The Entain deal - what's it all about?
By Michael Guerin
The deal between the New Zealand TAB and Entain is the biggest in New Zealand racing and gambling history. We speak to Entain Australia chief executive officer Dean Shannon to find out what it means for New Zealand punters, the racing industry and his vision for sport and racing better in New Zealand.
1: Who are Entain and what do they do?
Entain is one of the world’s largest wagering and igaming businesses. Worldwide we employ around 29,000 people in more than 30 markets, all of which are regulated. We have well known wagering brands such as Ladbrokes which was established in 1886, Coral, Bwin and our incredible joint venture in the US market with MGM resorts under the brand of BetMGM.
2: Will the partnership with the NZ TAB be predominantly run out of Australia or come under the UK parent company control?
The NZ Tab will be run out of New Zealand with the backing and full support of our Australian operations. It is important to note we run an end-to-end business in Australia and myself and my team having been doing this successfully for more than a decade. So we are bringing a lot of experience and expertise to the table.
3: What can Entain do for the TAB and New Zealand racing?
I think it is very important for us to work closely with the three codes and together we can build a compelling future. NZ has a proud racing heritage but has been under-funded in recent years. What we can help do is push the reset button, give the industry some breathing space while we work together to build engagement with a broader audience. We will be offering racing customers a wide range of products on modern technology as well as competitive pricing and more generosities.
4: Do you see the TAB brand remaining in NZ?
Yes we absolutely do, the TAB brand has trust and loyalty with many Kiwi customers. We will focus on giving the brand a refresh when we release the new betting app and platform early next year.
5: Could we see a second brand/website/app aimed at younger or sporting audiences?
We definitely will see a second brand, to offer choice to the customers to ensure more betting stays on shore and contributes directly back into the racing and sport industries. We need to dig a bit deeper and understand why customers are betting offshore so we can ensure we have a local offering which truly meets the needs of customers.
6: What are the most tangible changes punters can expect?
More product, more features, greater generosities, supported by a more agile business which is underwritten by our own technology. We expect to transition over to our technology including new app and website in the first quarter of the 2024 calendar year. We will also be looking to upgrade the retail terminals, retails shops and on course betting experiences.
7: Entain have a good reputation for creating quality racing content. How do you see the broadcasting of NZ racing changing?
My team and I are very excited about investing into Trackside. We see a great opportunity to build a lot more content around racing and connecting to a wider audience locally as well as exporting internationally.
It has been a big part of our strategy in Australia and we have seen great success connecting new audiences with racing and its participants through great storytelling.
8: NZ has world leading win-limit guarantees for racing through Punters Promise. Will that remain?
Yes, it will remain and at the same levels it is today. We recognise the Punters Promise is valued by a number of Kiwi punters.
9: What win limits will there be for sports punters?
We will look to introduce a “punters promise” for sport punters, limits are yet to be determined.
10: What guarantees can be given that winning or smart punters won’t face heavier restrictions in the future?
Providing the Punters Promise framework is not abused and customers bet within those limits as intended then there will be no reason to restrict it further. In Australia for the last 7 years, we have not closed customers’ accounts because they win and we bet professional punters to the minimum bet rules that are in place.
11: How important is the suggested geo-blocking of NZ punters for Entain and NZ racing and sport?
I think it is critical for the growth and success of the racing industry in particular. Too much leakage to offshore operators that contribute nothing to the industry here is alarming, that money should be onshore in NZ.
12: Are you comfortable with geo-blocking legislation including minimum bet laws to ensure NZ punters get treated fairly under a monopoly?
Yes, I’m very comfortable with it, we want punters to have a fair go. It’s not only limited to minimum bet but also pricing we want to ensure we deliver a world class product to the New Zealand customers, and we want them to enjoy the experience and part of that is having very competitive pricing.
13: The deal will have enormous upside for NZ racing for the next five years. What are Entain’s forecasts for returns after that?
Internally we are forecasting that by the end of year 3 we hope to be ahead of our minimum funding guarantees and further growth beyond that puts the industry in great shape.
14: Problem gambling is very topical. What can Entain do, if anything, to control/monitor it?
We have led the market in many ways in safer gambling in Australia. We have started to engage local NZ problem gambling organizations with the objective to let them know what we do to prevent harm and also learn from them through various case studies in the local market.
15: You personally are a huge owner of racehorses, several in New Zealand, how has that helped shape your vision for NZ racing?
I have been buying horses from New Zealand for 25 years and been racing horses here for about the last 7. I currently have about 15 horses in the Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan (harness trainers) system. It would be remiss of me not to plug my stable star Merlin, who we are looking forward to plundering some Australian races with him next year.
I have met a lot of great people from all the codes over the years and I have always felt welcome and I love the passion here but also the skill, Kiwis are great horsemen and women. This has given me a good understanding of the market here and also of some of the differences between here and Australia which gives me a bit of a head start even though there is still a lot to learn.
It also gives me even more motivation to succeed here in NZ , I have a lot of friends here.
16: There are critics of the TAB/Entain deal. What would you say to them?
Entain is a great business, in Australia we have a great track record, often outperforming the market in a very tough competitive landscape. We have built the business from its very first bet into the business it is today, we are a business that built our own technology platform, and we continue to innovate in the wagering space - we know what we are doing. Our main objective is to focus on industry funding once we get that right everything else will flow from there.