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Online gambling giant Entain to acquire Seattle esports betting startup Unikrn

Entain, one of the world’s largest sports betting and gaming companies, announced Thursday that it has agreed to acquire Unikrn, a Seattle startup that operates an esports betting platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founded in 2014, Unikrn was backed by celebrity investors including Mark Cuban and Ashton Kutcher. It allows people to bet on esports matches in games such as League of Legends or Counter-Strike much like they do with traditional sports.

Entain owns a bevy of online brands such as bwin and Ladbrokes across sports betting, casino, poker, and bingo games. It processed more than $16 billion of sports wagers in 2020, and employs more than 24,000 people worldwide across 20 offices.

Unikrn is temporarily halting its services as the deal is completed.

Rahul Sood, who previously led Microsoft Ventures, and tech vet Karl Flores founded the company. Flores took over for Sood as CEO last year, and will join Entain along with Unikrn’s other employees. The company has around 40 employees, according to LinkedIn.

Sood told GeekWire he will remain in Seattle and is looking for a new opportunity.

“It’s been a fun journey with celebrations, challenges, and tons of happiness,” Sood told GeekWire. “I’m excited about the future of Unikrn and Entain, and I’m gonna start looking for something cool to do again.”

Entain said it has hired former Twitch exec Justin Dellario to lead esports operations.

“One exciting opportunity is the growing esports skill-based wagering market,” Entain CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen said in a statement. “We are building the first scalable platform to address this market and I am delighted that Justin Dellario is joining us to lead our growth in this new area.”

Entain estimates that esports wagering and social casino-related markets could add $20 billion in addressable market share by 2025.

Unikrn also raised $31 million for an initial coin offering four years ago, but ran into legal trouble. Earlier this year the company paid a $6.1 million fine and was forced to disable its UnikoinGold (UKG) cryptocurrency to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it conducted an unregistered initial coin offering in violation of federal securities laws.

In 2018, Unikrn was sued on allegations that the company skirted federal regulations during the initial coin offering, or ICO.

Unikrn raised $10 million as part of an equity round in 2014. Other private backers included Advancit Capital, Freelands Group, 500 Startups, Indicator Ventures, Tabcorp, and now-closed Binary Capital.

https://www.geekwire.com/2021/online-gambling-giant-entain-acquire-seattle-esports-betting-startup-unikrn/

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