The rate at which major brand names have been changing can be a little dizzying at times. The latest such announcement has some scratching their heads in wonder, but we’ll try to shed a little light on the situation.
Scientific Games, as a name, has been around for nearly a half-century. The original company by that name went into business in 1973 as a manufacturer of lottery tickets. Another company, Autotote, bought it in 2000 and took on the name as its own. In a few months, that will all change, as the company overhauls its corporate identity to become Light & Wonder.
49 years is pretty much an eternity in the gambling world. When it comes to online gambling, it’s literally prehistoric, as that concept has existed for less than 30 years.
The fact that the company and its name have been such a constant makes yesterday’s out-of-the-blue announcement all the more surprising. The company made the announcement to investors during its Q4 2021 earnings call. It also hosted an in-person brand reveal, attended by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak. However, Wall Street Journal readers got the news first, as CEO Barry Cottle had disclosed the news to the paper in an exclusive interview the day before.
Although the official name change won’t take place until Q2, the company has already rolled out what will be its new website.
Name change comes alongside change in focus
The announcement may have been unexpected, but it isn’t a random decision. Scientific Games has been in the process of adjusting its corporate strategy for the past year. Its leadership felt that the new approach called for a new image as well.
For much of the past two decades, the company had been expanding its focus. Its lineup of products had grown to include hardware and software, both front-end and back-end, for retail and online use, across the lottery, sports betting and casino verticals. In the process, it saddled itself with a debt load that was creeping up towards $10 billion. Last year, the company decided it was time to shed some of that debt and tighten its focus.
Although the original Scientific Games’ specialty was lottery products, and Autotote served the parimutuel betting industry, it was those portions of the business Cottle and the Board of Directors decided to dispense with. The company’s future, as they see it, is in casino games, and particularly the online casino space.
In the second half of 2021, it sold off first its sports betting division, then its lottery business a month later.
Corporate makeovers all the rage in online gambling
Scientific Games isn’t the only major company with a hand in US online gambling to make such a change. It’s actually becoming something of a trend, with at least three other similarly important corporate makeovers in as many years. As with Scientific Games, each of those changes of identity came alongside a significant strategic shift.
Paddy Power Betfair set the tone in 2019 when it became Flutter Entertainment. Its motivation was, in part, the increasing importance of FanDuel. It had acquired that company in 2017, anticipating the repeal of PASPA and the beginning of legal sports betting in the US. Neither Paddy Power nor Betfair had any name recognition in the US, so the conglomerate needed a new top-level identity not directly tied to that initial merger. It later added even more brands to its stable with the acquisition of The Stars Group, including PokerStars, Fox Bet and Sky Betting and Gaming.
Another European online gambling conglomerate, GVC, was next, changing its name to Entain. Here, the change came alongside efforts to clean up the overall corporate image. Entain, which had been on shaky regulatory ground due to the activities of some of its subsidiaries, has been withdrawing from gray markets and trying to show a commitment to compliance and responsibility.
Then there was Twin River Worldwide Holdings, which bought Bally’s Atlantic City in order to gain market access to online gambling in New Jersey. It ultimately decided to buy the Bally’s name as well, taking it as its own, since the Twin River brand held little value outside of its home state of Rhode Island. Its subsequent commitment to the online gambling space included the purchase of Gamesys, and the appointment of that company’s CEO, Lee Fenton, to lead the combined company.
Out with spreadsheets, in with bubble gum
The change for Scientific Games looks like it will be bigger than it was for any of those companies, however. Looking at the new website, there’s very little that would tip you off that the new company has anything to do with the old one.
The way Scientific Games has always presented itself is in keeping with its name. The graphical portion of its logo consists of an orderly grid of squares, reminiscent of a spreadsheet. Most are in grayscale, with a few in blue and red. Its website is similarly corporate, emphasizing that it is a business-to-business company focused on improving efficiency and bottom lines.
The Light & Wonder website could scarcely be any more different. Squares are out, circles are in. Blue and gray have been replaced with pink and purple. Facts and figures have been displaced in favor of cartoon characters.
Although the word “magic” doesn’t actually appear in the new name, that’s the vibe the rebrand gives off. This is a company that no longer wants to be scientific. It wants to be magical.
If nothing else, that will make it unique among its competitors. Their brands all still sound very sterile and corporate: Playtech, International Game Technology, Evolution, and so on.
It may be too speculative to say at this juncture, but it almost feels as if Light & Wonder is positioning itself to appeal to the end user as much as to its corporate clients.