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Empathy at Entain

Jette Nygaard-Andersen, Chief Executive Officer, Entain

Empathy at Entain

In her short time as CEO of Entain, Jette Nygaard-Andersen has changed the face of the company. Already one of the major gaming companies in Europe, GVC Holdings, as it was called then, plucked Nygaard-Andersen from the board of directors to bring some stability to the company after the two previous CEOs had departed in the space of a year.

During her time on the board, Nygaard-Andersen had guided the company’s growth strategies, positioning the business for sustainable growth by leading in innovation, safety and responsibility.

The company has long been a leader in European iGaming, sports betting and bingo, mostly online, but also with land-based betting shops in several countries. Some of the Entain brands include bwin, Ladbrokes, Coral, Sportingbet, and others in the sports betting market, and partypoker, partycasino, Gala Casino and Bingo, and many others on the games side. In the U.S., Entain has a 50-50 partnership with MGM Resorts on the BetMGM sports betting platform and the Borgata online casino.

And to strengthen those brands, the company changed its name from the rather generic GVC to Entain while Nygaard-Andersen was on the board, to demonstrate that the company was committed to achieving 100 percent of its revenue from legal gaming sources.

Nygaard-Andersen says the strength of the individual brands is what makes them successful, while at the same time adhering to the principles asserted by Entain.

“With over 30 brands offering different products in almost as many markets across the world, there are obviously differences locally,” she says. “But the Entain values are really shared across all brands.”

She points to one brand that has become the leader in sports betting in Europe.

“Bwin is the leading sports brand in Europe,” she says, “They’re very much the house of football, and they have just entered into a partnership with the UEFA to strengthen the association with football to the fans here. So, that’s

really where they are focused. Our partycasino and partypoker brands have created a partnership with the McLaren team for Formula 1 racing, of course, addressing a different customer segment. But all brands share the same values.

“But it’s really important for us to operate locally as well. So you will also see in some markets, we have a local brand, that we might have acquired, but at the same time, we then bring bwin into the markets. That’s true, for example, for Brazil and for the Baltics. While we have acquired local brands, which is really important—it gives us that local understanding of the markets—then we also try to bring in one of our global brands. And they attract different audiences.”

U.S. Facing

While the deal with MGM Resorts was struck prior to Nygaard-Andersen’s time with Entain, she says the relationship is strong and growing.

“I’m really pleased, with the relationship but also what we’ve been doing together in building BetMGM,” she explains. “Remember, we built BetMGM from scratch after PASPA was repealed. So we got together and we saw an opportunity where both parents brought something different to the table. From Entain, we basically bring everything that makes BetMGM work. We bring the technology, we bring the product, we bring the CRM. More than 400 people from Entain are part of the BetMGM team, which is almost one third of everyone that works within BetMGM.

“MGM, of course, brings the brand. Everyone knows MGM for being a casino operator in the U.S., as well as the loyalty database from Mlife. So as parents, we bring something different to the table, but we are fully aligned and agree on the strategy for BetMGM. In just two years, we built a company that had an overall market share of 22 percent. We share a vision, we agree on the strategy. And then both of us basically do everything we can to support BetMGM, and make sure it becomes as successful as it can be. So, it’s a very operational partnership, and we speak to each other frequently and discuss big and small things around our partnership and BetMGM.”

In October, DraftKings made overtures to buy Entain for a $20 billion-plus price tag. That offer was soon withdrawn, but it was clear the Entain-MGM partnership was an impediment. Nygaard-Andersen says she was open to the deal, and remains ready to consider any offer that helps the valuation.

“When I get up in the morning, the first thing I think about is how to deliver value for our shareholders,” she says. “And I do that together with my 24,000 fantastic colleagues, and I’m fully devoted to that. And part of the proposal that we got from DraftKings, the board also made it very clear that they strongly believe in the future of Entain, really underpinned by our market-leading position and our technology and the platform in general. So, when I get up in the morning, I’m fully focused on making sure that together with my colleagues, I grow Entain and I focus on how we can deliver shareholder value.”

Nygaard-Andersen wouldn’t talk about the recent offer for Olympic Entertainment, which operates casinos in the Baltics as well as online gaming and betting shops in several countries. But she did say Entain is always looking for deals that would add value to the company. Even if it means considering more land-based development.

“We are a digital-first company,” she says. “We’ve been very successful with our omnichannel strategy. So, the way that we view retail—or, you could say land-based betting shops—is really as part of our overall strategy. And we see the strength of omnichannel in the U.K., for example, with our Ladbrokes and Coral shops there, where we are able to really leverage our shops, also with digital products. So, retail is part of the customer experience. When we look at acquiring new companies or building out our existing bases, we always look at the full customer experience. In some markets, retail makes sense as a part of the overall customer experience. In some markets, it’s purely digital-driven. So, I’d say we’re not specifically looking to acquire retail. But where it makes sense as part of the overall customer offering, we’re happy to own retail.”

Opportunity Knocks

Esports is an area where Nygaard-Andersen believes there is much potential. The company recently completed the purchase of Unikrn, a U.S.-based esports betting company, as the cornerstone for the Entain strategy. But Nygaard-Andersen says the goal isn’t all about betting.

“Because I come from media and entertainment, and digital entertainment businesses, I bring a new perspective to our industry,” she says. “And as technology is changing, so is consumer behavior, and that means that technology and media are really converging, also with our industry. And therefore, the way we look at it, we look at how can we actually bring more to the customer experience, and how can we engage more customers, and how can we engage new customers?

“So, betting and iGaming will always be the core of our business, but we think about how we can actually bring something new to the customer experience. And there are some customers who want a richer, more engaging experience, more content, more social. So when we think about our industry and how it is evolving and how technology is changing that, we also see that esports, and especially

esports fans, are becoming very engaged. There are half a billion grown-up, adult esports fans in the world.

“There are many legacy players in the industry—a few tournaments here and there. And then you have some native businesses in esports that have started to build new and innovative services, but no one has actually taken upon themselves to build a global platform that is also fully compliant. And that’s an important point for me to make that when we envision building this global platform, we think about taking all the different capabilities that we have as Entain, and bringing them on to esports.

“So, of course the transparency, the integrity, the compliance, the licenses regimes, and so forth. We met with many companies, and Unikrn just stood out for us, especially because of their products and the way that they have developed new innovative products. We’re really focusing on building those platforms and products, and then you will see us launch into our first markets sometime next year.”

Entain ESG

Nygaard-Andersen brought with her a commitment to changing the culture of not only her company, but the industry as a whole. She’s dedicated to making responsible gaming a cornerstone of Entain’s corporate social responsibility.

“My personal ambition for Entain is really to be the leader on all the critical areas of ESG (environmental, social, and governance), and that is sustainability, diversity and responsibility. And when it comes to our commitment to safer gambling or responsible gaming, it’s really important. Listen, it’s all about trust here. It’s important that players and our customers know that they can trust us, that we are a safe entertainment platform.”

For safer gaming, Nygaard-Andersen says there are two elements to the Entain strategy.

“We’re using our industry-leading technology to pioneer a fully new approach to player protection,” she says. “It’s something that we call ARC, and it stands for Advanced Responsibility and Care. This will achieve a step change in player protection, taking it from a reactive approach, which it is today, to a proactive approach. And that really means that we can prevent potential problematic behaviors before they arise. We’ve been trialing this now for a while, on our brands in the U.K., and we can see that it works. For example, customers that identify as potentially having a risk of problem play, we know that we can reduce that with interventions. At least 75 percent have moderated their behaviors, and almost all have then returned to betting and playing at a safe level. That is just unheard-of results.

“Now, the second thing we are doing is we are building our partnerships across all parts of the world in which we operate. And that is very focused on education—educating people about the risk of problem gambling, as well as providing support to the small minority that gets into difficulty. For example, we’ve done a number of partnerships in the U.S., and also in the gaming and esports area, so we are very early there in building partnerships.”

Through the Entain Foundation U.S., the company has committed to funding the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for a pioneering betting and gaming research initiative which, for the first time in the U.S., would combine scientific research with operational expertise to apply best practice in responsible gambling, policy and health.

“What we’ve done with the Entain Foundation is that we have pledged to spend ₤100 million over five years,” explains Nygaard-Andersen. “And the foundation then decides how to, you could say, allocate those moneys, and where to partner across the world. And then there is also a U.S. arm of that, and they have a separate board that decides on partnerships in the U.S.”

And as a further commitment, Entain has developed a program called Entrain that will focus on technology, education and diversity.

“It hits upon some of the things where today you see that underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM education. So, we’re trying to bridge both the technology angle, which is where we come from, and the education angle and diversity. And our goal is to positively impact the life of 1 million people around the world, directly or through their families, by 2030. With everything we’ve done this year, we’ve already made a substantial impact, and therefore we believe that if we now increase those efforts and target even more partnerships and more people around the world, then we’re able to really have a positive impact upon the lives of people across the world.

“The initiatives are focused on four areas. One is the academy, which is about supplying transformative technology training for the next generation. Then we have a scholarship area, we have apprenticeships, and then we have the partnerships. And this is really something that I’m really passionate about. I believe that we have a vital role to play in inspiring the next generation to pursue careers in technology, but also to help them to get access. So, this is our approach to trying to do something with a global initiative, and hitting upon these three pillars around technology and education and diversity.”

With their business strategy and ESG efforts, Nygaard-Andersen hopes that Entain will become a world leader in gaming and entertainment.

“I would love to see us being widely recognized across the globe as a pioneer, whose technology and vision have helped reshape the future of interactive entertainment,” she says. “I truly believe that at Entain we can reshape our industry, and that’s why we think about the customer experience. And I also want to make sure that we are seen as a global leader in entertainment, not only in betting and iGaming, because we are an entertainment company. And then, of course, I would like Entain to be acknowledged as a leading global operator, that’s providing customers with the best, most fulfilling, thrilling and trusted experiences that they can’t get anywhere else.”

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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