FansUnite (FANS.C) sports book debuts on the CSE, pandemic be damned

May 8, 2020

We get a lot of clients wanting to be written about on Mondays because that’s when everyone drops their good news. I usually try to tell them Friday is the sweet spot, because they have less competition on the good news front (the Friday bad news dump is real), and their stories will be read all weekend.

That same thinking applies to taking your company public. Sure, you can wait until everyone is doing it, but being the only folks happy to drop onto the exchange while the world is in lockdown gives you a bit of a literal captive audience.

To me, that’s Moneyball thinking at it’s best. When the market is obsessed with one way of thinking, go the other way and own your niche entirely.

FansUnite (FANS.C) isn’t complicated. It’s a sports book. With their platform you can bet on sporting events ranging from cricket to e-sports, gaelic football to darts, tennis to boxing and beyond.

Which might seem, at first glance, like not a thing you’d want to be invested in during a time when global sporting seasons have paused and been canceled. But that’s where we go back to Moneyball thinking; if casinos and traditional sports books are on hiatus, it’s kind of a great time to attack the market.

The four US states with legal online poker sites – New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and Pennsylvania – reported record revenues in March. Operators in New Jersey, for example, took in a combined $3,629,112 that month – an increase of 90.9% year over year, according to numbers reported by the New Jersey division of gaming enforcement, and more than double February’s online poker revenue.

So it’s good news that FansUnite is already in that space.

The Company recently completed a subscription receipt offering on March 18, 2020. Under the terms of the financing, FansUnite issued 8,948,326 common shares at $0.35 for a total of $3,131,918. Further, on March 26, 2020, the Company successfully completed its acquisition of McBookie Ltd, a leading UK White-label sportsbook and casino that caters to the Scottish Market.

McBookie is legit. It’s been around for a decade and has seen over $100 million gambled through its system in the last three years, which means it brings cash flow to FansUnite right out of the gate. Though it’s breakeven currently, that’s not going to make FansUnite breakeven as a parent company, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have revenue churning through.

It also allows FansUnite to benefit from the pandemic lockdown in two ways.

First, McBookie has a thriving ‘virtual sports’ space, where you can bet on sporting events happening in the cloud. Virtual horse races, virtual football, virtual speedway… It might not be the same as placing live bets on game seven of the NBA finals, but if you’re a gambler who’d like to win a few dollars while sitting on the john by picking Hooptie Mama to beat Sir Stretch Goals in the 4th at Ether Downs, why not scratch that itch?

The second way FansUnite is surging during lockdown is by offering standard online casino gaming; namely slots, poker, blackjack, roulette, and baccarat. Contrary to what you might think, online gambling is going through a big spike right now as those who’d normally smoke clove cigarettes and drink watered down bourbon on a casino floor are now instead getting their fix online as their wife yells at them for blowing the rent.

But the company is also offering their products to other online gambling companies as white label tools, which is where the real money is. Rather than spending hundreds of millions competing to draw gamblers to their own sites, FansUnite can draw revenue from a wide roster of what would normally be seen as competitors, by virtue of their back end system designed to run more transparently than traditional online gaming.

THE TRUST THING

Online casinos face a variety of trust hurdles from both regulators and consumers, because when a website based in who knows where asks for your credit card, to be stored who knows how and by who knows who, bad things can happen. In fact, bad things do.

Betfair’s Russian customers woke Tuesday to discover that the site had “taken the decision to close its websites for all existing Russian customers.” The site is no longer accepting new customer registrations and existing customers have been given until May 18 to withdraw the funds in their accounts.

Betfair pulled the same routine in India recently. The need to push boundaries to claim market share, only to cut your own throat when regulators take umbrage, is a real issue in online gambling. It’s been such a problem that many recent entrants to the online gaming market have either made solving it the focus of their business model to be clean as a whistle (FansUnite is in this category), or given no shits at all and just jumped into bed with rich Russian types (what’s up, BWin, BetCity, Fonbet and 1XBet).

The Trust Thing is why I don’t have an online gambling account, though I’d love to lose money every now and then betting on West Ham United. I’m just not going to use my credit card and ID on some janky Jamaican server run by Boris and Natasha that, for all I know, is set up to pay out 30% returns – or MAY NEVER HONOUR MY REQUEST TO CASH OUT.

McBookie does business in Scotland using a license granted by the UK Gambling Commission, so it has to be squeaky clean, and it settles any bet disputes through an independent third party, the IBAS. Withdrawls take, on average, two days.

Trust Thing solved.

SOCIAL SPORTS BETTING

In the same way free online poker sites lure in users that might eventually place real money on games, FansUnite’s social sports betting allows users to sign up quickly (took me three seconds) and place ‘units’ on sports bets with a view to showing others in your circle how smart you are. The company says there are 30,000 members on the site at social.fansunite.com, and that may be true, but they’re certainly not all there playing today.

If this was all FansUnite had to show for itself, I’d be disappointed. As a tool that adds to what McBookie has built, I can see a lot to like about FansUnite’s social gambling platform, but there’s work to be done to make it something that’ll turn heads. Jump on if you want to see my bets for this weekend’s UFC event if you like but, also, don’t if you’re looking for a thriving, finished, gambling community. It’s not there yet.

FansUnite wants to pipeline the users from the social side to their B2C sportsbook site (currently being fitted out), where they figure they’ll make great dough. These tools could supercharge the McBookie side and help ramp up revenues from that side or they could generate their own, or they could sell access to them to others in the market – the simple fact of the matter is that there’s a lot of potential revenue to be had, and the McBookie acquisition is already getting at it.

FansUnite has made small investments in third party companies where there might be a vertical integration opportunity, such as a minority investment in an E-Sports tournament house, a loan to mobile game publisher, and a piece of Vancouver-based poker startup, www.Cash.Live.

Actually, they didn’t. Those investments were made by Victory Square (VST.C), and subsequently sold to FansUnite in April 2020 in return for a stake in the company.

What’s to follow?

Well, one might expect there’s a bit of news banked up behind today’s go public date, so I’d expect the company to be busy in the weeks ahead. The company debuted right at the price that they raised money at before going public, so that’s a decent entry, considering the greater markets are toilet right now.

Talking to CEO Darius Eghdami yesterday, he’s not hiding the fact that he wants to acquire more pieces of the puzzle rather than build them, and that shares will be the currency he uses to do that. In the online gambling business, buying market share can be a lot more efficient than building it, and if those purchases come with gambling licenses, all the better.

I appreciate Darius’ tendency to under-hype rather than run off the deep end, and the guys who put this deal together generally play nice. Trust is important, and I trust these guys to keep doing what they promised, and build out a real revenue generating business that doesn’t cut corners.

Oh. They’re also, in Darius’ words, “not an e-sports company,” though they’ll certainly do business in that space.

Gotta respect that.

— Chris Parry

FULL DISCLOSURE: FansUnite is an Equity.Guru marketing client. Welcome aboard, bois!

 

 

 

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