- Kindred Group has announced the launch of their Unibet Sportsbook brand in Iowa.
- Unibet is partnered with Harrah’s Council Bluff Casino as part of a market access with Caesars Interactive.
- Iowa is the fifth state for Unibet with a launch in Arizona forthcoming.
Iowa sports bettors lost one mobile access option with Caesars Entertainment’s purchase of William Hill. They’re now back to where they were with the addition of Kindred Group’s Unibet brand. Iowa is the fifth state for Unibet joining New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Virginia. They have also been licensed in Arizona and a launch there is forthcoming. Unibet also has a market access deal in the ‘too big to fail’ state of Illinois though as of yet they’ve not announced a timeline for launch.
Kindred signed a market access deal with Caesars Interactive in 2020 and Iowa is the second state that Unibet has entered under the partnership. In Iowa, the brand is partnered with Harrah’s Council Bluffs Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa which is also listed as a partner of Caesars Sportsbook. The retail sportsbook at the property is operated by Caesars. The partnership agreement is good for ten years, with an option of extending for two additional five-year periods.
Manuel Stan, SVP Kindred US, is excited for his company’s marquee sportsbook brand to find market access in another US state:
“We are truly excited to expand our Midwest footprint via the multistate agreement with Caesars Interactive Entertainment and bring a top sports betting offering to the Iowa customers. The Iowans’ passion for football is unparalleled and we are confident we can bring an exciting product just in time for the start of the Football season. From Iowa’s biggest rivalries between the two home college teams, Cyclones and Hawkeyes, to the anticipation of its bordering state, Kansas City’s journey to the Super Bowl – we are expecting an increasing interest from returning customers as well as newly acquired customers.”
The launch of Unibet puts Iowa back at 12 mobile sportsbook platforms. Iowa has 20 gaming operators licensed to offer retail and/or mobile sports betting and each licensee is allowed to offer three separate mobile/online ‘skins’. That should create a very vibrant and competitive market though mobile growth was initially hampered by a silly ‘in person registration requirement’ (shout out to Nevada) along with the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these challenges, Iowa has become a decent sports betting jurisdiction for players. A big boost came from the end of in-person registration in early 2021.
Currently operating in Iowa are: Unibet, theScore Bet, FanDuel, BetMGM, BetRivers, Bally Bet, Hard Rock, Caesars Sportsbook, Q Sportsbook, Elite Sportsbook, DraftKings and Betfred Sports. Several additional sportsbook platforms are reportedly making their way to Iowa including Nevada based Circa Sports and the upstart sportsbook from OTT streaming platform Fubo.
The Unibet press release closed with a very prescient statement about their future expansion plans. (Emphasis added):
Kindred will continue to invest in growing its US operations where market conditions support a sustainable business model.
Were I writing the press release I would have either replaced or supplemented ‘market conditions’ with ‘regulatory environment’. You’re going to see this become a bigger deal in the future as there have been so many downright bumbling efforts by states setting up new regulatory framework. States that do it right will continue to flourish. States that do it wrong such as Connecticut will flounder. States that try to artificially limit competition in order to make gaming licenses into ‘bargaining chips’ will underperform. States that let the lottery control sports betting–either via a monopoly operation like Rhode Island or by letting them have oversight over an industry they know nothing about like Virginia–will have the biggest mess on their hands.
The US sports betting industry as well as ancillary beneficiaries such as sports teams, sports leagues, media, etc. will continue to experience strong growth just as long as there continues to be new jurisdictions opening with competitive market conditions that–to quote the Kindred press release–‘support a sustainable business model’. At some point, the growth in US sports betting could hit a wall and hit it hard due to the horrific regulatory framework that too many states have foisted on their citizens.
The industry really needs to organize in order to put pressure on states that create regulatory environments that simply preclude the creation of a viable sports betting ecosystem. If a state doesn’t want to have sports betting that’s their business. It’s stupid and backwards thinking but still their business. If a state does want to get on the sports betting bandwagon it’s imperative that they enact regulation that benefits all of the relevant stakeholders and helps the entire industry move forward. Trying to soak the industry with insane taxes and fees doesn’t work. Nor does limited competition, burdensome regulation and micromanagement of bookmaking professionals. Worst of all are states like Montana, Arizona, Connecticut and Rhode Island who have made the priority growing the power of state lottery bureacracies or enriching cronies and politically powerful entities. Bumbling regulation will at one point threaten the survival of the ‘golden goose’ of US sports betting and the industry along with allies in other industries need to work proactively to address the situation before it becomes problematic.