In March 2020, the novel coronavirus swept through the U.S., forcing stay-at-home orders and business closures across the country—including all but two of the country’s nearly 1,000 casinos.
That same month, New Jersey, Delaware, Nevada, and Pennsylvania—the four U.S. states with legal online poker sites—all reported record-high online gaming revenues. In particular, Nevada, the country’s gambling hub, reported more than a 90% increase from the same month last year.
Even before COVID-19 struck, the online gambling industry has been growing exponentially for years. In 2017, the global market was valued at around $45.8 billion. By 2024, some experts predict global online gambling bets will hit nearly $95 billion. And the global market for online gambling is estimated to grow by 11.5% annually until 2027.
Now, in the stay-at-home ‘new normal,’ this multibillion-dollar trend is exploding faster than anyone could have predicted just a few short months ago.
And when it comes to cashing in on this boom… one company is holding a winning hand.
“There is a huge shift coming to online betting and we are perfectly situated to take advantage of that,” said FansUnite CEO and co-founder Darius Eghdami in an exclusive interview.
For one thing, it has some of the most impressive forward-facing sports betting technology in the industry. Its proprietary software allows the company to market unique products and services, and—more importantly—provide increased transparency which allows regulatory oversight in an industry that desperately needs it… all while saving its customers money.
Also, the company’s management team—which includes some of the best players in the business, with decades of combined experience—is pursuing aggressive growth through mergers and acquisitions; in a few short months, it’s already completed or signed multiple strategic deals to grow its user base and greatly expand its service offerings… and it’s actively looking for more.
Specifically, as more and more states legalize sports betting, FansUnite has its eye on capturing the emerging U.S. sports betting market.
Meanwhile, with a market capitalization of just $30 million, the company trades at a substantial discount to some of its industry peers. At these levels, this under-the-radar company could provide an early-stage entry point for investors to get in on this enormous—and rapidly growing—industry…
A moment in history… and a huge potential catalyst
Due to a lack of regulation and oversight, the U.S. sports betting industry has historically been shrouded in mystery.
But in the last couple of years, that’s started to change.
In May 2018, Delaware was the first U.S. state to legalize sports betting following a historic Supreme Court victory. The win set a precedent for any other state that wished to legalize sports betting.
Since then, other states have been quick to follow suit. As of June 2020, 18 states had legalized sports betting, while five more (including Washington, D.C.) have recently passed bills that would allow them to do so. Of the remaining states, only three—Idaho, Wisconsin, and Utah—have yet to introduce measures to make sports betting legal.
In the meantime, Congress has also been contemplating sports betting legislation at the federal level. Although any major legislation has yet to be enacted, there’s been talk: In September 2018, Congress held a hearing on traditional sports betting for the first time in a decade.
And in December of that year, New York Senator Chuck Schumer and then-Utah Senator Orrin Hatch co-sponsored a sweeping bipartisan sports betting bill, which would “put in place world-class safety measures to protect consumers, preserve the integrity of sporting events, and ensure the propriety of the sports wagering market.”
“Sports betting is inevitable—so let’s make sure it’s done right,” Hatch said in the press release.
If passed, the bill could potentially act as a huge tailwind for the sports betting industry.
But even if Congress chooses not to oversee sports betting at a federal level, it’s extremely likely that more and more states will continue to legalize it. After all, the states that have already done so have been raking in revenue.
For instance, Colorado, the most recent state to legalize sports betting, is projecting $40 million in annual tax revenue as soon as it fully launches post-COVID-19.
Experts believe sports betting could be worth some $7–8 billion in the U.S. alone by 2025, up from $833 million in 2019.
Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room...
Thanks to COVID-19, most major sports leagues originally put a hiatus on—or completely canceled— their regular major sporting events. Many have since rescheduled… but with the resurgence of COVID-19, it’s impossible to tell exactly what the future holds. Understandably, this didn’t have the most positive impact on sports betting.
This, says Eghdami, is why the company is focusing heavily on the niche esports space.
If you’ve never heard of esports… well, you may be a little behind the curve. So let’s catch up: Esports is an umbrella term for the exploding professional video gaming industry. Professional gamers compete, spectators watch online (and wager), and brands advertise. Despite the name, the industry doesn’t just refer to sports-themed games—the space encompasses professional video games of all creeds (yes, even Assassin’s Creed).
While it started as a niche—and often disparaged—hobby space, it’s evolved into a billion-dollar industry in its own right. Sports organizations like the NBA, as well as legends like Michael Jordan, have esports partnerships and endorsements, while major networks like ESPN have been giving it increased exposure.
The idea of watching other people play video games might not sound appealing to you—but the fact is that hundreds of millions of people tune into these games as a form of prime entertainment. Total esports viewership hit 454 million in 2019… and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9% to hit 646 million in 2023.
The industry is also seeing major growth in financial backing. Investments in 2017 were at about $490 million… while in 2018, they hit around $4.5 billion—marking a mindblowing 837% YoY increase.
And FansUnite just made a game-winning acquisition into the esports market...
At the end of June, just over a month after going public, FansUnite (CSE:FANS; OTCMKTS:FUNFF) announced that it signed a deal to acquire Askott Entertainment, Inc., a gambling software company based out of Vancouver.
Since launching in 2013, Askott has won awards for its online gambling software. Specifically, Askott is a recognized leader of the esports gambling market, providing wagering software for multiple fantasy sports leagues, casino-style games, and various other esports.
The Askott acquisition should provide FansUnite the perfect entry point into esports betting. And as more U.S. states legalize the practice, opening up the market for companies to move in, FansUnite could easily become a huge beneficiary of this rapidly exploding growth trend.
A tried and true growth strategy & industry-leading tech
The Askott deal is just one part of FansUnite’s larger mergers & acquisitions (M&A) growth strategy.
Back in March, FansUnite (CSE:FANS; OTCMKTS:FUNFF) officially acquired McBookie—a white-label virtual sportsbook that largely serves the Scottish market. The acquisition was a smart strategic move by the company. The purchase came with a built-in active user base of 10,000 people, as well as $100 million in collective turnover over the previous three years.
Now that the Askott deal has been announced, FansUnite is actively looking for its next merger opportunities—specifically, ones that would give it even more exposure to sports betting in the U.S.
“It’s very expensive to go up against the giants at the moment, so we are looking at creative ways to get into the U.S.,” said Eghdami. “There are some great [sports betting] platforms out there and we are doing our homework right now."
The M&A strategy makes sense: it’s a tried and true growth model in the industry.
After going public on April 23, fantasy sports company DraftKings quickly caught the attention of the market, jumping some 14% on its first day of trading. Since then, it’s made several impressive acquisitions, reaching nearly $12 billion in market capitalization.
Meanwhile, online gambling company The Stars Group, Inc. said it had seen a surge in online casino and poker players during coronavirus. Since then, the company has been acquired by Flutter Entertainment, effectively forming the world’s largest online gambling company, with a market cap of over $11.5 billion.
“The model is one that has worked in the gaming industry, so we want to follow that pattern,” said Eghdami.
Aside from its acquired assets, FansUnite boasts its own proprietary technology. In addition to its own business-to-customer (B2C) sportsbook, set to launch later this year, appropriately branded Sportsbook, the company will sell its “white label” technology to business-to-business (B2B) customers (i.e., companies that want to establish their own gambling platforms). In return, FansUnite would get a portion of their customers’ “house” profits.
Aside from its improved regulatory certainty and transparency over other platforms, FansUnite’s tech boasts another major feature that sets it apart from the rest of the industry…
Users can make transactions with cryptocurrencies in addition to fiat currency.
This is a huge selling point not just for the company’s own Sportsbook users who want to spend their crypto… but for its B2B customers looking to offer their own gambling platforms with best-in-class services.
The bottom line
Online gambling is already booming—and it’s set to explode even higher in years to come.
Recently IPOed FansUnite (CSE:FANS; OTCMKTS:FUNFF) has been operating in the industry for years. It’s got an established user base and industry-recognized technology… it’s scaling its B2B and B2C business segments… and it’s focused on an aggressive M&A growth strategy. It’s got a leadership team with decades of experience, and financial backing from major investors.
As sports betting becomes legalized across the U.S., FansUnite has a plan to move into the market. And even as we wonder about the status of our favorite professional sports leagues in a post-COVID-19 world… and how that might impact the sports betting industry… the company has got that covered, with an eye on the burgeoning esports industry.
It’s clear the successful brands in this industry have the potential to quickly rocket in the charts—just look at DraftKings and its more than $11 billion market cap after IPOing in April.
FansUnite (CSE:FANS; OTCMKTS:FUNFF) currently has a market cap of just $30. Given what we’re seeing in the industry, it’s impossible to tell where that could go. But with its announced corporate strategy, FansUnite could provide the right early stage entry point to a market expected to grow much bigger in just a few short years.
Other companies set to ride this COVID-proof investment boom:
Wynn Resorts, Limited (NASDAQ:WYNN)
Wynn Resorts is another iconic Las Vegas staple. Founded by Steve Wynn following the sale of Mirage Resorts to MGM Grand, Wynn has become one of the strongest gaming stocks on the market, largely thanks to its Macao assets as the region continues to produces tremendous revenue for
Despite some setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic, Wynn has performed well against its competitors, even after a larger industry-level decline. And with Macao casinos poised for a rebound, Wynn Resorts is one to watch moving forward.
Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) is a leader in multiple fields of technology. The forward-thinking industry giant is the backbone of many laptops and PCs running the Windows operating system. The company has been so successful in its deal-making and advertising that it is impossible to escape its influence.
Without Intel, esports and even online betting might not exist in the way we know it now. The chipmaker is everywhere, and while there is some emerging competition, it remains the de facto leader in its field.
The maker of the Xbox and publisher behind such groundbreaking titles as Halo and Destiny, Microsoft unexpectedly became a heavy-hitter in the gaming industry in the early 2000s.
More recently, the company’s video game division has hit a few snags - like the rest of the industry, profits were held back by spiraling costs. Despite this, however, Microsoft has flourished, and could even become the world’s first $2 trillion company.
Amazon paid nearly $1 billion to acquire streaming giant Twitch. Amazon’s Twitch.tv, as the de facto leader in the space, with over 15 million unique visitors per day, has become so engrained in the industry that new video game consoles even have the platform’s streaming functionality built in. It’s so dominant, in fact, that it accounts for 1.8 percent of peak internet traffic.
Looking to follow in Twitch’s footsteps, however, Chinese streaming giant Huya is looking to carve out its place in the esports industry. As a part of its ambitious and aggressive plan to dive into Western markets, Huya is looking to partner with some of the top teams in the business, and it’s got a significant war chest to help its cause.
Enthusiast Gaming (TSX:EGLX.V)
Enthusiast is one of the most impressive video game communities on the web. Thanks to it’s aggressive acquisition strategy, it has a web of over 80 websites reaching more than 150 million people every month. It is also making significant moves in the esports arena, hosting wildly attended events in Canada, including the country’s largest gaming expo EGLX. Enthusiast also leverages its reach to provide advertisers with unique solutions across a wide array of publishers.
EXFO Inc (TSX:EXFO)
EXFO isn’t new to the Canadian tech sector. The company was founded in 1985 in Quebec City, and its original products were portable testing products for optical networks. Since then, the company has acquired and build 3G, LTE, protocol, copper/xDSL, IMS, and VoIP test and service assurance products, all vital pieces of the gaming revolution.
Recent developments from EXFO are promising for long term growth potential. The new baseband unit emulation technology which is sure to be adopted on a large scale, as the tech offers operators a reduction of costs and a faster revenue stream.
Evergreen Gaming (TSX.V:TNA)
Evergreen has succeeded in bringing back its total debt from $7 million to $5.4 million at the end of December 2018. Its cash flow in the meantime has been relatively steady at $5.8 million, giving lenders reason enough to issue new debt to the company in case it needs it for expansion activities.
Compared to its larger competitors in Nevada and the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, the company is just a small player, but its focus and returns YTD have been strong, giving investors enough reason to keep an eye on this small but sound player.
Contagious Gaming Inc. (TSX:CNS.V)
Contagious is a software developer that has developed many systems for the e-gaming markets. The company has created a remote sports betting system that allows for live in-play betting during sporting and esporting events. The company’s content and technology can be delivered as a fully integrated service across a single, modern customer platform or can be offered as standalone verticals.
Absolute Software Corporation (TSX:ABT)
Absolute offers endpoint security and data risk-management solutions. And it looks like it’s on a path of securing strong new customers. The pipeline looks great, and forecasts have been increased.
With strong management and an innovative team, Absolute Software is drawing investor attention. Absolute is positioned perfectly for the coming fintech revolution, and its security offerings are sure to save its clients time and money moving forward.
Absolute is another company that stands out a bit due to its backdoor potential. Some of the world’s leading industries trust Absolute with their most important security challenges, and nowhere is that task more essential than in the gaming industry, where so much rides on digital platforms.
By. Chloe Hawthorne
**IMPORTANT! BY READING OUR CONTENT YOU EXPLICITLY AGREE TO THE FOLLOWING. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY**
FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS: Certain information contained herein may constitute "forward-looking information" under Canadian securities legislation. Forward-looking statements may include, without limitation, statements relating to future outlook and anticipated events, such as the satisfaction of the conditions precedent and subsequent consummation of the Askott transaction; realizing FansUnite’s plans regarding expanded consumer base, business base, offerings and gaming licenses; that directors’ contacts and experience will be a major asset; the growth of the online gambling market; its plan to grow by acquisition; the combined companies’ ability to scale their platforms, to enter into new and emerging international gaming markets, to capture the growing demand of gamblers and to become a global gaming leader; the strengths, characteristics and potential of the combined company; the company’s ability to become one of Canada's leading gaming companies; the ability to launch a proprietary sportsbook as well as selling software to other sports books; and discussion of future plans, projections, objectives, estimates and forecasts and the timing related thereto. Forward-looking statements are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause the actual results, level of activity, performance or achievements of FansUnite to be materially different from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Matters that may affect the outcome of these forward looking statements include that online gaming may not turn out to have as large a market, grow as quickly or be as lucrative as currently predicted; FANS may not be able to offer a competitive product or scale up as thought because of consumer tastes for its online product, lack of capital, lack of facilities, regulatory compliance requirements or lack of suitable employees or contacts; the directors’ experience and contacts may not result in material benefits; FANS’s intellectual property rights applications may not be granted and even if granted, may not adequately protect FANS’ intellectual property rights; risk factors for the online sports gaming industry in general also affect FANS including without limitation the following: competitors may offer better terms to potential M&A acquisition targets, or no such target may actually be acquired even if agreements are signed; competitors may offer better online gaming products luring away FANS’s customers; technology changes rapidly in the gaming and esports business and if FANS fails to anticipate or successfully implement new technologies or adopt new business strategies, technologies or methods, the quality, timeliness and competitiveness of its products and services may suffer; FANS may experience security breaches and cyber threats; regulators may impose significant hurdles to online gaming companies; FANS may not receive applied for gaming licenses; FANS’s business could be adversely affected if consumer protection, data privacy and security practices are not adequate, or perceived as being inadequate, to prevent data breaches, or by the application of consumer protection and data privacy laws generally; the products or services FANS distributes through its platform may contain defects, which could adversely affect FANS’ reputation. Additional information regarding the risks and uncertainties relating to the Company's business are contained under the heading "Risk Factors" in the Company's Non-Offering Prospectus dated March 27, 2020 filed on its issuer profile on SEDAR at www.sedar.com. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements.
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