GVC and MGM line up tribal betting partner in California

9 October 2018

GVC and MGM Resorts have made an early play for the Californian sports betting market by signing up to a partnership with the United Auburn Indian Community (UAIC).

Under the terms of the partnership, MGM-GVC – which announced a $200m (£153m/€171m) sports betting joint venture in July - would provide its brands and proprietary technology to enable UAIC to offer retail and mobile sports betting and online casino and poker if and when any are permitted under state law. The tribe is the operator of Thunder Valley Casino Resort near Sacramento, which is the state’s biggest casino with more than 3,000 slot and video machines.

MGM and GVC said that UAIC represents an “ideal initial partner” in California, providing access to the US's largest state by population, if and when state law permits sports betting. Adam Greenblatt, GVC director of corporate development and strategy, described the partnership as “significant”.

"It is not yet clear if California will authorise sports betting or interactive games generally, but with the overturn of PASPA possibly opening the door for sports betting, our tribe wants to be well-situated, and this agreement with the national leader in the field does just that," said Gene Whitehouse, chairman of UAIC.

The partners may have some time to wait until they can begin accepting bets in California, which, with around 40 million residents, is the most populous US state. It has four times more people than New Jersey, while none of the other existing ‘betting states’ have more than three million residents.

There has been little progress in California since the repeal of PASPA almost six months ago, with the last major development being Assembly member Adam Gray’s introduction of a constitutional amendment that would allow the state "to permit sports wagering only if a change in federal law occurs" in July 2017.

"All other gaming activities in California are subject to regulations that ensure the safety of consumers," Gray said in a statement at the time. "Sports wagering should be treated no differently."

Within hours of the Supreme Court ruling, Gray reiterated his desire to further a pro-sports betting constitutional amendment.

Under the terms of the 50/50 joint venture announced by GVC and MGM in July, both operators will each invest $100m. Both parties will bring exclusive access to all US land-based and online sports betting, online real money and free-to-play casino gaming, major tournament and online poker, and other similar future interactive businesses.

MGM CEO Jim Murren said in a statement at the time that the pair “expect [to] dominate the US sports betting market.”