGM Resorts International, saw its stock price drop 6% since the esports announcement. However, Entain also announced today that it would refinance debt, which seemed to steady GMVHY’s price.
What Esports Bettors Can Expect From Unikrn
Dellario writes on Thursday:
Equipped with a completely new look-and-feel after refreshing the brand, our platform offers an easy-to-use interface that makes it smooth and simple for players looking to bet on their own, bet with friends or even bet on themselves. With an around-the-clock video game stream of exciting action featuring the world’s most popular video game titles, and more markets and features for esports than you will find anywhere, unikrn gives players more ways to bet and compete while watching and playing their favorite games.
Entain Entered Esports Outside of the US, Ontario
Entain acquired Unikrn in October 2021. The Entain version of its launch was imminent, Entain CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen said in front of gambling industry insiders on Sept. 22. She was on stage at the East Coast Gaming Congress and NexGen Gaming Forum (ECGC) held in Atlantic City.
Her words became a reality on Thursday.
However, the brand relaunch is taking place in Brazil and Canada, outside of Ontario’s regulated iGaming market. Other provinces allow gray market operators to take bets.
Meanwhile, if Unikrn were to enter the US market right now, it would have no legal esports competition. The only legal site, Vie.gg, was housed in New Jersey until Oct. 25. That’s the day Vie.gg announced the shutdown, with the site remaining online until Nov. 1 to return gamblers’ balances.
Entering Ontario would likely mean Unikrn would compete for market share with Rivalry.
Esports Success Is Difficult to Measure
Rivalry itself highlighted one of the issues with measuring the success of esports.
Regulators in Ontario and New Jersey group esports with sports betting.
On Nov. 29, Rivalry said of its worldwide results:
[The] Company maintained a market leadership position among next generation consumers with 82% of active users under the age of 30 years old and continues to highlight significant opportunities in esports betting, demonstrated by over 90% of sportsbook handle derived from esports in Q3 2022.
As for New Jersey, its legislators are working on changing the rules. Bills now sit in House and Senate committees that would treat esports as its own online gambling category, separate from online sports betting.
On the same day Nygaard-Andersen was on an Atlantic City stage talking about Unikrn, state Sen. James Beach, D-Voorhees, spent part of Sept. 22 introducing S2986 to the New Jersey Legislature in Trenton.
A4397, a bill sponsored by three assemblymen and co-sponsored by four more members of the House, predates Beach’s effort. The bipartisan House members introduced the bill on June 27.
However, Garden State esports bettors will never know if the proposed law could’ve saved Vie.gg.
In an interview Bonus published on Oct. 7, the head of the company that owns Vie.gg said esports needs to be treated like its own entity. It’s not US online casino or sports betting.
Grant Johnson, CEO of Esports Entertainment Group (EEG), seemingly foreshadowed the demise of Vie.gg.
The brand was live for six months.
“It really needs to be dealt with differently than the mature sports betting licenses,” Johnson said in support of New Jersey’s proposed esports betting law. “One of the key issues, from an operator standpoint, will be cost associated with the license. Most companies in the esport area are far smaller operators than the traditional sportsbook or casino brands.”
iGaming Next reported on Dec. 8 that Johnson exited EEG on Dec. 3.