In February, a 10-year agreement was reached between the group and the Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation – which lies on the border of Arizona and California.
In September, Unibet’s Arizona mobile sports betting app launched, and in December a retail gaming space at Paradise Casino in Arizona opened its doors.
The new casino sector featured both the Unibet AZ Sportsbook and slot machines and table games such as craps, roulette, and blackjack.
“Going west is truly exciting, and the partnership with Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation will grant Kindred access to two key states in the US market,” Kindred Group US vice president Manuel Stan said in 2021, as the group expanded beyond its existing presence in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Indiana.
“California is likely to become one of the largest markets in the world, with yearly revenues expected to pass $2 billion, while Arizona is expected to reach $200 million yearly sports betting revenues at maturity,” Stan added. “Securing early access to these two key states puts us in a great position to prepare a successful launch together with a great partner with a strong local presence.”
In March 2022, The Kindred Group announced a deal with Phoenix-based Turf Paradise Racing to offer retail sports betting at the racetrack and at eight off-track-betting locations within Arizona.
Now fast forward to 2023, as The Kindred Group recently announced its plan to “wind down operations” in the U.S. completely by the second quarter of 2024.
Why is The Kindred Group Giving Up?
The September Arizona sports betting report issued by the Arizona Department of Gaming – reflecting the first month of the lucrative NCAA and NFL football seasons that include the University of Arizona, Arizona State, and the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals – give a strong indication of why The Kindred Group is giving up in its ambitious quest.
More than half of the $605.2 million wagered in the state was at the DraftKings ($218 million) and FanDuel ($179.2 million) sportsbooks, a two-way dominance of the market that has occurred in almost every state that has legalized sports betting in the last five years since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 26-year-old federal law that had effectively granted a monopoly on such gambling to Nevada.
Only BetMGM ($89.9 million) and Caesars ($56.2 million) also claimed at least 5% of the total market of wagers in September. Unibet placed a paltry 13th in the Arizona sportsbook rankings at just $570,000. After deducting for payouts, Unibet wound up with a dismal $34,000 in revenue for the “big month.”
Unibet in September barely did half the business in Arizona of WynnBet ($1 million), which also recently announced its plans to exit the competitive U.S. sports betting market. Maxim Bet and Fox Bet also have been casualties of the DraftKings/FanDuel dominance that has proved unshakeable thus far.
It also hasn’t helped that Californians in November 2022 rejected by landslide margins a pair of ballot measures that would have legalized sports betting in the state. That means that the Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation partnership would not any time soon have retail and online sportsbooks tied to the Quechan Casino located across the state border in Winterhaven, Calif.
It look as if it will be years – if ever – before California legalizes sports betting, so The Kindred Group saw the writing on the wall.
The Quechan Tribe hopes to mirror the success of the Ak-Chin Indian Community tribe, which this summer signed a partnership with bet365 after Fubo Sportsbook ended its operations a year ago.
While the vast majority of wagers in every state that offers two alternatives takes place online, the Paradise Casino retail sportsbook has outperformed expectations as California remains stalled on legalizing sports betting. That could help the Quechans find a willing partner in spite of the dominance of the largest sportsbook operators in the state.
What’s Next for The Kindred Group?
As for The Kindred Group – which is based in Malta – its sports betting app as of the recent announcement more recently became available in Virginia, Indiana, and Iowa, with Ohio having been scheduled for an imminent launch as well and with Illinois and North Carolina previously having been expected as targets for launches in 2024.
Unibet also was taking wagers in Ontario, Canada. Kindred Group estimated an annual savings of $50 million, with 300 jobs being terminated in the U.S. and Canada.
The Kindred Group is expected to grow its focus on the sports betting markets in the United Kingdom and in France, while its status as the official sports betting partner of the NHL in Sweden makes that another location of interest for the company.
The chief executive officer and chief financial offer of The Kindred Group resigned simultaneously in May 2023, sparking rumors in the gaming industry of an impending sale. The withdrawal from North American gambling operations could make the company more attractive to suitors that a Bloomberg.com story said included Flutter Entertainment, which is the parent company of FanDuel.