Q&A: Kindred on plans for Pennsylvania and expanding its US operations

Kindred’s SVP USA Manuel Stan discusses the firm’s move into its new New York office space, the upcoming sportsbook launch in NJ and PA and looking further afield

After debuting its first US product in New Jersey this week, Kindred’s US business is in the middle of a key transitional phase as it prepares to move into a new office space in New York.

Elsewhere, the firm is soon to launch its Pennsylvania casino product, secure an office space in New Jersey, grow its headcount from 13 to 30 and consider new states to move into.

The hotly anticipated sportsbook launch in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania is also on the cards, although SVP USA Manuel Stan says Kindred is still some way off the launch.

The firm is also plotting its first Kambi-powered Unibet retail sportsbook in Mohegan Sun’s PA venue.

EGR NA: What are the latest movements for Kindred’s US business?

Manuel Stan (MS): We are moving into our own office at the end of June as we are 13 people now and then the plan is to grow to 30 by the end of the year. After New Jersey, the next state for us to launch in will be Pennsylvania. The office here in New York is mainly marketing and commercial staffers, although we also have some compliance functions. At some point we’ll open an office in New Jersey that will house customer services and so on. That office will support both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. New Jersey regulations require for customer support and compliance to be based in New Jersey but in Pennsylvania that is not a requirement. That will be located in south Jersey, somewhere close to Philadelphia.

EGR NA: Have any big hires been made in the last few months? How many staffers have relocated from Europe?

MS: I think of the 13 people, three came from Europe including myself and two others. The others were hired locally. Our VP of regulatory affairs A J Koehn is our most senior person here and she has been the one responsible for our launch in New Jersey. She’s the main point of contact for the regulators. She’s been in the industry for a while having come from Pala Interactive and GAN.

The ratio for staff going forward will be likely 80 – 90% local talent and then we will bring in some people from Europe. Moving into sportsbook there are fewer options in terms of strong local experience.

EGR NA: What was the strategy behind launching the NJ casino first and moving into Pennsylvania next? What’s next on the agenda and when can we expect sportsbook to be launched?

MS: The reason behind the casino-first launch was because most of the integrations were already in place via our partnership with Scientific Games and the sportsbook integration with Kambi is still being worked on. As you can imagine all operators are aiming to go live before the football season which starts at the end of August and we are no different. The plan is to launch very soon but we have no official date to be communicated yet.

The casino product will be slightly different [in Pennsylvania] as we are not using Scientific Games’ casino platform. [Sportsbook] timelines are not public yet but as I said everyone is targeting the beginning of the NFL season, although that’s hard for us because we are already in June. The difference will be that we will have the first Unibet retail sportsbook lounge in the Mohegan Sun casino in Pennsylvania, which we don’t have anywhere in Europe or New Jersey. That will be powered by Kambi.

EGR NA: Why did Kindred decide to operate via its Unibet brand in the US?

MS: It’s our flagship brand and the only one that we have in all the markets we operate in, that’s 20 plus markets. The second reason is its our only sportsbook brand while all the others are casino-first. In the US, because of regulation all the new markets after New Jersey and Pennsylvania are looking at sportsbook first and as it’s our only sportsbook and international brand it was an easy choice.

EGR NA: Where are you looking beyond Pennsylvania and New Jersey?

MS: As we said from the beginning, every new state that regulates, we will consider. The legislative session is finishing soon for most of the states so don’t expect many changes until next year. At the moment we have the Midwest having the most movement. Indiana and Iowa are both regulating in a very good way with taxes below 10% and a good number of skins. Those are definitely for us.

Illinois is regulating in a less positive way unfortunately, blocking the access for online operators for the next 18 – 21 months. Tennessee is interesting as there’s no requirement to partner with a casino, although the tax level is a bit high which makes it hard for it to be profitable.

EGR NA: Do you think it’s likely Kindred will renew its deal with Scientific Games after the three-year agreement?

MS: The long-term plan is to be on our own platform. Scientific Games has been a good partner and we’ll see how the relationship develops but our long-term plan is to have our own platform in the US as we do in all our European markets and Australia.

Interview | Kindred Group | Launches | New Jersey | Pennsylvania | Sports betting | Strategy | Unibet