Business

Investors are getting another chance to tap into the sports betting craze

Posted October 27, 2020 9:32 a.m. EDT

— Investors may soon have another way to back the fast growing sports betting market in the United States.

London-based Genius Sports and dMY Technology Group, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) listed on the New York Stock Exchange, on Tuesday announced plans to merge. SPACs, which give companies an alternative path to an IPO, have soared in popularity recently.

The deal values the UK betting data firm at $1.5 billion, the companies said in a statement. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of next year and includes a $330 million investment by institutional and industry investors.

The combined business plans to "accelerate its US and international expansion through organic growth and strategic acquisitions," the companies added.

Genius Sports collects live sports data and provides it to bookmakers around the world. The company works with organizations such as the English Premier League, the PGA Tour and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which oversees college sports the United States.

Sports betting was booming in the United States even before the pandemic hit and is now legal in nearly two dozen states following a Supreme Court ruling in 2018. While lockdowns severely disrupted large sports events, the months long shutdown of casinos helped boost demand for online gambling and electronic sports, which feature players competing in video games.

That has spurred stock market listings and dealmaking in the sector. The board of UK gambling company William Hill last month accepted a takeover bid from Caesars Entertainment. Sports betting and online gaming represents "one of the largest areas of growth in the US gaming industry," according to Caesars.

The Genius Sports deal would be the largest acquisition of a European company by a US-listed SPAC this year, according to Dealogic. dMY went public in August, raising $240 million to do deals in the consumer technology space and adding its name to a string of SPAC listings.

SPACs, which are also sometimes referred to as "blank-check" firms, are shell companies with no or limited operating assets that raise capital through an initial public offering for the purpose of buying existing businesses. DraftKings, the online sports betting firm and fantasy sports operator, used this route to go public in April.

In the first eight months of this year, SPACs raised over $33 billion across 81 IPOs, more than double the proceeds raised in 2019, according to Deloitte. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman are among high profile individuals who have raised capital this way.

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