Entain boss says U.S. JV played role in sinking $22 bln DraftKings deal talks

Entain’s (ENT.L) U.S. online sportsbook venture BetMGM was one of the reasons why DraftKings’ (DKNG.O) $22 billion offer to buy the British sports betting and gambling firm fell through last month, Entain’s boss told Reuters on Wednesday.

BetMGM, a U.S. rival to DraftKings, is jointly owned by Entain and NYSE-listed casino group MGM (MGM.N).

MGM’s chief had said he would have sought to take control of BetMGM if DraftKings had agreed to buy Entain, a deal which would have made the combined group a competitor to MGM in the United States.

The complication was long viewed as a barrier to DraftKings’ pursuit of Entain, but Entain Chief Executive Officer Jette Nygaard-Andersen’s remarks are the first public admission from either party that the venture played a role in deal talks ending.

“We have always been clear that the joint venture (with MGM) provides exclusivity for both parties for any activities involving sports betting and gaming in the United States,” Nygaard-Andersen said in an interview. “I think that played a role here but any transaction of this size is complicated.”

Both Entain, the owner of Ladbrokes betting shops as well as many online betting brands, and DraftKings have expressed confidence in their individual prospects.

Dealmaking in the betting industry has been heating up this year as the United States opens up to sports betting and companies look to tap into the expertise of companies forged in more developed gambling markets such as Britain.

Separately, Nygaard-Andersen, among the few women bosses at British blue-chip groups, said Entain was launching a diversity initiative to train or educate 1 million people by 2030 as part of a 100-million-pound ($135 million) commitment.

FTSE 100-listed Entain said the initiative was aimed at candidates from under-represented groups to pursue careers in technology.