Sports Interaction, which is regulated by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, bills itself as Canada's Online Sportsbook and Casino

Entain Acquires Avid Gaming, But Won’t Bring The Sports Interaction Brand To Ontario

Entain has acquired Deis Limited and its company Avid Gaming for $300 million from Middlebrook Investments Limited. In doing so, it’s not just buying a company, it’s buying a bigger presence in Canada.

Entain’s addition of Avid Gaming and its subsidiary Sports Interaction will complement their existing Canadian online gambling operations which include PartyCasino, Partypoker, and bwin. For the time being, these serve Canadians in a gray market capacity.

In the United States, Entain is already a front runner in technology and know-how. The company is half of BetMGM. The Entain and MGM partnership is worth a billion dollars annually, and in second place for market share of combined US sports betting and iGaming.

In June 2021, BetMGM signed a contract for representation from Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. Entain and MGM have their sights set on Canada for growth and success, and last month BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt confirmed that brand’s intention to launch in Ontario.

Avid Gaming deal includes Sports Interaction

Entain’s acquisition of Avid Gaming includes Sports Interaction. As the name suggests, it’s a sports betting brand first and foremost. However, its site includes online casino and poker as well. The company has had rapid growth, with gross revenues in 2021 increasing 40% year-on-year to $76 million. The business generated $18 million before interest, taxes, and deprecation and profits before tax of $17 million.

Entain’s CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen stressed the importance of Sports Interaction to its Canadian plans:

“Sports Interaction is the leading Canadian sports betting and gaming brand and is aligned perfectly with our own ambitions of great customer service and ambitious growth, coupled with an unwavering commitment to sustainability. It is highly complementary to our existing operations in Canada, and the combination of its local expertise and Entain’s powerful platform will provide customers with an unrivalled range of exciting and engaging products in this fast-growing market. We look forward to welcoming Will Golby and his team to Entain.”

Mohawk Online is pleased with acquisition

Sports Interaction has a special position in the Canadian market, as it provides the technology and brand for Mohawk Online. This is a First Nations gaming corporation owned by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke. Sports Interaction is also regulated by Kahnawà:ke Gaming Commision, as well as the Jersey Gambling Commission.

(Editor’s Note: The Jersey Gambling Commission is an offshore regulator based in the British Crown Dependency of Jersey. It should not be confused with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.)

Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer of Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke said in a statement:

“Entain is a world class operator with a genuine desire to positively contribute to the communities in which it operates. Kahnawà:ke is well known in the gaming industry, not only for our internationally recognized jurisdiction through the Kahnawà:ke Gaming Commission, but also for our socio-economic initiative, Mohawk Online. This new partnership between Entain and the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke is mutually beneficial, and brings with it prime opportunity for bolstering our self-sufficiency through the continuing success of Sports Interaction.”

Mohawk Online was also pleased to acknowledge the announcement of Entain’s acquisition. Its CEO Dean Montour commented:

“Avid has been the exclusive B2B provider to Mohawk Online for the Sports Interaction brand for many years.  Today’s announcement of Entain’s acquisition of Avid is a significant step for the further growth and development of our business and the Sports Interaction brand.”

SIA excluded from AGCO application

It doesn’t appear that Entain’s plans for the Sports Interaction brand include the upcoming Ontario online gambling market. Mohawk Online has stated:

“Although Entain has made the decision to apply for licensure with iGaming Ontario for other brands under its umbrella, Mohawk Online and Sports Interaction will continue to be licensed under Kahnawà:ke jurisdiction.”

In the press release for the acquisition, Entain noted that:

“In line with economic principles adopted by Canada under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mohawk Online revenues are invested back into the community of Kahnawà:ke to provide essential funding for cultural and language programmes, schools, healthcare and other public services. 50% of Avid Gaming employees in Kahnawà:ke are Mohawk, and in 2020 Mohawk Online revenues played a vital role in Kahnawà:ke’s Covid 19 relief efforts.”

This may be a reference to the potential legal battles the Ontario government is facing from First Nations within the province. Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation have already called the provinces iGaming plan unconstitutional. Meanwhile, Shawanaga First Nation argues the province is violating its treaty rights.

Provincially and federally, the fight continues

Kahnawà:ke is not new to potential legal battles with sports betting. In June, when Bill C-218 was heading back to the Senate on its path to become law, the First Nation made attempts to stop it. The Kahnawà:ke Gaming Commision has been around since 1999, and first introduced Sports Interaction seven years ago. These gambling activities have allowed the nation to fund language programs and development of businesses.

Kahnawà:ke, like the Mississaugas of Scugog Island and Shawanaga, continues to pressure the federal and provincial governments. Their desire is to have an Indigienous governing body involved with online betting and gambling. Culturally, First Nations have practiced betting since long before colonization. They now want a seat at the table as the provinces and other entities attempt to capitalize on that tradition.

- Katy Jean is a columnist and freelance writer from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Her writing has been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and Canadian politics. She is most active from her Twitter account @katynotie.
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