Unibet Leaving North America as Small Operators Struggle

Unibet is leaving the US and Canada due to substantial losses. It operates in Arizona, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Unibet became the latest legal online sportsbook to announce it is leaving the US market. Kindred Group, Unibet’s parent company, said the site will also exit Canada and focus on its European operations. It operates in five US states; Arizona, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. All online and casino sportsbook products will become unavailable by the end of the 2Q 2024. The assets could be sold before then. 

Unibet is the eighth big name to leave the US online sportsbook market, as reported by Steve Ruddock in the Straight to the Point newsletter. The others are:

  • Churchill Downs
  • Barstool Sportsbook
  • FOX Bet
  • Maxim
  • Fubo
  • PlayUp
  • PointsBet

Churchill Downs still has retail operations in a few markets. Penn Entertainment rebranded Barstool as ESPN Bet. FOX Bet, Maxim, Fubo, and PlayUp effectively went out of business. PointsBet sold its US operations to Fanatics. 

WynnBet left most markets where it does not have a retail casino. Elite Sportsbook, Maverick, and Sky Ute are among the smaller operations that closed across the country. In Nevada, Golden Nugget and Treasure Island abandoned betting apps but left retail sportsbooks open.

Four major players dominate the US online sportsbook market

About 90% of the US online sportsbook market is owned by the four largest players. DraftKings and FanDuel typically have at least 75 percent of it combined. Another 15 percent or so is held by BetMGM and Caesars. 

The last 10 percent is split between more than a dozen other operators. It is nearly impossible for a company to profit with a one percent market share when considering licensing and taxes. More attrition is likely. Smaller players may consolidate to take on the industry giants.

The affiliate media space is the same. A handful of affiliates own virtually all of the market. This leaves fewer options for balanced news and information.

Online casino expansion needed to save smaller operators

Sports betting is thought by some industry players to be the gateway to online casinos. These games are legal and available in six states; Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. However, only Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia are open markets. Delaware is a lottery monopoly. In Connecticut, DraftKings and FanDuel share the market there.

Rhode Island expects to bring online casino games to the market in 2024. It is a closed market. Bally’s operates the state’s casinos and will have the online monopoly.

The lack of new online casino states stagnated the industry’s growth. That likely plays a part in the attrition and consolidation. 

Support smaller sportsbooks to maintain competitiveness

The marketing budgets of BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel crush the smaller competitors. This makes it nearly impossible to raise brand awareness and increase player acquisitions. Small online sportsbooks don’t have the money to buy national TV advertising campaigns or sponsor sports teams. Most can only advertise online.

If you only play at the largest online sportsbooks, you leave money on the table. Most small sites like Hard Rock, BetRivers, and Bet365 offer new player bonuses like loss rebates and deposit matches, as well as other promos. Hit each one available in your state to get the most value out of your betting. This also provides bettors with the opportunity to line shop, meaning comparing odds between sportsbooks. The more accounts you have, the more likely you are to find a better price on your bets. 

If a handful of massive operators continue to dominate the industry, it will eventually drive out all the small shops. If that happens, most great promotions players find today will likely dry up. That means it may cost more to place your sports bets in the years ahead if the competition continues to shrink.