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NEWS 24 December 2019

DraftKings – SBTech talking points: Gavin Isaacs, Kambi and more

By Tim Poole

Just as I thought it would be a slow news week this Christmas, DraftKings saved its showpiece party trick for the end of the year.

Announcing the acquisition of supplier SBTech, the operator has confirmed it will become a publicly traded company through Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corp in 2020.

It’s fair to say this merger is not quite as big as this year's other two mega deals: Eldorado Resorts acquiring Caesars Entertainment for $17.3bn and Flutter Entertainment purchasing Stars Group for a potential market capitalisation of $11bn. The new DraftKings will be worth around $3.3bn.

From a digital perspective however, there’s no denying the size and resonance of this partnership. Delving deeper, here are a few other discussion points from the gaming industry’s latest round of consolidation.

DraftKings responds to industry M & A

When DraftKings CEO Jason Robins told us at ICE London earlier this year the organisation "might do some M& A of our own," he exuded a quiet confidence we now know was fuelled by a genuine plan. When Flutter acquired Stars Group in October, we posed the question of what now happens firstly to William Hill – and then to DraftKings.

The operator has responded emphatically. We know, of course, reports had surfaced as early as June of M & A with SBTech, while Diamond Eagle’s interest was also rumoured in October. So this is no knee-jerk response to any other industry activity.

But this is a strong statement from DraftKings. It is now a public company; it now has its own proprietary sports betting technology. It’s primed for rapid growth.

Trust the rumours – but be patient…

Based on the Flutter merger, I wrote a piece last month suggesting the DraftKings takeover reports were unsurprising but that the market should not expect too much activity too soon.

In principle, the message stands – once you hear this level of speculation in the gaming industry, expect something to happen a few months down the line.

I obviously have to admit however, this deal happened a little quicker than I anticipated – just five or so weeks after urging the market to be patient!

Gavin Isaacs and Jason Park play their part

At a conference earlier this year, an industry insider suggested to me, off the record, he suspected Scientific Games would acquire SBTech. This followed the employment of former Scientific Games CEO Gavin Isaacs as SBTech Chairman. That prediction wasn’t quite there but was almost spot on. Clearly, Isaacs was brought in for M & A purposes.

The Australian executive played his part and so too did new DraftKings CFO Jason Park. Hired earlier this year in his new role, Park was brought in with the background of being a tech financing expert. Given this deal, his appointment was no coincidence and both he and Isaacs have played their parts.

What happens to SBTech executives and Kambi?

Another up-to-this-point unanswered question is exactly what will happen to the SBTech senior management team. It has been confirmed the executive team will be integrated into the business, with DraftKings CEO Robins leading the merged company alongside the DraftKings management team.

But what exactly will happen to SBTech CEO Richard Carter and the rest of the senior team at the supplier? What will also happen to the number of partners to have signed with SBTech who are now going to be working with DraftKings instead?

An equally interesting caveat is exactly where this deal leaves Kambi. The supplier has a number of existing partnerships with DraftKings and may well retain them. But things will no doubt be affected long term with the operator having acquired one of its key competitors in the sports betting supplier space. At the very least, they’ll feel rather different.

RELATED TAGS: Online | Industry | Sports Betting | Mergers & Acquisitions
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