British sports wagering and gaming company Entain PLC will enter the esports betting market by acquiring an award-winning company.
Entain is buying esports betting and technology company Unikrn in a deal expected to close later this year, Entain executives announced Thursday. Entain executives told investors Thursday that their plan to spend at least £50 million, or $69 million, in esports this year includes the Unikrn takeover. Neither company disclosed the sale price.
CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen said Entain wanted to join a growing market at the center of media, entertainment, gambling and interactive gaming.
Entain and MGM Resorts International jointly own BetMGM, a sports betting and online gaming platform in the U.S. The London-based company also owns 16 sports and gaming brands and is licensed in 27 countries.
eGaming Review named Unikrn its 2019 and 2020 esports operator of the year, as well as its 2021 innovator and esports betting supplier of the year. The company launched in 2014 and is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington.
The sale combines Entain’s global scale and finances with Unikrn’s technology and products, validating the esports betting and skill-based games industries, esports experts said.
Previous partnerships between betting companies and esports ventures typically focus on sharing data or revenues, said Brett Abarbanel, director of research at UNLV’s International Gaming Institute. Abarbanel, also with the Nevada Esports Alliance, said the combination of Entain and Unikrn forms the largest such deal she’s seen.
Abarbanel said Unikrn began with an esportsbook and has since added an artificial intelligence program that learns players’ skill levels,