Kindred Shutting Down Unibet Online Casino, Sportsbook In New Jersey

Another European operator has decided to pull out of the US online gambling, leading to a reduced number of sportsbooks and online casinos for bettors in New Jersey. Kindred Group plc, a Malta-based company and the owner of the popular Unibet brand announced its decision to cease all operations in the state by the second quarter of 2024. 

The exit move, affecting both the Unibet online casino and sportsbook, marks a strategic retreat for Kindred and signifies the intensifying competition within the North American online gambling markets. 

The planned withdrawal from North America comes after Kindred initiated a broad review of its global operations in April 2023. According to the interim CEO, the cost reduction actions are both decisive and needed to position the company for long-term sustainable growth internationally.

Kindred to Fully Withdraw from North American Markets by Mid-2024

Kindred Group plc currently operates online sportsbooks and casinos in several US states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, as well as offering sports betting in Ontario, Canada. In 2019, Unibet entered New Jersey’s fledgling iGaming market as an integral partner of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City after securing licensure under the integrated resort’s gaming permit. 

The partnership allowed Unibet to introduce both an online sportsbook — which used the Kambi sports betting engine before switching to Kindred’s proprietary platform in May — and an online casino platform to NJ residents. At the time, Unibet joined Hard Rock Bet and Bet365 as one of just three licensed skins operating via Hard Rock Atlantic City’s license. 

In a statement released in late November 2023, Kindred interim CEO Nils Andén revealed the company would conclude all commercial activities in the region over the coming year as part of a strategic realignment. Andén cited a desire to focus resources and technology capabilities on locally regulated core markets where they see clear potential to grow their market share.

Goodbye, Unibet

Kindred’s exit will see the shutdown of Unibet sports betting and casino platforms in key states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. This removal of competition could impact individual state industries, though long-term effects remain unclear. 

Unibet will work to retain business until the planned 2024 departure. The planned withdrawal from North America comes after Kindred initiated a broad review of its global operations in April 2023. With Unibet planning to retain business through mid-2024, other operators like DraftKings, Caesars and FanDuel will aim to absorb its customer base.

Sports Betting and iGaming Operations to Cease in Multiple Jurisdictions

Kindred Group plc will give up sports betting and online casino licenses in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Arizona, Indiana and Ontario by mid-2024. Both sportsbook and casino platforms will be shut down in these markets over the coming months.

The planned withdrawal represents a change in strategic focus for Kindred, which had previously targeted a top-10 market position in North American online gambling. However, intense competition from entrenched operators like DraftKings, FanDuel, and Caesars Sportsbook made it difficult for Unibet to gain meaningful traction according to analysts.

Kindred’s exit will remove one of the larger multi-state operators from the growing US sports betting industry. New Jersey in particular will see a notable reduction in competition for the top sportsbooks remaining in the state. Unibet currently claims a small 2% market share of New Jersey’s online sports betting handle, according to recent reports from the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).

The company had shown signs of pulling back from less profitable regions earlier in 2023, having already ceased sports betting operations in Iowa in January. Kindred said at the time it would prioritize larger, multi-product markets with more potential for scaling its platform.

However, the interim CEO now indicates a complete withdrawal from North America is necessary to strengthen the business. Andén and other executives are conducting a thorough strategic review that will guide Kindred’s focus and investments through 2024 and beyond.

Complex Reasons for Unibet’s Exit from the NJ Market

While the official announcement cites a broader strategic focus on selective growth initiatives in key markets, several factors appear to have contributed to Kindred’s decision to leave New Jersey. 

The intense competition within the state, with established players like FanDuel and DraftKings holding significant market share, has made it challenging for smaller operators like Unibet to carve out a sustainable niche. Further compounding the challenge, Kindred faced difficulties establishing brand recognition in the face of well-funded marketing campaigns from its rivals.

Beyond New Jersey, Kindred’s North American ventures have faced broader headwinds. Recent financial reports revealed declining revenue and losses in the region, prompting the company to reassess its entire US strategy. 

Kindred also cited regulatory complexity in North America as a challenge. The need to comply with an evolving patchwork of state-level rules has proven costly compared to Kindred’s experience in single federally-regulated European markets.

Pulling out of New Jersey, along with other states like Indiana and Pennsylvania, appears to be a cost-cutting measure aimed at streamlining operations and focusing resources on markets with greater potential for long-term profitability.

Kindred expects the North American exit to result in staff reductions of approximately 300 employees and consultants across the continent. The company estimates the job cuts and other cost savings will trim nearly $50 million annually from its expense base starting in 2025.

Shift to Core European Markets

By refocusing resources on more established markets, Kindred hopes to foster stronger revenue growth over the long run. Europe remains the company’s largest region by revenue, led by flagship operations in the UK and Nordic markets like Sweden.

Kindred Group plc is the operator behind a bevy of well-known European gambling brands, including 32Red, Maria Casino, and Unibet. In May 2023, an online gambling operator announced its intention to speed up its sale of North American operations, according to Bloomberg, but a viable deal didn’t materialize.

Wrapping Up

The online gambling landscape in New Jersey is facing a major shift as Kindred Group, the owner of the popular Unibet brand, announced its decision to cease all operations in the state by the second quarter of 2024. This move, affecting both the Unibet online casino and sportsbook, marks a strategic retreat for Kindred and signifies the intensifying competition within the burgeoning US online gambling market.

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