Gambling Industry Acquisitions and Financial News — Weekly Round-up for May 11, 2018

By Brian Cullingworth, Last updated May 11, 2018

Cherry Group Subsidiary Posts Its Q1-2018 Results

Another positive quarter reported by games and software developer Yggdrasil

Swedish games and software developer Yggdrasil in the Cherry Group has followed the parent company’s latest Q1 results (see previous InfoPowa reports) with its own performance metrics, highlighting:

  • Revenues up by 73 percent year-on-year to SEK 57.6 million (Q1 2017: 33.3 million);
  • Growth in local currency Euro was 65 percent year-on-year, aided by positive foreign exchange movements;
  • EBITDA up at SEK 18.1 million (Q1-2017: SEK13.3 million) on margin of 31 percent (40 percent);
  • EBIT up at SEK 13.8 million (10.7);
  • Player transactions grew 90.2 percent y-o-y to 1,333 million;
  • Three new games were released: Ozwin’s Jackpots, Gem Rocks and Easter Island;
  • 9 new licence agreements were signed including and two new partners in Italy, Lottomatica and Stanleybet;
  • Mobile gaming delivered 61 percent of total estimated gross game win;
  • Company has entered the table games vertical;
  • Plans to enter Spain in a deal with GVC Holdings;
  • YGS Masters, a new studio partnership program, launched.

Events after the Q1 period have included:

  • First exclusive Yggdrasil White Label Studios game, Royal Family, launched with LeoVegas;
  • Northern Lights signed as the first partner to join Yggdrasil’s YGS Masters;
  • One new slot game was released, Lucha Maniacs.

Fredrik Elmqvist, CEO of Yggdrasil, said that Q1 has been an action-packed period, beginning with the announcement of the new table product due for launch this year and combining the best aspects of live and RNG casino.

“Similarly, our bingo product, announced at the end of 2017, continues to progress; bringing the Yggdrasil spark to these new verticals presents us with a significant growth opportunity,” he said..

“We also launched a new strategic partnership initiative, YGS Masters, in reaction to the increasingly fragmented gaming value chain. An invite-only, semi-open platform, YGS Masters will enable us to curate content from the world’s leading independent games studios and distribute via our platform.

“Alongside these new initiatives, we continue to develop new, casino slots content and expand our commercial operations. This quarter we announced our forthcoming entry in Spain, one of Europe’s fastest growing online gaming markets. Coming on the heels of our entries into Denmark and Italy, our commitment to expanding our footprint in Europe’s regulated markets is clear.

“I believe the conditions are right for continued strong growth ahead. We see strong interest in our games and in-game promotional tools among both operators and end players.”

German Lottery Group Reports On First Quarter 2018

Fewer big pay-outs helps quarterly financials

The German online lottery group Zeal Network has reported positive y-o-y growth in the first quarter of 2018, highlighting the following metrics:

  • Statutory revenue ujp at Euro 38.7 million (Q1-2017: Euro 23.6 million);
  • Sales up 6.4 percent at Euro 72.8 million;
  • Earning before interest and tax up at Euro 9.2 million (Q1-2017: Euro 200,000);
  • Operating performance up at Euro 39.8 million (Euro 24.1 million) as “:exceptional” prize pay-outs fell to zero in the quarter.

CNR Release Research Results On Italian Market

Popularity in younger demographic declines in 2017

Italy’s National Research Council, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) released the results of a study on the Italian gambling market, both terrestrial and online, late last week.

Undertaken by the CNR Institute of Clinical Physiology, the new IPSAD® and ESPAD®Italia data for 2017 reveals that while adult gambling is on the rise – primarily the scratch&win and sportsbetting sectors – the younger, student demographic is declining, even across the online channel.

Key insights include:

  • More than 17 million Italians played at least once in 2017 (42.8 percent), compared to 10 million in 2014 (27.9 percent).
  • Over one million students (36.9 percent) had a flutter, down from 1.4 million (47.1 percent) eight years prior.
  • Problem gambling has quadrupled in the past 10 years, CNR said, estimating problem gambling in 2.4 percent of the gambling population in 2017 as opposed to 0.6 percent in 2007. The institute flagged Southern Italy has a hotspot for problem gamblers but points out that problem gambling had decreased in the student demographic (15-19) to 7.1 percent (2009: 8.7 percent). Problem gambling in students is led by sports betting and scratch&win games, the study found.
  • In general, men (51.1 percent) play more than women (34.4 percent). Among students, the percentage of males is almost double compared to women (47.3 percent vs. 26.3 percent).
  • As a whole the most popular games are Scratch & Win games, followed by Lotto and Super Enalotto. Sports betting is the third most popular vertical growing from 18.3 percent in 2010 to 28 percent in 2017.
  • In the younger, female demographic the most popular game is Gratta & Vinci – a scratch&win game managed by Lotterie Nazionali Srl. Sportsbetting leads in the younger, male demographic.
  • 63.7 percent of players between 15 and 64 spend on average less than Euro 10 per month on gambling.
  • 1.4 million Italians played online in 2017, as well as 200,000 students (2016: 240,000). Their preferred channel was mobile.

Underage gambling was highlighted in the results with 10.8 percent of students admitting they ignored the no-under-18 age limit. CNR estimates as many as 580,000 underage students gambled during 2017.

Upward Trajectory Continues In French Market

First quarter results show good progress across all segments

First quarter results for the 12 weeks ending March 31, 2018 were released Monday by the French regulatory authority ARJEL showing growth across all segments.

The market was driven during the first quarter 2018 by online sportsbetting which generated stakes of Euro 847 million, up 34 percent and marking an all time high.

This segment was boosted by an increase in bettors, ARJEL reports, reaching 462,500 active player accounts each week (Q1/2017: 341,000). Online sportsbetting revenues increased 55 percent to reach Euro 147 million (Q1/2017: Euro 94 million).

The sportsbetting market was led by football betting (55 percent of all bets) with Ligue 1 betting reaching Euro 81 million in stakes alone.

Tennis accounted for 19 percent of online sports bets, followed by Basketball. These three disciplines accounted for 89 percent of all online sports bets during the trimester.

Online horserace betting wagers grew 9 percent to reach Euro 270 million (Q1/2017: Euro 246 million), again attributed to an increase in bettors. Quarterly turnover grew 8 percent to reach Euro 65 million.

The revival of online poker cash games and tournaments in 2017 continued into the first quarter with overall turnover reaching Euro 69 million, up 5 percent y-o-y, and a 6 percent increase in the online poker player base.

Cash game wagers reached Euro 1,106 million, up 18 percent y-o-y, while tournament poker players forked out almost Euro 594 million (Q1/2017: Euro 520 million) in entry fees, up 14 percent.

William Hill Results Impacted By Disappointing Retail

But boosted by online and U.S. business

A William Hill trading update Tuesday revealed a 3 percent rise in group net revenue for the unaudited 17 weeks ending April 24, 2018.

Results were impacted by a poor retail performance but offset by strong online and U.S. business results.

Key performance indicators include:

  • Online net revenue up 12 percent.
  • Online net revenue from sportsbook was up 17 percent. Gross win margins were 1.3 percentage points higher at 8.8 percent leading to amounts wagered being down 8 percent.
  • Online gaming up 8 percent, supported by a strong increase in active customers and improved cross-sell rates. Total Online actives were up 10 percent.
  • Retail net revenue down 4 percent with a 9 percent decline in Sportsbook and flat gaming. Sportsbook was negatively impacted largely by events in the Horseracing sector.
  • Significant year-on-year gross win margin increases driving unusual short-term trends.
  • Strong US performance driven by 17 percent growth (or 31 percent in local currency) in stakes and positive sports results. Net revenue was up 45 percent (or 62 percent in local currency). Gross win margin was up 1.5 percent to 7.7 percent.
  • Results from Basketball wagers led the pack during the March Madness competition, followed by increased wagering on ice hockey and the introduction of in-play tennis betting.
  • Mobile stakes rose 39 percent now contributing 64 percent of total wagers over the period.

Philip Bowcock, William Hill CEO, commented:

“William Hill has had a positive start to 2018, making further progress against our strategic priorities to grow UK market share, drive international revenues and deliver key transformation projects.

“Continued momentum in Online and strong growth in the US have driven a good performance during the period. In the UK, an unprecedented run of bookmaker-friendly sporting results led to unusual wagering and gaming trends, which we expect to normalise over time. The sale of our Australia business has further strengthened our balance sheet.

“While we await the outcome of the UK Triennial Review and the Supreme Court’s decision on US sports betting legislation, we remain focused on continuing to deliver a great customer experience, particularly ahead of this summer’s World Cup.”

Aspire Global Interim Report “Paves Way To Successful 2018”

Company to expand into game development as a new product vertical

Aspire Global has described its first quarter 2018 as ‘productive’ following a record full year 2017 performance.

Key performance metrics from the interim report include:

  • Revenue increase of 14 percent to Euro 18.4 million (Q1/2017: Euro 16.1 million)
  • 24 percent increase in B2B Revenues to Euro 9.7 million (Q1/2017: Euro 7.8 million)
  • EBITDA increased by 6 percent to Euro 2.8 million
  • EBITDA margin amounted to 15 percent (Q1/2017: 16 percent)
  • EBIT amounting to Euro 2.4 million was flat
  • Earnings after tax from continued operations amounted to Euro 2.2 million, down from Q1/2017’s Euro 2.5 million
  • Earnings per share after tax from continued operations amounted to Euro 0.04 (Q1/2017: 0.06)
  • First time depositors (FTDs) increased by 28 percent to reach 69.2 thousand (Q1/2017: 53.9 thousand)

“I am happy to present yet another positive quarter with continuous strong organic growth and EBITDA development compared to last year,” Tsachi Maimon, chief executive officer of Aspire Global, commented.

“2018 started off with the launch of Sportsbook, a major event as the company entered into the largest field of iGaming and became the first provider of a full-service platform solution for casino and sports operators. The initial response exceeded expectations and we look forward to putting the product to the real test as the World Cup starts in just over a month. Meanwhile, we are exploring a number of M&A-opportunities and increase the focus on Karamba.”

Following the successful launch of sportsbook, Maimon said the company will focus on other new verticals, first of which will be game development, an asset he says will be developed into a successful and profitable product and one which provides the company control over additional parts of the value chain.

In related news, the company entered into a new partnership with Aller Media Denmark; a company within Aller Group, and a leading Nordic publisher of weeklies and magazines.

Aller Media Denmark will become one of the first Nordic media houses to add an iGaming offer to its business, Maimon said.

Aspire Global, who has been operating in Denmark for six years, was recently awarded an extension to its gaming license until 2023 and, in addition, has its eye on the Swedish market where it has announced its intention to apply for a concession.

“We continue to focus on the geographic expansion to regulated or soon-to-be regulated markets, as these market conditions enable interesting business opportunities, increased competitive advantages and a more sustainable business for us as a full-service platform provider,” Maimon concluded.

Finland’S Veikkaus Posts Q1-2018 Results

Sales slightly down, but revenues rise, with a hefty digital contribution

Finnish state-owned gambling conglomerate Veikkaus has posted its Q1-2018 report showing a marginal 1 percent decline in sales at Euro 805.6 million but revenue up 2 percent at Euro 256 million.

Drilling down into the numbers reveals that lottery and keno sales rose 4.2 percent to Euro 303.5 million; sports and race betting revenue slipped 3.8 percent at Euro 149 million; slots revenue rose 6.7 percent to Euro 207 million; online stakes on sports betting rose marginally, but performed better than the retail betting performance, which fell 14.6 percent in year-on-year terms.

Overall digital revenue contributed 44 percent of all sales, rising 10 percent year-on-year, with weekly active online punters increasing almost 11.5 percent to 626,000.

Solid Q1-2018 Result From The Stars Group

PokerStars performs strongly, and new acquisitions will be contributing in the future

Toronto listed The Stars Group has published its Q1-2018 report, highlighting:

  • Group revenue up 23 percent year-on-year at $393 million;
  • PokerStars subsidiary reported revenue up 12 percent at $245.9 million;
  • Online casino and sports books revenue up 55 percent at $134.5 million;
  • Adjusted EBITDA up 15.9 percent at $175,022 million;
  • Adjusted cash flow from operations up 18.3 percent at $132,258 million;
  • Corporate net earnings of up $9 million y-o-y at $74 million.

Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi said in his report:

“The Stars Group’s strong first quarter results continued our organic growth trajectory. We are pleased with the performance of each of our verticals, poker, casino and sportsbook, which are benefiting not only from the continued success of Stars Rewards but also from our strategy of focusing on the customer and continued improvements to our product offerings.”

“Moving forward, the exceptional foundation of our existing business will be complemented by our acquisitions of CrownBet and William Hill Australia, and expected completion of the Sky Betting & Gaming acquisition.”

“These acquisitions will help diversify our revenue base, increase our exposure to regulated markets, and transform our combined sportsbook into a second customer acquisition channel. These new additions will accelerate not only the organic growth we are seeing in our existing business but also our progress towards realizing our vision of becoming the world’s favorite iGaming destination.”

Brian Cullingworth

Infopowa news was a staple of Casinomeister’s news from 2000 until 2019. Brian Cullingworth was the main writer, contributor, and was one of the most knowledgeable persons I have ever known involved in the online casino industry.

We first met in January 2001 at the ICE in London where I observed him going booth to booth interviewing online casino, software, and licensing jurisdiction representatives. Brian was also heavily involved with our forum as “Jetset“, he was involved as an informal consultant to eCOGRA, the OPA, and was a player advocate who assisted countless aggrieved players with his connections to industry folks. He also published “Casino Cautions” via Infopowa news for quite a number of years. These can be found in our news archives.

His passing in February 2019 was a dark day for us. He will be forever missed.

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