As betting began to emerge from the difficulties of March and April, the future started to look slightly brighter as the industry began to assess its new options for a post-COVID environment.
SBC – Betting emerges from the COVID storm …
July saw no respite from politics which continued to dominate gambling’s agenda, as the UK government stalled on its reopening schedule for casino venues. As England’s casino faced up to the ‘nightmare scenario’ of being placed under six months of lockdown, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) demanded a guarantee of a summer reopening.
GVC Holdings marked a generational change as Kenneth Alexander ended his 13-year leadership tenure, being replaced by COO Shay Segev. Alexander stated that he completed his final goal as CEO by re-listing GVC as a FTSE100 enterprise.
Meanwhile, city hawks began to monitor a busy William Hill as the heritage bookmaker announced that it would be merging its UK retail and online divisions – a corporate ‘transformation objective’ outlined by the firm’s £225 million private bookbuild.
Despite witnessing its daily sportsbook revenues falling below the £6m mark, Kindred Group Plc published a ‘resilient H1 Interim statement’, delivering 4% revenue growth and marking a positive bellwether for the industry against the doom and gloom of all economic forecasts.
A positive start to August saw Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada formally approve the legislative framework of ‘Ukraine’s Gambling Law’, ending the CIS nation’s decade long prohibition of gambling.
Monitoring heightened investment across global gambling businesses, renowned US activist investor Jason Ader told SBC ‘that the pandemic has opened the market’ for heavyweights to build-up their gambling portfolios.
Insider Sport – Cold hard funding realities are placed at the forefront of sports agenda
In England, the positive news that the Premier League would give women’s football a much-needed cash boost was overshadowed by the sad revelation that Wigan Athletic – which, seven years prior, had beaten Manchester City in the FA Cup final – was going into administration due to the financial implications of COVID-19.
Moreover, the UK’s Sports Minister Oliver Dowden announced that ‘selected international sporting events’ would be exempt from social distancing rules. This came as a relief to many athletes and sports fans as it meant that the Champions League, Europa League, Formula 1 Grand Prix, World Snooker Championships and PGA British Masters Championships would all be given the greenlight.
Supporters received even more good news towards the end of July, when the Prime Minister laid out plans for returning spectators to stadiums.
The House of Lords also made the headlines after publishing a report which recommended that football clubs should put an end to sponsorship deals with betting companies. Likewise, in Spain, all La Liga clubs were banned from using betting operators as sponsors under new stipulations.
In response to the House of Lords report, the English Football League (EFL) pointed to the extensive financial contribution that betting operators make to English football, particularly for its lower league clubs.
Meanwhile, the EFL agreed a partnership with Sky Sports to broadcast all non-televised matches, and the Football Association (FA) made the decision to suspend the 3pm blackout to allow all fans in lockdown to watch their teams in action.
The impact of COVID-19 continued to be felt in August. In response to financial pressures, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced a recovery plan to try and restore revenue lost during the lockdown.