Accel and Entain overcome troubled pasts for full Nevada license recommendation

May 1, 2024 8:35 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
May 1, 2024 8:35 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports

The Nevada Gaming Control Board Wednesday recommended full licensure for Accel Entertainment and Entain, after the two companies received limited approval in the past over compliance issues. Both companies told the Board that they took seriously the concerns of regulators, worked to improve their compliance, and have been successful.

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In May 2022, Illinois-based Accel Entertainment, a video-gaming-terminal provider, received a two-year license to operate in the state as it acquired slot-route operator Century Gaming.

Accel had come under board scrutiny over a $5 million fine levied by the Illinois Gaming Control Board, which ruled that an agreement it signed with DraftKings violated a law that forbade incentives to keep Accel machines in video-gaming establishments. The company at the time also had litigation to resolve.

Accel attorney Erica Okerberg said the company has worked out to improve its compliance. Two years ago, it named former Nevada Gaming Control Board Chair Dennis Neilander, who served from 2000 to 2011, as chair of its compliance committee.

Karl Peterson, the chairman of the board of Accel, told the Board it has improved its regulatory diligence, compliance and oversight.

President and CEO Andrew Rubenstein, who has been with Accel for 15 years, said they’ve “doubled down” on compliance over the last two years. Accel has a policy of “see something, say something” and a whistleblower hotline.

Accel operates in 10 states, has 1,350 employees, and has revenue of more than $1.2 billion and $181 million in adjusted revenue. Its 25,000-plus gaming terminals are in nearly 4,000 establishments across the country.

“Locally, Century continues to maintain its leadership in this market and they’ll be an important part of Accel as we grow nationwide,” Rubenstein said.

“The company is on the right track,” said George Assad before the Board unanimously recommended a full license before the Nevada Gaming Commission May 16.

In 2019, known at the time as GVC Holdings, Entain came under fire from Nevada regulators over business in unregulated markets. In May 2021, the Nevada Gaming Commission granted a three-year license to the British sports-betting company Entain, which is half of a joint venture with MGM Resorts International in BetMGM.

In the hearing on Entain, Okerberg said the company has an “exemplary” compliance program that’s built to improve and evolve over time. The leadership is well respected, honest, and highly qualified and the company has been lauded in its efforts for responsible gaming and community involvement.

Entain Chairman Barry Gibson, who will step down in September after four years in the role, said the company no longer operates in unregulated gray markets, only in regulated markets (96% of its business) or where regulations are being proposed, such as Brazil (4%).

“This is a great company,” Gibson said. “It took some missteps before we became Entain, but it’s very different today.”

In the U.S., BetMGM is a key part of Entain’s direction. The company is also active in 30 markets and in the top three for igaming and online sports betting. Net revenue in 2023 was close to $2 billion.

“Where the company has come in the last five years has been extraordinary,” said Board Chair Kirk Hendrick. “From an integrity standpoint, before coming to Nevada, the company was bailing a little water. That seems like it’s done and you’re steering the ship on the right course. I encourage you to stay the course. It’s making Nevada and your company and employees better.”

Board member Brittnie Watkins echoed Hendricks, saying, “There’s been great improvement.”