Shay Segev is the CEO of Entain, the recently-rebranded GVC Holdings, who will guide the company through its new vision towards a consumer-focused experience and sustainability in the coming years, with the outlook for Entain being to triple its business and remain a key player in 20 years.
The company’s rebranding comes with a new vision or rather, a promise to deliver on a vision that has been long-baked into Entain’s DNA. Under the leadership of its new CEO, the company is now stepping up to deliver with determination and precision. Entain is embracing regulated markets and opening up to new opportunities from Canada to the United States, Brazil, and beyond.
Entain’s vision of the future is simple as Shay would say, and all a company must do to be successful 5, 10 or 20 years from now is to focus on what consumers need and meeting regulatory prerequisites. Better yet, Shay and his team have a clear plan how to deliver on the future of entertainment, without constraining it in definitions, such as “sports betting” or “iGaming.”
When we spoke with Shay, he politely reminded us that it’s hardly just about these two segments and that entertainment today seems to be an evolving category that consumers define. He didn’t share all of his plans for the future with us, but he did volunteer quite a few, making for an interesting conversation. For those ideas he kept to himself, we suppose we will have to wait and see as Entain’s continues to release new products and adjust existing offers.
Entain is in a constant process of figuring out consumer needs and coming up with clever ideas. The most recent alliance with Verizon Media promises to bring many exciting consumer-focused solutions, from virtual to augmented reality, to extended reality, artificial intelligence, as well as leverage the power of 5G.
Q: You just struck a partnership with Verizon Media, a company that is not necessarily tied to your segment. As part of this partnership, you are piloting a number of initiatives that you hope will lead to better customer experience with the help of virtual and extended reality, 5G and more. Now, we must ask, how long before we see VR arrive as a part of the consumer experience?
I am probably not the person to project whether it will take one year or five years, but I think it’s safe to assume that the timeline we are looking at is the same time that things like this become more commoditized.
If you want to be optimistic, you would say a year, but if you want to be pessimistic, perhaps five years is a more feasible timeline. There are always early adopters. As part of Entain’s journey, we clearly see ourselves as a leader in our industry and we want to ensure that we will remain leaders in ten years’ time.
We seek to leverage successful partnerships and the link-up with Verizon Media is an example of how we want to team up with businesses from other segments with which we share common goals, to ultimately be more engaging, innovative, and create more fun.
As in, Verizon clearly comes from the media space and we come from the betting space, and we are trying to put this together and create a fun experience, and make betting much more embedded in the overall experience.
You see, our idea is not to necessarily have a product ready to market in the next three months or so. Rather, we try different things in our innovation labs, and then, once we think something is exciting enough, we will put it forward.
The logic behind all of this is, let’s get creative, let’s see how exciting it would be for the customer, how easy it would be to use, and so on.
Q: What about regulations? Is the changing nature of regulation a thing to fear or a thing to embrace?
Responsibility is a clear pillar of our success. I think it would be fair to say that many companies that operate in our segment see regulation, responsible gambling and player protection as a threat, as something negative.
What I am trying to say here is, it is not a threat and there is nothing negative in regulation. Rather, all of the above can be seen as the building blocks of our industry and we need to get it one hundred percent perfect.
I believe that if you take the long-term view, it’s an actual benefit. You shouldn’t see it as something that harms our business, but something that develops it.
Q: One thing that made an impression on us is that Entain doesn’t play catch-up and you rather take a look at what the market needs. Yet, sports seem to have a Generation Z problem, and if we accept that this is true, does it mean Entain has a Generation Z problem as well?
You see, we are always looking to expand our scope. Our core business today rotates around casino, sports betting, bingo and poker. Yet, thanks to our capabilities we can develop new products, not just expand, and aim for new audiences.
So, the idea is not necessarily to educate other audiences that sports betting and casino is good, but to develop other products which will fit to other audiences. Probably esports is a good thing, you talk about Generation Z.
Many people today, especially younger generations, are enjoying video games, and I play a lot of games myself – when I have the time. You can see quite a few people from the older generations starting to play as well.
“We don’t want to think as a betting company when we try to do esports” – Shay Segev, Entain CEO
I think esports is an exciting area. It’s getting bigger. How does an esports product look like for a betting company? I am not quite sure yet as we are now in the process of developing it.
Clearly esports has other challenges that sports betting does not have. For one, it’s not well-regulated just yet. You have a big integrity issue there as well as an age issue. There are a lot of underage people there.
So, being aware of these challenges, and then coming with a mindset, we don’t necessarily want to become very profitable from esports in the next two or three years, but when we look ten years from now, we ask ourselves – how can we become the leader in esports, in wagering, engagement and fun?
How to take our technology and build a proposal that will be recreational. I think this is the right thing for us to start building right now. But again, this is something we want to do responsibly. We want to build it slowly and safely.
“I mean, just think about it. Would you feel good about yourself knowing that you are taking money from someone who cannot afford spending it or doesn’t feel comfortable to spend it? No, right?”- Shay Segev
Basically, we do not want to think as a betting company when we try to do esports. We should think outside the box and ask ourselves how to develop the experience from the standpoint of an esports player, and not from the standpoint of a betting company.
We are open-minded when it comes to this. We want to take it slow. Build products, pivot them, work with communities and see what the right formula is.
Q: How do you feel about Entain’s current position in the United States? Are you late or are you just on time?
I am very pleased and proud of the progress we have made in the United States. You note we may be a bit late, but I think we are not late at all. Let’s think. There are companies that have been spending hundreds of millions for around eight years now.
So, we have two companies that have been building their database and brands for many, many years now. We really only started 18 months ago, and really, really started 12 months ago.
Right now, we have 300 people in New Jersey who operate the BetMGM brand we have developed with our partners from MGM Resorts, and it’s not very easy to bring 300 people to a room, to find them, to train them to work as a team and use the platform, to install technology, so it takes time.
But where we are today, we have made a great progress. We are live in 11 states and in every market we operate, we are in the first three positions when it comes to market share, and if you aggregate our market share, we are a clear number three.
So you have FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM, and we are the fastest growing business in terms of securing additional market share. If you look at where we are, we have made some really good progress.
I am confident that next year we will be live in 20 states. And, in fact, next time we speak, I am sure we could be the biggest company in terms of market share. First, we have the technology and I believe that because we develop a better product, our consumers will want to stay with us longer as they see the higher value of that product.
Secondly, we have access to the BetMGM Life Program, which is great for people who visit the actual MGM Resorts properties, and they can appreciate the added benefit of the program.
Q: How do you feel about South America? It seems many companies are still trying to figure it out, but you have recently entered in Colombia. What are your thoughts on the Latin American market?
South America is an important market for us and I think one of the key advantages we have is our ability to do many things at the same time. You see, we own the product and the technology, and we can adapt our product very quickly, scale it up and down, because we control it and build it in a way that allows us to bend it our way.
So, we don’t have to choose whether we want to do the US or South America, expand or not expand. I do see our company as a leader in South America as well. Right now we operate pretty much only in Brazil and we just launched Colombia.
We do want to get into Mexico, it will probably be the next thing we do. Mexico makes a lot of sense and it is a good market, and then other markets as well as they become regulated.
Q: What about partypoker? Is it something you wish to invest in and expand further?
Poker is another segment in which we have a great opportunity, actually two great opportunities. One is the US, which is a new market, and we see ourselves as one of two companies that can lead the way for poker in the country.
We have the technology and brand, licenses to push forward. We are live in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, hopefully Michigan. Unfortunately, it’s going a bit slow and there is no shared liquidity.
But, if you are optimistic, that’s probably a matter of a few years until there are many states, states like California opening up. We are a good candidate to lead poker in the United States.
Our second opportunity about poker is about our existing poker business outside the US, which we clearly focus on in all regulated market. It’s important to note that we are one-sixth of the size of some poker companies.
If we were bigger in the poker space right now, I would be a bit worried, because poker is not growing right now; it’s in a bit of a flat industry. So, if you are the leader in the industry, that’s not great news.
It’s not bad news for us, though, because there is a lot of potential and growth for Entain. We’ve been growing poker for the last five years, doubling, tripling our business.
Q: One thing that really resonates with us is something you said during an interview with SBC, that Entain doesn’t want to take a single penny from anyone who cannot afford it. Do you think we need to remind the industry that this should be their way of doing business?
I can only speak on the behalf of Entain, and I think many other CEOs will share the same opinion. Look, I am just bold when it comes to responsibility. We have been committed to consumer safety for a long, long time.
So, I thought, let’s take this one step further and put it in the front. In a way, you say you have read about this and it really surprised you, but actually, it’s not really surprising, is it? It’s what we know to be true.
For me to take something that and say “we are doing it” is simple. I don’t see that as something too big. I mean, just think about it. Would you feel good about yourself knowing that you are taking money from someone who cannot afford spending it or doesn’t feel comfortable to spend it? No, right?
I am the same. No one in our company would want to create problems for people or harm people. And so, you see if everyone thinks like that, why don’t you just do it? And that’s precisely what we are doing.
If you are enjoying the product we offer, that’s great, but if you don’t enjoy it, just don’t. Our industry has a reputation that we are sometimes forcing people to come and gamble – we aren’t.
It’s important to understand that our industry has changed in the past seven years. Regulation has changed. In the past, countries didn’t know or didn’t pay attention to gambling, but now every government has a clear view on gambling.
So, regulation is happening anyway, and we would like to focus on regulated markets. And for those markets that do not wish to regulate, we are alright with that if they don’t want us there. We simply will move on to those regulated markets instead.
About Shay Segev
Shay Segev is the CEO of Entain plc, one of the world’s largest sports betting and gaming groups, and a listed FTSE 100 company on the London Stock Exchange. Shay is recognized as one of the leading figures in the online gaming industry and an outstanding leader with a clear strategic vision and unrivaled technological expertise.
He is also a firm advocate for the strongest possible protection for customers and understands that only a responsible company can be sustainable and successful. As COO of the GVC Group Shay successfully implemented and steered the integrations of bwin.party and Ladbrokes Coral, two of the biggest acquisitions in the industry of the last decade. He was also responsible for overseeing and driving the GVC Group’s expansion into the U.S. market through ROAR Digital’s joint venture with MGM (now known as BetMGM) and managing GVC’s technology, product, trading, customer operations, corporate strategy and M&A functions.
Shay joined the GVC Group in March 2016; he has previously held the positions of Chief Strategy Officer of Gala Coral, COO of Playtech Plc and served as COO and CEO of Videobet. Shay holds a B.Sc. in Computer Science from Tel-Aviv University and an MBA from Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management.
He currently lives in Gibraltar with his wife and four children and likes to keep active. When work and family life allow, he enjoys playing tennis and football, along with yoga, And has a passion for computer games which he enjoys playing with his children.