Jason Ader: Mattingley must awaken Playtech’s US future 

Brian Mattingley’s appointment as the new company chairman of Playtech Plc has been welcomed by company investor Jason Ader and his asset management company SpringOwl.

Though the appointment was branded as conservative in some quarters with Mattingley due to finish his 15-year CEO and Chairmanship tenure at 888 Holdings, Ader believes that Mattingley will play a critical role in Playtech’s recovery.

Within the small circles of gambling governance, Ader and Mattingley have been former M&A dance partners, with the latter leading 888’s €1 billion pursuit to acquire bwin.party Entertainment back in 2015.

“I got to know Brian from 888’s attempt to acquire bwin,” Ader told SBC. “One thing that you immediately notice is that he gets along with everybody – management, the board, investors, employees and regulators.”

Following two years of shareholder rifts, Playtech may require a seasoned diplomat such as Mattingley to lead its board. However, Ader underlined that its new chairman cannot afford to be a compromiser. 

“Brian is a stellar appointment, who is well regarded across the industry. He knows what is at stake for Playtech, and as a Chairman will challenge management where necessary,” he explained.

Playtech’s perils have been well documented, with the company having fallen off its perch of once being the FTSE100’s most valuable tech stock.

The appointment of Mattingley comes at an important time for the company, as European markets face critical regulatory judgements and US gambling reawakens to its post-Covid future, where incumbents have to radically digitise their assets. 

Ader notes that Playtech has been one of his ‘longest investments’, in which he has ‘fought tooth and nail’ for the company to re-focus its strategy and objectives as gambling technology supplier.

He revealed: “The company had a legacy strategy implemented by its former owners, that had to be challenged by someone. It was simply carrying too much weight from bolt-on acquisitions, whilst the US market was opening up. 

“We fought hard for Playtech to wake-up and sell its financial trading assets. The board had to realise that the playbook is to sell technology to US companies, that is what Playtech is best at”.

Though ‘late to the party’, Ader maintained that ‘Playtech is still a diamond in the rough’, stressing his belief that the technology group can thrive against changing US demands.   

He added: “The technology deals that have been made are almost all exclusively sports betting focused. However, the conditions will change when demand for online casino gaming surges across states… No one can match Playtech in igaming, and it cannot miss this opportunity.”  

However, when probed on whether Playtech have missed US commercial opportunities as the market’s major players have signed-up and invested in long term technology partnerships, Ader took a longer-term view. 

“The market is still in its infancy,” he said. “We are not in the fourth quarter, we have only played the first five minutes, so there is a long way to go.”

He explained that Playtech must present itself as “the comprehensive solution as US incumbents realise the limitations of their initial technology stacks, impeding their mass-market ambitions”.

In Playtech’s favour is that the market’s existing technology partnerships are set for a rude awakening as the populous states of Texas, New York and Florida launch their online gambling regimes.

Elsewhere, Ader continues to monitor state-by-state developments through his newly launched 26 Capital SPAC vehicle, which has been strengthened by the appointment of former Star Group Inc CEO Rafi Ashkenazi as a board member.

Though yet to undertake its M&A play, Ader noted that the field is open for 26 Capital with regards to opportunities, where the SPAC is analysing all dynamics related to US gambling’s disrupted ecosystem post-Covid.  

“You have to take a step back and look at what has happened. Let’s be real about what is facing each state post-Covid… they need money to fill black holes and online gambling offers that,” Ader concluded.  

“Michigan with a full regime declared a tax windfall, after just two weeks, others should follow. Let’s hope that these changes present the opportunities for the best technologies to win.”

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