Nobody will accuse the Commonwealth of Virginia of moving too slowly with respect to the launch and expansion of their legal sports betting platform. Launched on January 21, Virginia’s current online-only platform now boasts 10 top-tier licensees with Kindred Group’s Unibet Interactive the latest to gain the privilege of operating in the jurisdiction.
The Virginia access is the latest step in the desired growth plan for Kindred Group in the rapidly expanding US legal sports betting industry. The Commonwealth of Virginia will be added to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, as jurisdictions that will proudly be home to Unibet’s “first-class online sportsbook experience”.
The Virginia Scene
Virginia has long been viewed as one of the more exciting up-and-coming legal sports betting jurisdictions. Currently the state is 12th in the nation in terms of their population with 8.6 million residents and boasts a healthy share of rabid sports fans.
The Commonwealth will eventually have 12 sports betting licensees operating in the state. Kindred happens to be #7 on this list with the other five apparently being reserved for companies willing to partner with brick-and-mortar retail facilities that have yet to be built.
As far as Virginia’s mobile sports betting platform goes, it has been a huge success so far. From the launch of mobile betting in the Commonwealth in January to the end of March, online apps reportedly took in $628.7 million, and thanks to an aggressive 15% tax rate, state and local coffers have benefitted to the tune of $1.5 million in tax contributions.
When Will Unibet Go Live?
News of The Virginia Lottery’s approval of the Unibet brand came down Thursday. “We are excited to add Virginia to the growing list of states that Unibet and Kindred Group call home as we continue our expansion in the US market,” Kindred senior VP of US Manuel Stan said in a news release. “Our aim is to go live shortly and we expect that the success we have seen in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana will of course follow in Virginia.”
While “shortly” has yet to be defined from any of those involved, Stan did say that launch would be “definitely a matter of days rather than months.”
With that, it appears as though Unibet could be up-and-running before Bally’s, Barstool Sportsbook and Golden Nugget who have also gained access to the Virginia market and have identified this summer as their probable launch dates.
Unibet Isn’t Done
Kindred Group’s US mobile brand apparently isn’t done with their plans to expand. The company has signed agreements with eight additional states to launch, with Virginia being identified as a key jurisdiction to build off – “a hub” during their East Coast expansion plans.
“We are very grateful to the Virginia Lottery for awarding us one of the seven stand-alone mobile sports betting permits in a very competitive process. We look forward to opening an office in Virginia, which will function as our third hub together with our offices in New York and New Jersey. We are thrilled to continue our journey in what we believe will become the largest gambling market in the world,” said Manuel Stan.
Unibet enters a Virginia market that has quickly identified its dominant sportsbooks. Simply put, the Kindred Group’s mobile wing will be swimming upstream at launch-time and will have some catching up to do in order to gain a respectable market share.
The two DFS behemoths currently hold a combined 77% market share with BetMGM at 14% and William Hill at 8%. Virginia appears to have enough to go around but new kids on the block will have a hard time making inroads, at least right off the bat.
The Virginia market is far-from filled out as we head into the summer but like every participating state, the beginning of the NFL season is the target for the market to be as complete as possible. Unibet, depending on when they go live has a chance to build up its client bases and establish itself before such a time.
So, while not expected to be the biggest player in the Virginia market, Kindred’s Unibet is still expected to be a factor. How much of one remains to be seen.