The narrative that gambling would see a ‘return to normalised trading’ was short-lived by 2022’s rude awakening, as once more, business was forced to adjust to the realities and concerns of a globalised world.
2021 ended on the unsatisfactory note that the UK government had failed to deliver its White Paper of gambling reforms, which would be delayed to the new year.
As such, Groundhog Day beckoned once again, as DCMS promised industry leadership and stakeholders that the Gambling Review‘s pending judgements would be delivered prior to the summer.
Once again, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) called on ministers to take a balanced and evidence-led approach on implementing industry reforms against prohibitionist ideals to overhaul the sector completely.
The delay saw ministers’ concerns turn to the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), reeling from the scars of its mismanagement of the Football Index collapse and branded as an “under-performing regulator” by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Betting and Gaming (APBGG).
The spotlight was placed on a new-look Commission led by Interim Chief Executive Andrew Rhodes, to fulfil the outstanding duties of overseeing the Gambling Review and completing the Fourth National Lottery licence competition.
Politics aside, industry analysts were all in agreement that global gambling would be reshaped again by another year of deal making impacting all segments of its value chain.
As anticipated, M&A sirens began to ring as Allwyn Entertainment became the target of a SPAC deal led by former Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn. Dealmakers tempted Allwyn the reported ‘front runner’ to win the fourth National Lottery licence with an SPAC tie-up to pursue a $9.3bn listing on the NYSE.
Amid a backdrop of frantic M&A speculation, gambling plcs were preparing for a transformative year to reshape their businesses, highlighted by 888’s protracted buyout of William Hill’s UK and International units. alongside Flutter Entertainment’s completing its acquisition of Tombola.
Following four years since PASPA’s federal repeal, pressure mounted on gambling plcs to declare profitability in US shores as joint-venture partners Entain and MGM summoned an ‘EBITDA positive deadline’ in 2023.
As listed firms continued to expand their proprietary resources, investors turned towards disrupting the industry’s technology make-up as Playtech was fought over by Aristocrat Leisure and Hong Kong PE fund TTB Partners.
Tech transformations are further highlighted as Marco Sala ends his 19-year leadership tenure as Chief Executive of IGT Plc, which placed all units under a strategic review led by new CEO Vincent Sadusky.
Europe’s regulatory developments would be cast aside by the breaking news that Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies had approved long-standing legislation for the government to launch federal gambling and sports betting regimes – bringing South America’s biggest sports market into play.
Nevertheless, as gambling accepts its new agenda, global business is rocked by horrific news on 24 February of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
As the conflict escalates, gambling was made aware that Russia’s illicit war cannot be treated as a localised tragedy, a message driven home by the devastation of the cities of Mariupol and Donetsk.
A breakneck opening to 2022 closed with gambling united by the launch of its ‘Choose Love’ appeal, raising over £250,000 within days for victims of the harrowing conflict.
It was widely recognised that 2022 will follow no predetermined script as global businesses were ordered to ‘freeze out Russia’ as the world faces uncertain times and unforeseen consequences.