Unibet Won’t Seek NC Sports Betting License After Kindred Bows Out Of The US

    Kindred is leaving the US market. And soon.

    The departure will leave online sports bettors in North Carolina with one fewer option for placing bets when the North Carolina market opens next year.

    The Kindred Group is one of the world’s top online gambling operators. It operates in Europe, North America, and Australia and is listed in the Nasdaq Stockholm Large Cap Index. Kindred has 9 brands including Unibet, which has sports betting operations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Arizona, and Washington State.

    A press release posted on the Kindred website dated 29 Nov 2023, stated,

    “As part of its strategic review, Kindred Group will exit the North American market with the expectations to have fully exited operations in the market by the end of Q2 2024, subject to the regulatory process.”

    This means Unibet will cease operations in the US market, including what was hoped to be a North Carolina online sports betting launch, no later than June 2024.

    Why Kindred is leaving the US market

    The motivation for Kindred’s exit is purely financial. The departure from the US sports betting market will save the company more than $50 million annually. But it comes with the cost of laying off about 300 employees.

    In the Kindred Group’s press release, Nils Andén, Kindred Group Interim CEO stated,

    “The cost reduction actions announced today are both necessary and decisive. While it is never a desire to inform valued colleagues of redundancies, this puts us in a stronger position to secure long-term growth for Kindred across our locally regulated core markets. We can now focus our resources and tech capacity towards strategic initiatives and selected markets where we see clear potential to grow our market share.”

    Kindred’s exit doesn’t come as a surprise. The Unibet parent company realized losses in the US in the third quarter on top of cumulative losses since its US launch. Additionally, Unibet held only a 0.1% share of U.S. online sports betting and 0.5% of online casino gross gaming revenue by some estimates.

    The savings realized by closing its operations in the US will be redirected to other areas of Kindred’s operations that are performing better.

    How Unibet stacks up with other online betting operators

    Kindred’s operations in the US under the brand name Unibet are relatively small. Of the 50+ online sports books in the US Unibet makes it into the top 10 in terms of the number of states in which it operates:

    However, in terms of use, Unibet falls into the lower tier. According to Statista, the most popular sports betting websites and apps in the United States are, in order of popularity:

    • DraftKings
    • FoxBet
    • FanDuel
    • BetMGM Sportsbook
    • PointsBEt
    • BetRivers
    • WynnBET
    • Caesars Sportsbook
    • Barstool Sportsbook

    The popularity of these sites ranges from 56.5% for DraftKings to 23.1% for (now defunct) Barstool Sportsbook. Unibet falls into the “Other” category of which all remaining sports betting websites and apps garnered a popularity rating of just 1.2% combined.

    These numbers, along with the tenths of a percent share of online sports betting and online casino gross gaming revenue, make it clear why Kindred is exiting the US market.

    Kindred’s departure may be a harbinger for small sportsbooks in North Carolina

    A new law in North Carolina now requires online sports betting operators to have a “written designation agreement” with a sports entity before applying for a sports betting license. This creates a barrier to entry for smaller operators to do business in NC while maintaining access for the largest sportsbooks.

    Concerns were raised during the public comments period that small operators may not have an opportunity to enter the NC sports betting market due to the inability to obtain a written designation agreement from a sports entity.

    If an established smaller sportsbook operator such as Unibet is facing difficulty competing against the giants of the industry, the new amendment passed by the NC legislature in September may make it even more difficult to compete.

    In fact, well-established and not-so-small BetRivers did not include North Carolina as a growth target in its recently released third-quarter report.

    Unfortunately, this means fewer choices for the players and fewer North Carolina sports betting bonuses and promos.

    About the Author

    Walter Yuhl

    Walter (Way) Yuhl is a freelance writer and business professor. Way has written for the Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff Business News, Bangkok University, and Shandong University of Science and Technology as well as edited content for the U.N., Thailand International airports, and other organizations. He has worked with Cantena Media since 2019.