GVC Holdings is a huge online gaming company consisting of such powerful brands as PartyPoker and PartyCasino, bwin, Ladbrokes, Coral, SportingBet and more. GVC also has a relationship with MGM Resorts in the U.S. to run its New Jersey iGaming operations and now has reached an agreement to operate its online sports betting business across the country. Nick Batram was recently appointed the head of investor relations and corporate strategy for GVC. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at the GVC offices in London in August. To hear a full podcast of this interview, visit GGBMagazine.com.
GGB: Give us a thumbnail of GVC today.
Batram: We are one of the biggest online sports wagering companies in the world. We got there largely through acquisitions but also through growth. Every business we’ve acquired, we’ve accelerated their growth.
It’s a fascinating story. Over the past 10 years we’ve gone from an unregulated gray market to a largely regulated business. Today, 95 percent of our revenue is taxed by jurisdictions regulated now or in the process of being regulated.
GVC is built on technology, isn’t it?
Yes, technology is very important to us. We own everything from the casino to the poker room to the sports book to the back end, and even bingo now, and the platforms that run them. That gives us a number of advantages. First, it’s quite efficient. When we do acquire companies, we’re able to plug in synergies easily. You saw that with the bwin deal in 2016.
The Bwin.Party transaction made everyone sit up and take notice. What did that mean to the company?
That meant a lot to GVC. It propelled us into becoming a big company and allowed us to do an even bigger deal with Ladbrokes Coral.
The Bwin.Party acquisition was the result of a failed merger that happened in 2011. Bwin historically was a pioneer in European sports books. PartyPoker, prior to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006, was the largest online gaming brand in the world. Post-UIGEA, business shrunk significantly, but had been built up, and casino was added. But Party didn’t have any sports and bwin didn’t have any poker, so what could possibly go wrong? It had a ₤1 billion market cap, and prior to our acquisition it had slumped to ₤750 million… There were only two suitors—GVC and 888. And there’s always the danger when you’re buying a distressed company if you’re trying to catch a falling knife or actually got something where you can create real value. Fortunately, it was the latter.
The Ladbrokes Coral buy is the big one. That brought you some brick-and-mortar outlets for the first time. How has that worked out so far?
It’s very early days, but we’re very pleased with what we bought. There’s no question that, being a 100 percent online business, buying a retail business in the U.K. raised a few eyebrows. But we’re pleased with the U.K. legislation that limits the machines in the betting shops. There could have been a number of scenarios. But that uncertainty permitted us to acquire what we think is a fantastic brand with a very good business underneath. We managed to do a transaction that insulated our shareholders from a worst-case scenario.
Tell us about your new agreement with MGM Resorts to operate their mobile sports betting.
There were a number of ways to get into a regulated U.S. sports betting market. Our preference was to be more than just a technology supplier. From day one, we wanted to do a deal with a big partner so we could leverage our experience with their brand and multi-state footprint. MGM fits that description. Our existing relationship with them, originally worked out with bwin, has been a valuable learning curve. We know each other and there’s a common belief about where we see the market and how we can address it.