Britain's Most Admired Companies: An interview with Entain's CFO

Entain took second place in Britain's Most Admired Companies 2021 and was the top rated in the leisure and hotels sector. The company's CFO and deputy CEO Rob Wood explains why.

Last Updated: 25 Jan 2022

The company

Entain plc is a FTSE 100 company and one of the world’s largest sports betting, gaming and interactive entertainment groups operating in the online and retail sector. It has grown rapidly in recent years through a series of mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures and operates through a number of brands such as Ladbrokes, Coral, FoxyBingo, bwin, Gala and, in the U.S, BetMGM, all of which operate via Entain’s proprietary technology platform.

The business has undergone a significant transition in the last 12 months. A new senior leadership team is driving forward an ambitious development strategy centred on growth and sustainability, with an equal focus on both, while a rebrand from GVC Holdings to Entain, announced in 2020, reflects the business’s aim to offer other forms of interactive entertainment alongside its core sports betting and gaming offer.

Entain also believes the most successful businesses in its sector will be the most sustainable and ESG is therefore a key element of its future vision and an area in which it believes everyone has a role to play.

A community approach

Entain’s CFO and deputy CEO Rob Wood has been with the business for close to a decade. The business’ approach to sustainability is based on four key areas: operating solely in regulated markets, leading on responsibility with a genuine commitment to caring about and protecting its customers, demonstrating best-in-class corporate governance and investing in people and communities.

“We need to look after our colleagues, customers and communities,” he says. “We created the Entain Foundation in 2019, where we have committed £100m over a five-year period to support a number of ESG causes, including sponsoring young athletes aspiring to compe at the Olympic Games through our partnership with the charity SportsAid.

We recently launched ‘Entain Sustain’, a dedicated ESG event, where we unveiled EnTrain, an initiative that aims to increase access to technology and improve our commitment to diversity, for one million people worldwide.”

One example of this is Entain’s support for Girls Who Code, an organisation which aims to close the gender gap with regards to technology. With 30% of technology roles at Entain held by women, Entain is already a leader in this field, but wants to see greater fairness in opportunities for all.

On the people front, Entain has invested in its employees’ health, with access to the Unmind platform, offering them resources to help with their physical and mental wellbeing. It is also in the process of reopening its head office in Stratford, London, which has been redesigned in line with new ways of working. When employees return to the office, the emphasis will be very much on collaboration and flexibility.

Responsibility in action

Entain has adopted a pioneering, technology-led approach to protecting its customers. Entain’s ARC (Advanced Responsibility and Care) initiative, which has been in development over the last 18 months, helps identify when customers are showing signs of harmful patterns of play, such as long sessions at night or increased stakes, and then guides them back to safety.

It recently shared first results from UK trials of ARC, which show success in over 90% of cases. “What we are doing differently is using our proprietary technology to take this thinking to another level – to predict these patterns of behaviour, so that we can detect any changes before they happen,” explains Wood.

“If we can use technology to prevent people from getting into difficulties, this would be an unbelievable success for the industry, and help to remove some of the negative perceptions associated with the sector. This is still some years away, but it is the direction we are heading in and we are also committed to sharing our methodology with our competitors.”

Opportunities in the regulated environment

Sports betting became legal in the US in 2018, and there is now the enticing prospect of the country becoming the largest regulated sports betting and iGaming market in the world.

Entain challenged itself to win a significant share of that market, and formed a joint venture with MGM Resorts – BetMGM, at the end of 2018. Fast forward three years and in that short space of time, it has established the business as the number two operator across sports betting and iGaming in the US, with a market share of more than 20%.

It now operates in 19 jurisdictions and ultimately expects to operate in around 40 states. Ultimately, it is looking to operate within 40 states. 
The underlying growth in online and sports betting, gaming and entertainment is huge and Entain says this will be the case for decades to come. Even with almost 30 markets where it has a presence today – not taking into account expansion into new territories or the US, the underlying growth in those markets, it says, is still phenomenal.

One of the key reasons for this, explains Wood, is that globally the sector is still 80% retail. For an online player, over the next decade or two, there will be a natural channel shift occurring, resulting in massive worldwide growth.

“If you can grow faster than anyone else, through better technology and better digital expertise, the growth opportunities are endless,” says Wood.

“Our core markets where we have existing operations represents the most valuable opportunity for growth, then there is the US and new markets too. We think there are another 50 territories around the world that are either regulated today or will soon be, where we do not yet have a presence.”

Looking to the future

Entain’s purpose is to bring moments of excitement into people’s lives. As well as developing gaming and sports betting capabilities, it is focused on other areas such as esports, social mobile gaming and skill-based gaming.

It is also investing in immersive AR and VR technologies and looking to expand the content it produces on its platform. It wants to be the disruptor rather than the disrupted and 2021 has been focused on delivering this impact in line with its new strategy.

Wood adds that it is fortunate in that while the Covid-19 pandemic had an adverse effect on the business, this was mostly felt on the retail side.
“We are first and foremost a technology and an online business, with a strong ESG focus,” he adds. “People are increasingly choosing where they work and what brands they want to engage with based on their social and environmental purpose. Our approach to ESG is not just based on ethical and moral reasons and the future sustainability of the industry, it’s also because it is the right thing to do for colleagues, customers and communities.”

Address: One New Change, 3rd Floor, London EC4M 9AF 
Employees: 24,000 (worldwide: 20 offices across five continents), 15,000 (UK)

Photograph by Brian Lloyd-Duckett


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