In a heavily saturated UK market, BetMGM’s entry in 2023 has certainly made a splash. Sam Behar, BetMGM’s UK director, believes the key to the operator’s early success is bringing this unique Las Vegas experience across the Atlantic.
BetMGM launched to great fanfare in the UK in partnership with MGM-owned LeoVegas in August, and five months later the results speak for themselves.
With a series of eye-catching sponsorships that have really boosted BetMGM’s reputation in the UK, its ties to Las Vegas have been put on display for all to see. Despite the high expectations, BetMGM still managed to exceed Behar’s initial high expectations.
“It’s been an incredible first five months after entering the UK – especially given the way we did it,” says Behar. “We had a unique ambition to make things work and we definitely created a lot of buzz, which is great.
“Of course we always believed that – but it has had a much greater impact than even we could have expected and although we had high hopes, we have exceeded those expectations. It’s fair to say customers really like our product, particularly the Vegas experience we’ve brought to the UK.”
So how did BetMGM manage to make such a big impact in such a short amount of time? Research is the answer, but also a strong focus on providing what the UK market has been missing in recent years – entertainment and engagement for bettors.
“We are a very data-driven company – and we used a significant amount of data to make our decisions,” adds Behar. “We are seeing that players are particularly interested in our exclusive content, such as the MGM Grand Gamble slot, which is a very exciting development. This is particularly true given our position in the sports betting space.
“Being able to position things like this in the market means we are really able to engage customers. When you put it all together, you have so many options to reach customers across multiple industries.”
BetMGM brings Vegas to the UK
BetMGM has a highly iconic brand in the US and has particularly strong ties to Las Vegas, where the MGM Grand and the Bellagio continue to thrive.
However, Behar wants to emphasize BetMGM UK’s need to build its own distinct identity while maintaining the brand pillars that have made the company so successful in the US.
“Our aim is to adopt the US elements while building our own UK-based identity,” explains Behar. “Of course, customers really like the glitz and the Americana. Ultimately, our goal is to create a new golden era in the iGaming space.
“We want to bring something bigger, bolder and more exciting to Britain. We firmly believe this is one of the biggest launches the UK has seen in the last 15 years and we are here to make a difference.”
A typically pompous commercial featuring comedian Chris Rock and a lion on a golden speedboat cruising down the Thames marked BetMGM’s arrival in the UK and certainly made an impression. But for Behar, the ad also made clear what the BetMGM brand wants to achieve in the UK.
“Looking at our launch ad, I think overall it’s a pretty transparent gap that we believe we’re closing,” he continues. “No one is as entertaining as us. We believed that everyone needs a brand like ours.
“We want to do justice to everyone; Our aim is to create a product that can entertain the whole of the UK. In short, we want to provide an offer that others in the UK cannot.”
BetMGM’s product focus
Bringing out the best product possible is one of BetMGM UK’s main goals. What Behar calls a “golden offer” will allow the brand to better engage with UK customers – and help free them from the clutches of operators already established in the market.
“When we emerge with the best prices on the market as well as industry-leading promotions including Gold Prizes, Price Increases, Acca Bonuses and Golden Goals for the UK market – which offers the ability to predict six games across the Premier League with prize money of 2 million pounds (2.3 million euros/2.5 million US dollars), you can see why we strive to be the biggest in the UK.”
“Add to this our US background, along with our best-in-class mobile UX from LeoVegas, which has won multiple awards and is developed based on our in-house IP, and we start to have a real differentiator.”
“Add in our acquisition of studio Push Gaming last year, as well as our pricing and promotional plans – along with one of the best loyalty programs, and you can see how we are creating something special.”
Sponsoring and casino in focus
Entering a market as established as the UK can be challenging for operators as they attempt to compete with brands such as Paddy Power, Sky Bet and bet365.
But if you look at the sponsors that BetMGM has already acquired, it looks like Behar and Co. have already made a dent. Again, BetMGM aims to connect with not just the best, but also the most entertaining sports clubs and brands in the UK.
“We want to be as memorable as possible before the whistle blows,” Behar added. “We have contracts with Premier League clubs Manchester City, Wolves, Brighton, Aston Villa and Newcastle. The MGM brand can be seen in all of these stadiums.
“We are also the title sponsor of the Darts Premier League. This has been a deal we’ve been working on for a while and now seeing how popular darts is over Christmas at the World Cup, it’s easy to see how we want to gear ourselves up to provide the best possible entertainment while supporting British sport .”
BetMGM’s long casino history is a real differentiator for Behar, as the operator’s offering is the best in the UK.
Behar highlighted the BetMGM Millions jackpot, which is currently the largest online casino jackpot available in the world, as well as the Golden Wheel promotion, which offers players the chance to win a trip to Las Vegas.
“Without a doubt, the Vegas offering is a real strength of ours,” Behar said. “We see many different types of users engaging with our offering – and our brand strength opens up so many new audiences for this conversion.
“Once you combine entertainment with the classic element of Americana, you have every reason to also take advantage of sports, casino and the live element.”
BetMGM wants to shake up the British market
Yesterday’s rapid growth in the UK market has stalled somewhat after giants such as 888/William Hill and Bet365 released disappointing financial reports, reflecting a general stagnation in Europe.
In Behar’s view, the answer is that too many operators are neglecting the purpose of player entertainment and seeing a clear gap in the market for BetMGM to make a name for themselves.
“We can see that the UK has become very stale over the last five years and most blue-chip operators are behaving like financial services brands,” says Behar. “We’re changing that – and no one is as Vegas as we are.
“When you look at our legacy, it’s easy to see what a key differentiator this can be, or as we say, ‘What happens in Vegas is too good to stay in Vegas.'” We represent the golden era that made this city great, and we brought it here.”
This strategy is also proving fruitful, as Behar is confident that BetMGM’s early success will continue into 2024 and beyond as the company stays true to its principles of providing players with an entertaining experience.
“We have everything we need to be successful,” Behar added. “We have the strength of the brand and product as well as the ambition and capital to invest.
“We are very confident that our customers will enjoy the fantastic entertainment we provide and we are absolutely confident that the amazing success we have seen so far will continue.”
BetMGM is well-positioned to deal with the white paper uncertainty
The publication of the Gambling Law Review White Paper in April 2023 was a milestone for the UK industry. But the proposed introduction of affordability checks and betting limits sparked concerns among some about the future of British gambling.
For Behar, however, he still sees the UK as a market with great potential, with BetMGM well-placed to deal with new measures if they arise thanks to its close relationships with regulators and previous responsible gambling work.
“Given that we launched here six months ago, we definitely believe the UK is a growth market,” says Behar. “When you look at the market, it can certainly be described as saturated given the amount of operators we have here, but there is also a lot of potential as we have seen with the success of our launch.
“If you can work together within the framework set out by the Gambling Commission (GC), you can certainly be successful, just like we are.
“When it comes to testing affordability, we have taken a big step here and implemented this right from the start. We maintain a close relationship with both the GC and the Betting and Gaming Council and have a dedicated responsible gambling team working with our customers.
So how does BetMGM plan to build on an exciting first five months in the UK? For Behar, the answer is threefold: he wants to continue BetMGM’s product-led strategy to expand its engagement with customers and become one of “the UK’s best entertainment brands”.
“The first is to further strengthen our position in the UK – and expand the market share we have already acquired,” explained Behar.
“The second is to continually develop our product offering. At heart we are a technology company. A third of our group works in product and technology, and our mission is to ensure that everything we create is customer-centric.
“Thirdly, the acquisition of Push Gaming means we are uniquely positioned to grow and develop and have our own games studio to entertain the UK with proprietary content.
BetMGM is still in its infancy in the UK, but it’s fair to say the early signs have been positive, with fans seem to be drawn to the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas that Behar and BetMGM have brought with them.
Behar’s “Showtime” remark serves not only as an exciting statement of intent from BetMGM in the UK – but also as a reminder that the existing UK market may need to step up its ideas to match BetMGM’s entertainment factor.