Entain Moves Past Breakdown In DraftKings’ Talks, Unveils Comprehensive ESG Initiative

MGM Resorts may make a renewed attempt to acquire Entain after DraftKings dropped a $22B bid (Photo … [+] by Ethan Miller/Getty Images).

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As chief executive officer of U.K. based Entain, Jette Nygaard-Andersen finds herself in the unique position of leading one of the world’s largest sports betting and online gaming companies in a field predominantly occupied by men.

Speaking before a packed crowd Wednesday, Nygaard-Andersen told the audience an anecdote that leaves her optimistic, yet discouraged at trends surrounding women in technology. Nygaard-Andersen, who was named CEO of the company formerly known as GVC Holdings in January, is one of a handful of female CEOs on the FTSE 100, a list of the U.K.’s top businesses.

While research indicates that about 75% of female students are interested in taking STEM courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, their interest level is not translating to the professional world. Entain hopes to change that.

To that end, Entain unveiled a new program Wednesday aimed at positively impacting 1 million people around the world, either directly or through their families and dependents, by 2030. It builds off a previous announcement made in 2020 when Entain committed to investing £100 million over five years to ESG initiatives after launching a sustainability charter.

Titled EnTrain by the gaming operator, the program is the company’s first-ever Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiative.

“As we re-shape the future of interactive entertainment, we also want to help many more people become involved,” Nygaard-Andersen said. “Our new EnTrain initiative provides the building blocks to help them, through access to academic and vocational courses and the technological expertise and equipment they need to succeed.”

Entain is known mostly for BetMGM, a 50-50 joint venture it formed with MGM Resorts in 2018, shortly after the Supreme Court’s historic PASPA decision on sports betting. While MGM Resorts provided a recognizable brand and a comprehensive player database to the JV, Entain developed a powerful tech stack that is among the most sophisticated platforms in the industry. On a given Saturday, Entain’s platforms handle about six times the interactions than Amazon does on a typical Black Friday, according to Nygaard-Andersen.

The EnTrain initiative, meanwhile, contains four pillars comprised of the Entain Academy, Entain Scholarships, Entain Apprenticeships, and a company partnerships segment, which is focused on programs around the world that amplify and support diversity in technology, the company said in a presentation. The program builds on another initiative launched by the Entain Foundation earlier in 2021 to support the careers of women in technology

“ESG is not theoretical or esoteric for us,” said Virginia McDowell, who serves as chair of Board of the company’s ESG committee. The board, which contains three women, is committed to promoting a safer gambling environment in the markets Entain operates, while meeting its objectives on risk & compliance, diversity and environmental concerns, McDowell noted at Wednesday’s presentation.

With technology at the forefront, Entain is striving to construct a diverse workforce. Entain recently began partnering with Girls Who Code, an international nonprofit organization focused on closing the gender cap in technology, according to McDowell. Through its work with Girls Who Code, Entain has aimed to bring female students into the technology industry in markets covering the U.K., U.S., Canada and India, the company said.

Moving on from DraftKings

Entain held Wednesday’s Entain Sustain event against the backdrop of a hectic period for the company. Last month, DraftKings formally dropped a $22 billion proposal to acquire the U.K. based gaming conglomerate. If completed, the acquisition would have created the largest gaming company in the world. The proposal doubled an $11 billion overture from MGM Resorts in January. Entain emphatically rejected that attempt, arguing that MGM Resorts’ proposal substantially undervalued the company.

Now, MGM Resorts and Entain are focused on rekindling the relationship despite a tense period of M&A speculation. When reports initially surfaced in September of DraftKings’ interest in Entain, shares in the U.K. gaming giant surged 20% to 2,400 pence on the London Stock Exchange. With DraftKings now out of the picture, Entain closed on Thursday at 2,025 pence, producing a market cap of around $11.9 billion.

For his part, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said last week that he was very impressed with the Entain team and the company they’ve built. In the end, DraftKings determined that the companies were not a proper match.

Nygaard-Andersen, meanwhile, is focused on expanding BetMGM throughout the U.S. BetMGM currently operates in more than 15 states, with several others nearing roll out. Just this week, BetMGM secured an official sports betting partnership with Madison Square Garden MSG , one day after the sports betting JV received a conditional mobile sports betting license from the New York Gaming Commission.

For the three-month period ended Aug. 31, BetMGM maintained a 26% share in sports betting and iGaming in the markets in which BetMGM operates. Back in April, BetMGM noted during the company’s annual investor day presentation that five of the top 10 iGaming offerings on its platform come from bespoke games developed by Entain.

“When it comes to the U.S., all our focus is really on BetMGM and making BetMGM as successful as it possibly can be – leveraging all of our capabilities, all of our technology, all of our people, and all of our games,” she said in an interview.

When asked whether Entain will resume M&A discussions with MGM Resorts, Nygaard-Andersen punted somewhat, explaining that it is not something she would like to speculate on.

“My role, why I get up in the morning is to lead Entain together with my 24,000 fantastic colleagues really to create value for our shareholders,” she added.

At last week’s third quarter earnings conference call, MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle told analysts that he likes the position BetMGM is in following the withdrawal of DraftKings’ proposal. If MGM Resorts opts to walk away from the BetMGM JV, the company would need to secure a robust tech stack first, he indicated.

Responsible gaming

Entain also spent a considerable amount of time during Wednesday’s presentation articulating its strategy for combating problem gaming.

One cautionary tale in the U.K. stems from a 2018 incident when a 13-year old teenager rang up £80,000 in soccer bets on his father’s credit card, £60,000 in one week. Entain already has safeguards in place from preventing such incidents, Nygaard-Andersen said. Through consultation with data scientists and psychologists, Entain has developed a predictive model with individualized, tailor-made solutions for players who engage in risky activity. The model, which is based on A.I. technologies, is about 90% accurate at the moment, she noted.

Entain’s model contains numerous identifiers, from when a customer’s game-play is spiking to when he is chasing losses, in order to deduce whether a player is at risk for developing a full-blown addiction. The latest incarnation features three times as many markers as the previous model used by the company last year.

“Fundamentally, we do not want to take money from anyone who can’t afford it, that’s not a sustainable business model,” Nygaard-Andersen said.

Source: Entain Moves Past Breakdown In DraftKings’ Talks, Unveils Comprehensive ESG Initiative

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