Last May, Stockholm-listed Better Collective A/S moved to significantly advance its US profile by acquiring US legacy betting publisher the RotoGrinders network for $21 million.
Branded as a transformative deal for Better Collective’s organisation and growth strategy, Chief Executive & Co-Founder Jesper Søgaard details to SBC why his firm is ready to gamble on the US betting market’s undefined agenda for marketing incumbents.
SBC: Hi Jesper thanks for this interview. Can you detail the significance of Better Collective acquiring the RotoGrinders network… Where does this acquisition sit with your existing industry portfolio?
Jesper Søgaard (Better Collective CEO): The acquisition of RotoGrinders Network sets us in a strong position in the US market. RotoGrinders owns a strong network of platforms for sports betting and daily fantasy sports (DFS) in the US, among others including rotogrinders.com, sportshandle.com, usbets.com and pennbets.com that will be a great supplement to our existing US portfolio.
We have had US-focused products up and running for some time, leading to revenue streams from online sports betting since last year. Building a presence and taking part in this new market opportunity is now boosted by the acquisition that will strengthen our presence even further as the new organisation constellation is also built for future growth – this will contribute to our goal of being the number one sports betting affiliate in the world.
SBC: Does the acquisition see Nashville become the home of Better Collective for its US market operations?
JS: RotoGrinders will remain headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee and be the centre for operating US-focused products and business. In addition, we have opened an office in New York, which will coordinate all of Better Collective’s activities in the US, including sales and marketing activities.
SBC: As we see a number of US states move towards regulation. Are you witnessing a clear agenda being formed on industry marketing practices, does this dynamic concern you as an affiliate stakeholder?
JS: We are not witnessing a clear federal US agenda being formulated. Instead, we have learned we need to look at each state independently as we, state-by-state, see an incredible amount of differentiation when it comes to regulation. Whether that be tax rates, marketing restrictions, rights fees, geolocation, licensing requirements etc.
All of these variables are big hurdles – especially for operators to overcome when scaling and launching in States 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 etc. From my perspective, the main concern surrounds the end-users in each individual state. The fewer hurdles there are state-by-state, which could be solved by a more uniform approach to regulation, the safer it will be for the end-user, as it leaves much less room for error for affiliates and operators alike to enter the new markets.
We are fortunate to have reached a size where we have the resources to be on top of the developments of the regulatory landscape, but smaller affiliates may not have the same, which can endanger the local users’ experience.
SBC: Acquiring the US market’s biggest gambling/betting publisher, how will you maintain a balanced network between RotoGrinders and your US ‘organic portals’?
JS: We have carefully evaluated the RotoGrinders Network’s products that have the right visions and which are really well-positioned. Therefore, we are confident they will supplement our existing US-facing products strongly. RotoGrinders has mainly focused on DFS while the organic Better Collective US products have targeted sports betting. We have found that it is incredibly important to have feet on the ground in the markets we are active in, and, together with our newly-opened office in New York, we have secured the foundation for this.
In terms of resources, RotoGrinders and Better Collective are going to supplement each other as we now have specialists on each site. At Better Collective we have strong sets of skills when it comes to the monetization of affiliate traffic and commercialisation of sites e.g. in terms of SEO optimization and rankings while RotoGrinders are experts in DFS and American sports culture. Combining our efforts, we can benefit from synergies and create a larger and stronger network that will increase the experience for sports passionate American tipsters and bettors.
SBC: At a marketing level, where multiple competitors are seeking to gain their US footholds – do you worry that you have triggered a US affiliate arms race?
JS: Undoubtedly that’s the reality of the market, the competition will increase also amongst affiliates, since more and more states are legalising online sports betting. However, we expect the US market will become so big, there will be room for more than one winner in this market.
We do not worry we have triggered a ‘US affiliate arms race’, since we are excited to take part in the competition in this interesting time, as feel confident about our strong organisational setup and future prospects.
SBC: Finally and most importantly, a year since PASPA repeal what do you feel you have learnt from the US betting market’s early stages?
JS: We have learned that it is difficult to exactly predict the future of the market. However, it is really interesting to see the approach by, for instance, Tennessee that will only open up for online and mobile betting. Tennessee is one of the few states to not actually have any brick and mortar operations within its borders, so to see the state’s interest in opening up via the online option illustrates that more states could move towards legislation based on the positive results they are seeing from others, rather than relying on their own experience from land-based establishments.
Jesper Søgaard – Chief Executive & Co-Founder – Better Collective A/S