Acquisitions and Bankruptcies - The Backside of the Shiny World of Online Casinos

Reza Shojaei | 20. August 2020

Casinos are the fastest growing industry in the world, and it is estimated that around 2.5 billion people worldwide engage in online gaming. It goes without saying that these are huge sums of money, and many people want their share of these sums. The result is that many new online casinos appear every single year, but not all do very well. In this blog post, I will take a closer look at what we can call the back of the medal.

Acquisitions and bankruptcies

As I have already mentioned, the online casino industry is a very lucrative industry. All the new casinos that are launched online mean that the competition is great, and it is no wonder that many of them do not succeed. They either go bankrupt, close down or are acquired by major players.

There are many reasons for this. There are many companies that venture into the industry with only a desire to make money. These companies often have a bad business model, poor management or a website that does not work the way more and more discerning players want. Still, others simply run out of money. Serious players make sure to notify their customers of the closure or acquisition in good time, while others close their doors without notice. Then you are in danger of losing both your deposit and any winnings.

Here is an overview of some of the many online casinos that have gone bankrupt or closed down for good in 2019 and 2020:

  • InstaCasino (bankruptcy / closed down 2019)
  • NorgesCasino.com (bankruptcy / closed down in 2019)
  • SuperLenny (bankruptcy / closed down 2019)
  • MegaWins (bankruptcy / closed down 2019)
  • Vegas Berry (Bankruptcy / Closed 2020)
  • Vegas Casino (Bankruptcy / Closed 2020)
  • Slotssons.com (bankruptcy / closed down 2020)
  • Royal Spinz (bankruptcy / closed down in 2020)
  • Legolas.Bet (bankruptcy / closed 2020)
  • BonzoSpins (Bankruptcy / Closed 2020)

Gaming Innovation Group sells to Betsson Group

Last fall, GIG, Gaming Innovation Group, sold the online casino Highroller to Ellmount Gaming. This made them some money, but not enough for the company to pay off existing debt. That is, a bond of 300 million Swedish crowns.

The online casinos they sold include Rizk Casino, Guts Casino, Kaboo and Thrills. The buyer was none other than the well-known company Betsson, and the purchase price was over 22.2 million euros. However, this is only for the brands. For the platforms, Betsson will pay 8.7 million euros, and then they will also pay a fee for the use of the platforms, which is calculated in relation to the income over the next 2 years.

I would also like to mention that if you play at one of these casinos, you can be sure that your funds and any winnings are protected. You will not notice when the online casino you play at changes the owner.

The acquisition means that GiG and Betsson are now partners, and operators who cooperate with GiG will thus have access to the products Betsson has in its sportsbook.

A little about Betsson

You might be wondering who Betsson really is. Betsson is one of the major European companies in the gaming industry. They are listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange, and are behind a number of other brands in the industry. The company, which was founded by 3 Swedes in 2001, is headquartered in Malta. Among other things, they have a very rich and almost famous sportsbook, with multiple available markets within a number of sports.

A little about GiG

GiG, or Gaming Innovation Group, was started in 2008 by Frode Fagerli and Robin Reed. The company delivers technological solutions, such as a cloud-based software platform, which a number of other operators in the industry use. They are headquartered in Malta, but also have offices in Marbella and in Oslo, Gibraltar, Kristiansand and Copenhagen. The company is listed in both Stockholm and Oslo.

River iGaming sells its online casinos

River iGaming is a company that was founded in 2017 by the Norwegian Morten Klein and, among others, Kjetil Holta. The company is also listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. They own, among other things, Vegas Casino, which they bought in 2017. Now the company has chosen to sell its online casinos, and that is precisely due to the tough competition I talked about in this post. Thus, they put their ownership interests up for sale, and concentrate on other parts of the gaming industry, such as marketing other online casinos.

Lots of turbulence in the Scandinavian countries

It has not been easy to be a gaming company in the Scandinavian countries. In recent years, several of the companies in this industry have experienced that the value of their shares fluctuates sharply. Some of this is simply due to the Norwegian authorities' tightening of foreign gaming companies. Especially as it is more difficult to carry out money transactions to and from these companies. In Sweden, a licensing authority was put in place, and although this has also been in demand by the industry, regulations have been tough for many. The companies have to satisfy a number of tough requirements to get the license, and in addition, the license costs money.

Large companies such as Betsson Group with brand names such as Casino Winner, Betsson, Betsafe and NordicBet, as well as Kindred, which owns Storspiller, Unibet and Maria Casino, have experienced large declines in revenues.

The coronavirus has also affected the casino industry

The corona situation with closed communities has also affected the casino industry. Land-based casinos around the world are struggling to make ends meet. The closure for several weeks has ensured a solid loss of income, and several large chains in the US are announcing bankruptcy and closures. MGM Resorts International is one of those who notice that the money is starting to dry up. The same is true elsewhere in the world.

Now, the online casinos have not had to close their premises, but they are still affected by the situation. People who lose their jobs and for various reasons have less to spend, do not spend money at online casinos. On the other hand, people around the world also have more time to play. In short, I can say that the serious and reputable online casinos do well, while online casinos run by people who are only looking for quick profits without taking great account of the players' wishes, do it badly.

Serious casinos are being shut down properly

Like in everything else, there are good and bad ways to do things. An online casino should be run with the customers' best interests in mind, and this also applies if the company is closed down. The most important thing they can do is to notify players and affiliates as soon as possible. Players must be given ample time to withdraw their funds and settle the account they have.

Unfortunately, it is still the case that many online casinos close their doors without warning. They declare bankruptcy, and may even go so far as to give players no opportunity to withdraw the funds they have in their account. This is one of the many reasons why I again emphasize the importance of playing at a serious online casino.

Why does an online casino go bankrupt?

So far in this blog post I have told you about several online casinos and companies that have had to close down or sell. What is really behind a bankruptcy in this industry? When there are so many players spending so much money, why does a company go bankrupt? I'm going to take a look at this.

The costs of start-up and operation

Starting an online casino can be relatively easy. However, there are a number of things that need to be put in place, and most of these things cost money. Within the industry, it is estimated that establishing a good online casino will have a starting price of up to 3 million euros. If you want to succeed, you must attract enough loyal players for the investment to pay off. Today's market is, as I have already mentioned, very competitive, and that means that it is not easy to keep the players.

The important license

A license from a reputable regulator is one of the things you must have for the players to trust you and you to appear serious. The most recognized regulators are those in Malta, the United Kingdom, Curacao and Gibraltar. Getting a license from Malta costs about 50,000 euros, which is close to half a million Norwegian crowns.

Software and website

An online casino without software and a good selection of games is not an online casino. The games offered should come from well-known providers, so that there are both games that are loved by the players, but also games that are recognized for being fair. Providers should not only have paid for you to use their software and games. They should also have a share of the income you get from these games. We are talking about an investment in the multimillionaire class.

The casino's website must be user-friendly and attractive, so that players want to open an account and stay. The site must not be slow, and all information submitted by players must be encrypted and processed in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. The online casino must also be able to offer popular and secure payment methods as well as a customer service that is available when players need it.

Marketing

In order for players to know that the online casino exists, it must invest in marketing. This also includes bonuses in various forms. Without a nice welcome bonus, it becomes difficult to attract players.

Bankruptcies are not surprising

The bottom line is that starting a solid online casino is costly, and it is just as costly to keep it going. Did you know that the annual costs can reach around 20 million Norwegian crowns? If the job is done badly, the players will not come, and if the company does not have good enough financial management, it will also go badly. There are many who break their necks with everything it takes to run a successful company. If an online casino goes bad and loses money, it is not always easy to find someone who will buy it, and then it can quickly happen that the casino closes its doors without a warning. This happened, among other things, in 2018 when the seemingly popular online casino Larry Casino suddenly closed its doors.

Mergers in the casino industry

In the same way that many online casinos go bankrupt after a while, it is also not uncommon for online casinos to change owners. I was already talking about it when I talked about GiG who sold their online casinos to Betsson. This is not an unusual event in this industry.

When an online casino does well, it also becomes very interesting for larger companies that want it in their portfolio. It has happened many times and will happen again. In 2018, for example, the very popular online casino Mr. Green was acquired by the large company William Hill.

Here are some of the acquisitions in 2019:

  • William Hill acquired CG Technology.
  • Rank Group acquired Stride Gaming.
  • 888 acquired Costa Bingo, City Bingo and Sling Bingo as well as Betbright.

In 2016, Betfair merged with the British company Paddy Power to form the company Flutter Entertainment. These have since been relatively active and acquired several companies, such as The Stars Group.

Betsson, which this year bought the online casinos of Gaming Innovation Group, was also active on the acquisition front in 2017. Then they bought NetplayTV and Premier Casino.

Summary

The conclusion of this post must be that there is nothing unusual in either bankruptcies, closures or mergers. What is important for you as a customer is that you make sure to always play at an online casino that has a good reputation, and which appears to be serious in every way. A bad online casino can, for example, be fined for withholding winnings. These fines are so large that it can actually lead to the company going bankrupt.

Always check that the casino you want to play at has a license from a reputable gaming authority, offers good games from reputable providers, encrypts all information you submit to them, has reputable payment methods and a customer service that is easily accessible. Even if all this is in place, it does not mean that the company can not go bankrupt, but it does mean that you as a player are secured if it happens. After all, your safety is the most important thing to you.

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