Down but Not Out: Entain’s Gamble on the Resurgence of Unikrn

After the SEC brought the hammer down on unikrn back in 2020 over an ICO mishap, it seemed as though the up-and-coming esports, iGaming and mobile sports betting platform was nearing its end. However, now that the site has the backing of Entain and esports veteran Justin Dellario (l.), the company looks to regain its position in the market and then some.

Down but Not Out: Entain’s Gamble on the Resurgence of Unikrn

In today’s market, it’s hard enough to build and maintain a successful business, but it’s even more difficult to do so in an up-and-coming industry with lots of stiff competition. Such is the quandary that iGaming, esports and mobile sports betting operators are faced with: how does one stand out and try new things while also building a reputation for reliability and sustained performance?

For unikrn, the answers to that question have not always been clear, but the ship looks to have righted itself in the last 18 to 24 months, and an established presence in some of the leading markets around the world now looks more attainable than ever.

As an early mover in the crypto space, the company, which first launched in 2015, raised a hefty $31 million back in 2017 through an initial coin offering (ICO) tied to its UnikoinGold token. That then attracted the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which alleged that the ICO was never properly registered.

The dispute ended in a $6.1 million fine in 2020 and the disabling of UnikoinGold, which, according to an SEC release, represented “substantially all” of the Seattle-based company’s assets at the time. Thus, the esports, sports betting and iGaming platform that was on the verge of establishing itself as a real player now sat dormant.

Enter Entain—in August of 2021, the global betting giant acquired the beleaguered platform for £50 million (US$61.39 million), a massive bet that in some ways represented a wager not just on unikrn itself, but on the esports and online betting industries as a whole.

Immediately upon acquiring the site, Entain placed renowned esports veteran Justin Dellario at the helm, with the goal of rebranding and re-establishing the platform to keep pace with an ever-evolving market.

Dellario explains that the site was taken offline upon acquisition in order to “give us the time needed to fully benefit from Entain’s scale and knowledge,” and notes that the change in leadership “set us up to reach countless potential players across the world through Entain’s infrastructure and regulatory relationships, as well as the backing of one of the most innovative and trusted operators in the entire industry.”

Since Dellario’s appointment, the site has relaunched in the Brazilian and Canadian markets (with the exception of Ontario), with more development planned for the future.

“It’s been a very exciting time here at the unikrn offices,” Dellario says. “We’re deeply invested in not only engaging with these markets, but also giving back to these communities and providing more than the transactional relationship that has become the status quo in our field. We recently partnered with Team Liquid to bring an innovative live event this April to fans in Brazil during which  they’ll have the chance to challenge real pro players and place bets on their matches throughout the event.”

Now that the site’s legal missteps have been cleared, the focus can now return to the offerings themselves, which are some of the most creative in the sector. Unikrn’s UMode, for instance, allows esports players to bet on themselves, by placing performance-based props on their own play before matches start.

Dellario says that the feature is now available for eligible players across some of the most popular titles—including Fortnite, League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive—and the company is “actively pursuing relationships with publishers” of other top-selling games moving forward.

“Competitive integrity is always a priority when building our products, so we made sure that any UMode market we offer will encourage players to do their best to help their team succeed,” Dellario explains. “You cannot bet on yourself to lose, and the additional stats that we encourage players to reach all serve towards the larger end of achieving victory.”

Additionally, unikrn has also made waves with its entertainment-related betting lines, which serve as an interesting and lighthearted way to enjoy pop culture. Back in January, the site geared up for the launch of the horror movie M3GAN by setting an over/under on how many kills the possessed android-like doll would rack up over the course of the film (the line closed at 12.5 and went substantially under, only registering 5).

Dellario says that the pop culture betting ”is an initiative that we’re very excited about and will be an ongoing fixture for unikrn moving forward. We’ll be looking to make markets about many upcoming shows and feature films, including The Last of Us season finale and Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves among others.”

Moving forward, as unikrn looks to continue its ongoing evolution, Dellario posits that above all, the global growth of esports is the most important factor to the platform’s overall success.

“There are various assessments of the exact size of this (esports) market, but here’s where there is no ambiguity: the esports market is growing and is still in its relative infancy,” he says. “We feel great about where the industry is going and the role we play in helping it get there. We believe that betting is a valuable form of entertainment and allows players to raise the stakes of their game playing or viewing experience. There will always be people interested in betting, and we want our platform to give them the opportunity to do so safely.”