A Missed Ontario Online Poker Opportunity: Unibet Exits North America A Missed Ontario Online Poker Opportunity: Unibet Exits North America

When Kindred Group announced they would cease operations in North America by the end of June 2024, Ontarians discovered they would lose an online casino operator and an online sportsbook.

Alas, they would also lose a potential Ontario online poker operator — and one that’s been successful lately, too.

While much of Kindred’s Q3 presentation focused on its upcoming “controlled exit from North America,” the European igaming company reported that revenue from its “poker and other products” segment had grown 5% year-over-year, and disclosed that the increase was “driven by growth in poker.”

And while online poker accounts for only 3% of Kindred’s gross revenue by product, online poker was up 9% year-over-year. By comparison, revenue from online casino was up 11% and sports betting was down 13%.

Which raises the question — How would Unibet Poker Ontario have fared? Sadly, it looks like we will never know.

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“The cost reduction actions announced today are both necessary and decisive,” Interim CEO Nils Andén said in a statement. “This puts us in a stronger position to secure long-term growth for Kindred across our locally regulated core markets.

“We can now focus our resources and tech capacity towards strategic initiatives and selected markets where we see clear potential to grow our market share.”

Translation: “We’re gonna focus on Europe.”

Kindred May Sell Its North American Assets

For the record, Kindred’s exit from North America is no surprise — the company has been dropping hints that it wants off the continent since late April.

Why? Well, Kindred reported in Q1 that its North American operations precipitated a loss in EBITDA (that’s earnings before interest, depreciation, and amortization) of £5.5 million, which at the time was about $6.8 million USD.

Things haven’t gotten any better since then. North America was a drag on EBITDA in Q2 (loss of £5.1 million) and Q3 (loss of £6.5 million) — the latter figure equates to $8.2 million USD.

With those sustained losses, it’s hard to imagine Kindred investing to launch Unibet Poker Ontario and compete with 888poker Ontario, the BetMGM Poker Ontario Network, GGPoker/WSOP Ontario, and PokerStars Ontario. And don’t forget that Entain brands bwin and partypoker, which share a player pool with BetMGM, would have also been in the mix.

Kindred will instead wind down its operations in North America by the end of Q2 2024, subject to regulatory approval. That will include online casinos in New Jersey, Ontario, and Pennsylvania and online sportsbooks in Arizona, Indiana, New Jersey, Ontario, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

What the company plans to do with its assets in the US and Canada remains unclear. However, Andén said, “The strategic review initiated by the board remains ongoing, and we continue to advance a number of options to deliver shareholder value.

“The board currently believes that shareholder value will be maximized through a third-party transaction.”

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While Kindred’s North American assets could be up for sale, Kindred itself could be up for sale as well — by dispensing with operations that continue to lose money, the Malta-headquartered company becomes a more attractive takeover target.

Kindred announced its strategic review in late April. At the time, the board also announced that it had retained three firms to serve as financial advisors to assist with the review and for a possible sale.

April also saw the abrupt resignation of CEO Henrik Tjärnström and CFO Johan Wilsby, although Wilsby stayed on a bit longer.

Moving forward, the company will focus on its operations in Australia and Europe, although online poker is not available in the former. Most (62%) of Kindred’s gross revenue in Q3 came from Western Europe, followed by the Nordics (24%) and Central and Eastern Europe (10%).