How Unibet’s Planned 2024 Closure Impacts Arizona Sports Betting

How Unibet’s Planned 2024 Closure Impacts Arizona Sports Betting
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

Another Arizona sports betting operator is slated to close up shop, with Kindred Group’s Unibet brand being the latest to wind down operations in the state and beyond.

In an earnings call this week, executives from Kindred Group announced they would begin a controlled exit from the American sports betting scene, winding down their Unibet operations with a goal of shutting down the brand or selling off its assets by the end of the second quarter of 2024.

The move marks the second time this year an Arizona betting apps operator announced such a move, coming months after WynnBET Arizona decided to close up shop.

A handful of sports betting and business insiders told BetArizona.com the state’s latest sportsbook closure was of little surprise, given Unibet’s lack of market share and success in the states it operated.

Daniel McIntosh, who serves as a teaching associate professor at Arizona State University, told BetArizona.com Unibet’s miniscule handle ($15,639,186, or .127% of the state’s total handle, across 25 months of operation) contributed to their decision to exit the American market.

“In the most recent September revenue figures released by the ADG, Arizona had just over $600 million in handle. Unibet had just under $600,000 of that handle or less than one-tenth of 1% of the total market handle,” McIntosh said. “The picture gets bleaker when you factor in payouts to winning bets which results in a net revenue from wagering of just about $34,000. That’s simply not a sustainable market share and very likely doesn’t cover their costs, although that’s speculative.”

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What Happens to Unibet’s Arizona Partner?

In a discussion with BetArizona.com on Thursday, Charles Montague, who serves as the CEO of Paradise Casino and Quechuan Casino Resort, said the tribe is prepared to replace Unibet Arizona as their online sports betting partner.

Montague said Kindred Group’s decision to exit the American marketplace didn’t catch them off-guard, comparing the move to similar ones made by slot machine operators over the years.

“We recently got notified. And we're currently looking for another [online sports betting partner],” Montague said. “We have to negotiate with other vendors that we had previously talked to. And we're just looking at replacing [Unibet]. I guess they're looking at leaving in the second quarter. So just moving on, it doesn't really affect our brick and mortar other than us having to find a new vendor that would do the sports wagering for us.”

Montague said the tribe will have to reach a settlement with Kindred Group over final payments related to their online sports betting partnership but said he doesn’t foresee the tribe losing its wagering license because of the planned closure.

“We pretty much have an agreement, that we're able to offer [online sports betting],” Montague said. “So, it's just a matter of finding a new vendor, just like with slot machines, you have X amount of vendors that come forward, and someone will get bought out and switch companies and stuff like that, but it's just a matter of fact of amending an agreement or getting a new agreement with that vendor. So, basically, it's just finding a vendor that’s available and that wants to get into the market or either is currently in the market.”

In August, Bet365 Arizona was awarded an online license by the Arizona Department of Gaming in a tribal partnership with the Ak-Chin Indian Community. The license awarded to Bet 365 had previously been held by Fubo Sportsbook, also in partnership with the Ak-Chin. Fubo Sportsbook shut down its operations last year.

“The Department is aware of the recent announcement by Kindred Group and is working with Kindred to address the situation and gather information,” the Arizona Department of Gaming said in a statement. “The Department has no further information to provide at this time.” 

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More Consolidation Could Be Coming

Longtime industry insiders like McIntosh see the Unibet closure as the latest wave of consolidation in an industry ripe for contraction, with the “Big Four” sports betting brands eating more and more market share.

“The Arizona market was and is ripe for a shakeout,” McIntosh said. “While Unibet may try to offload their assets via a sale, there’s unlikely to be a large market for them to sell into given the current market conditions that continue to be dominated by four players in DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and Caesars.”

For Montague and his team, the future of sports betting for the Fort Yuma Quechuan Indian Tribe is bright, with their retail sportsbook at Yuma’s Paradise Casino drawing traffic from both sides of the Colorado River and online wagering continuing to be a successful enterprise.

“The online sports betting agreement we have with Unibet has been going extremely well,” Montague said. “But as far as brick-and-mortar sports betting is concerned, we've been growing that within the [Paradise Casino] facility, and it's really outgrown what we thought it would actually do.”

Montague said the tribe is considering expanding the sportsbook lounge at Paradise Casino because of the demand they’ve experienced since Arizona sports betting launched in 2021, with additional seating, betting kiosks and televisions planned for the Yuma facility.

“It’s really taken off for us,” Montague said. “I walk by there every day and all the customers come up, talking to me and telling me how they're having a good time and that they’ve enjoyed it and all that good stuff and seems pretty much that it's very acceptable in our local area.”

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Author

Christopher Boan is the lead writer at BetArizona.com after covering sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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