2021 Gambling Industry Overview – Part 1

It seems that not a week has gone by over the last year without some major announcement from the gambling industry. Here we take a look back at the first six months of 2021 to recap some of the major developments that took place.

In January, MGM abandoned its efforts to acquire Entain Plc. It came after weeks of speculation surrounding the proposed takeover following MGM’s initial bid of $8 billion that was later increased to $11 billion. However, while no takeover happened, the companies continue to work together and have operations in roughly 20 states.

At the same time, last January, the world was roughly a year into the Coronavirus pandemic. Things were still extremely difficult, and all land-based gaming establishments in England were made to close as the country entered a third national lockdown. Hopefully, such difficulties will be avoided in 2022.

February was full of good news for operators and players alike. To begin with, Google changed its policies regarding its Play Store, allowing gambling operators to offer their apps to bettors in the US. Since then, numerous operators have gone on to offer casino, lottery, sports betting, and poker apps. It wasn’t just the US where the policy was changed. Similar changes took place in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Spain, and Sweden.

February was also the month when Betway announced it was entering the US market. It revealed an initial launch in 10 US states bringing sports fans pre-match and in-play betting markets together with casino games in states where it is allowed.

In March, Brian Mattingley was announced as Playtech’s new non-executive chairman. The 888 chair replaced Claire Milne in the role while Lord Jon Mendelsohn took over from Mattingley at 888. March also saw the announcement of a merger of Bally’s Corporation and Gamesys Group. Bally’s agreed to acquire Gamesys for £2 billion in one of the biggest mergers of the year.

There were some major acquisitions in April. Evolution continued its expansion strategy with the acquisition of slots developer Big Time Gaming for €450 million. BTG is best known as the creator of the Megaways mechanic, and they joined NetEnt and Red Tiger in the Evolution family. In the same month, Caesars announced that its acquisition of William Hill for £2.9 billion was to go ahead. The deal went ahead after receiving regulatory approval.

May was a mixed month for gamblers in the UK. The law was changed to prevent under-18s from playing the National Lottery. Until that point, anyone over the age of 16 was free to buy a ticket. However, casinos in England were able to reopen as the coronavirus restrictions were relaxed. There was similar good news from Vegas where MGM Resorts was able to start operating its casino floors at 100% capacity again without the need for social distancing after it received permission from the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

June was a fantastic month for Canadian sports fans as the country finally legalized single-event sports bets. It meant that fans no longer had to place parlay bets covering three or more sports when backing their favorite teams. There was also a major step forward for Playtech when it joined the All-In Diversity Project, demonstrating its commitment to diversity and quality in the gambling industry.

It was certainly a busy first half of the year. Read part 2 to learn what happened over the next few months.

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