Sports betting and igaming operator Entain announced an agreement Thursday with Verizon Media to develop “new opportunities” across sports and entertainment, including a virtual reality experience for live sports viewing.
Entain, which is based in the United Kingdom, owns 50% of the U.S.-based BetMGM in a joint venture with casino operator MGM Resorts International.
The partnership with Verizon comes as Entain releases the initial findings of new research conducted for the company by YouGov, which found that the use of technology is shaping consumer behavior in both gaming and entertainment worldwide, notably in the U.S. and Australia.
Entain said social media has become central to consumer enjoyment. Also, new “immersive experiences,” driven by virtual reality and 5G, could accelerate the growth of both gaming and eSports.
Entain CEO Shay Segev said the agreement with Verizon looks at where sports consumers want to be five to 10 years into the future.
“We envisage consumers meeting at a game with friends, who could in fact be elsewhere, using virtual reality headsets to watch, interact and share the experience together and, potentially, compete between themselves at halftime or feel like they’re on the pitch with the players,” Segev said in a statement.
Entain, through BetMGM, has an existing business relationship with Verizon Media, which owns Yahoo Sports. BetMGM is integrated throughout Yahoo Sports in the U.S., and in several states where sports betting is offered, customers can place a bet with BetMGM without leaving the Yahoo Sports app.
Verizon Media and Entain said they will collaborate to develop a first-of-its-kind virtual reality experience that will combine live sports viewing with interactive layers of sports data and gaming. Consumers will be able to participate in sports events, check data, socialize with friends, and place bets on Entain platforms.
Entain’s brands include Ladbrokes, bwin, and PartyPoker.
Entain and Verizon Media hope to develop concepts for new formats with emerging technologies. In addition to sports wagering on the Entain platforms, one goal is to create realistic, immersive experiences for sports fans, such as being in the stadium, participating in play, competing, and betting on outcomes.
“Together, we are building the next generation of content experiences for sports and gaming fans,” Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said in a statement. “This new alliance takes the collaboration between our two companies to a new level, and will allow us both to maximize new opportunities across sports betting, content, and entertainment.”
According to the findings from YouGov, a British-based market research firm, gaming and entertainment are converging across multiple devices and becoming increasingly interactive. Two-thirds of consumers combine viewing with social media to increase their enjoyment.
Segev, who became Entain’s CEO in July, said in an interview with CDC Gaming Reports last week that growth in the U.S. is the primary interest for the company, which changed its name from GVC Holdings.
“The market is booming and it’s accelerating faster than anyone thought,” Segev said. “It shows that the demand for legal sports betting had been there for many years.”
Entain and MGM Resorts launched Roar Digital, which operates BetMGM in 2018. In the 31 months following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling, sports betting has become legal and regulated in 19 states and Washington D.C. Another six states are expected to launch in 2021.
BetMGM is currently live in seven states – Tennessee, Colorado, Indiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, and West Virginia. Segev expects that number to grow to 20 states by the end of 2021.
“We are firmly on track to be the leading operator in the U.S., as well as in many other newly regulated markets that are now opening around the world,” Segev said.
Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.