Every year since the launch of AskGamblers Casino Complaint Service (AGCCS) in 2009, AskGamblers has celebrated milestones in regards to the amount of money successfully returned to affected players.

Less than a year after having crossed the 50 million mark, AskGamblers has officially surpassed the historic amount of $60 million of unpaid, delayed or unfairly retained money.

Dijana Radunovic, general manager at AskGamblers, has commented on the record-breaking amount and the work AGCCS has done in the past year: “As always, our Support team has worked tirelessly to process and review all the complaints we receive, so to see the success being reflected in such a staggering sum is rewarding all on its own.

“We are thankful that the AskGamblers players have put so much trust in us and, in turn, we will continue to be there for them. Remember: our doors are always open!”

In total, the team has received over 78,000 complaints so far, processed more than 25,800 complaints, and successfully resolved over 20,000 complaints.

If you too are experiencing any issues with an online casino, please read the official Casino Complaint Submission Guidelines and feel free to file a complaint through the AskGamblers Casino Complaint Service.

About AskGamblers

AskGamblers.com strives to provide current, objective, and accurate information and guide its users towards a safe gaming experience.

The way we deliver our services, from the online casino, slot, and bonus reviews to our trusted Casino Complaint Service, is best described by our motto: “Get the truth. Then play.”

In an insightful earnings call following Catena Media’s Q3 2023 results, CEO Michael Daly delved into the factors behind the sale of the AskGamblers brand to GiG.

Daly faced a grilling question about AskGamblers’ growth and revenue surge under GiG’s new leadership.

Catena Media sold AskGamblers, its flagship brand, to GiG earlier this year for €45m as part of its now completed strategic review

NEXT.io understands Catena Media had initially targeted a higher sale price of €70m to €80m.

However, sources familiar with the process indicated that potential buyers had raised concerns about AskGamblers’ exposure to grey markets.

Since acquiring AskGamblers, GiG has repeatedly highlighted the brand’s “excellent performance”.

In Q3 2023, GiG’s affiliate division, GiG Media, achieved all-time high revenue of €22.5m, which marked 12 consecutive quarters of record growth for the division. 

The company said the AskGamblers brand was “thriving” following the takeover.

Comparing Q3 2023 to the run rate in February 2023, both player intake and revenues were up by around 45%, GiG announced last week. 

Grey market exposure

While Daly refused to comment on GiG’s strategy, he mentioned that Catena Media could have boosted AskGamblers’ growth by targeting previously untapped markets, despite facing regulatory hurdles.

He revealed that Catena Media had received “letters” from authorities in unregulated markets and decided to stop targeting those markets.

However, he admitted that focusing on those markets could have led to “significant growth.”

Splitting the business?

Daly said the business contemplated the idea of splitting the company, with one division focused on regulated markets and another on grey or unregulated markets.

However, he explained this split might not have aligned with investor preferences and could have led to greater exposure in risk-associated markets. 

Eventually, Catena chose to sell the product and pivot towards regulated markets, primarily in America.

Daly emphasised the different perspectives held by iGaming companies regarding regulated and unregulated markets and what might be deemed stable and sustainable for their operations.

He said that Catena Media’s focus on regulated markets, which it considers sustainable, prevents the firm from engaging in activities or targeting markets labelled as grey or black, he said. This “does not jeopardise” its licences, he added.

“So, that’s what we couldn’t do. What they are doing specifically, you’ll have to ask them,” he concluded. 

Catena Media has agreed to sell its Italy-facing online sports betting and casino assets for €19.8m to two different undisclosed buyers. 

The transactions mark the group’s exit from the Italian market. 

One of the transactions has completed, while the other is due to complete in Q4 2023. 

The aggregate purchase prices for the sales are paid in three tranches: €12.8m in Q4 2023, €3.5m in Q4 2024, and €3.5m in Q2 2025.

Sale proceeds will primarily be used to repay debt, thereby reducing Catena Media’s leverage ratio. 

The transactions will give rise to an impairment charge of €2.7m.

Catena Media’s Italian sports betting and casino brands generated combined revenue in the 12 months to September 2023 of approximately €7.8m, as well as EBITDA of €3.4m.

Catena Media CEO Michael Daly stated: “We are pleased today to have secured a positive outcome for our Italian sports betting and casino brands. We believe their new ownerships will provide them with the right environment to prosper and grow. 

“The sales further sharpen our strategic focus and strengthen our financial position, allowing us to streamline operations further and redeploy capital into our core areas as we double down on capturing expanding opportunities in regulated markets in the Americas.”

Strategic review completed

The sale of the Italian assets marks the end of Catena Media’s strategic review, which the group initiated in May 2022. 

Throughout the past 18 months, Catena Media has sold several brands, including its former flagship brand AskGamblers, which was acquired by GiG for €45m.

The firm also sold its UK and Australian sports betting brands for €6m.

The affiliate said once the proceeds of all asset sales have been fully received, the divestments executed as part of the review will raise a total of approximately €76m. 

In addition, the strategic review resulted in annualised cost savings of around €3.8 to €4.2m, largely through streamlining support functions in the group’s European operations.

US focus

This realignment, the business said, reflects “Catena Media’s belief that stable, regulated markets offer the best framework for long-term engagement and sustainable growth over time”.

Daly added: “Today marks the completion of our transition into a group with a crystal-clear focus on stable, regulated markets, notably in the Americas.

“The divestments we have made have improved our financial position significantly, and now that the streamlining process is complete, we can devote our full resources and attention to capturing the long-term growth opportunity we see ahead.”

Catena Media also reported a 28% year-on-year revenue decrease to €15.9m in Q3, primarily due to the strategic transition of some contracts in North America from CPA to revenue share.

As a result, the group’s stock fell more than 20% in the early hours of trading.

Traditionally, AskGamblers hosts a Charity Month every year several months after the AskGamblers Awards and Charity Night auction take place. This year, the €75,000 raised during Charity Night will be diverted to two organisations: the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and UNICEF.

More specifically, €40,000 will be diverted to the Danish Refugee Council whose activities are aimed at enhancing child-friendly spaces (CFS) services in Tanzania’s Nduta and Nyarugusu refugee camps.

Additionally, €35,000 will be diverted to UNICEF’s project Investing in Core Resources for Core Results for Children in Serbia whose aim is to help the most disadvantaged children living in large families, rural households, and Roma settlements.

More precisely, the funds will be used to equip kindergartens or assistive technology for early intervention centres. The goal is to make a positive impact on children’s lives.

The AskGamblers Charity Month wouldn’t be possible without our partners’ generous contributions: Bitstarz Casino Affiliates, Boomerang Partners, Mate Affiliates, Campeon Affiliates, V.Partners, 7StarsPartners, Boho Affiliates, N1 Partners, Spinwise Partners, and Atlas SEO.

Denis Ristić, general manager at AskGamblers has expressed his gratitude to all who contributed to raising the record-breaking sum: “Our partners’ generosity has made it possible for us to continue raising donations as part of our AskGamblers Awards tradition.

“We are extremely grateful for each contribution made during the Charity Night and the fact that we broke a record this year speaks volumes. Thank you for making Charity Month possible and we hope to see you again next year!”

Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) reported all-time high revenue across both of its core business segments in Q1 2023, as it seeks to “revitalise” the AskGamblers brand it acquired from Catena Media in January.

Topline numbers

Q1 2023 revenue came to an all-time high of €28.4m, up 48.7% year-on-year. GiG said that 19% of the revenue growth was organic while the rest was driven by its acquired businesses.

Of the total revenue, €18.4m came from the firm’s GiG Media division, up 30.5%, with the platform and sportsbook division generating the remaining €10m, double the €5m it generated in Q1 2022.

Growth in the Media division was driven by a 59% increase in first time depositors (FTDs), at 110,800.

Adjusted EBITDA across the business was €11.7m, up 74.6%, on an adjusted EBITDA margin of 41.4%, up from 35.1%.

EBIT, meanwhile, totalled €5.6m, up 93.1% from €2.9m.

Net profit for the quarter came to €3.7m, up from €1.1m in the prior-year comparative period.

News nugget

Arguably the biggest change during the quarter was the firm’s acquisition of AskGamblers from Catena Media, which completed in January.

Since then, plans have been implemented to “revitalise” the brand, which has continued to grow on a month-by-month basis, GiG said.

In other news relating to its acquired businesses, GiG also completed the migration of its legacy sportsbook software onto the Sportnco solution, following a technical integration process which started after acquiring the business in April 2022.

GiG also signed a number of new agreements during the quarter which will help to grow the business going forward.

It expanded an existing commercial partnership with News Corp UK & Ireland, allowing it to enter the Irish market with casino and sports betting content.

The platform and sportsbook division also signed eight new agreements during the quarter, including four in Latam, three in Europe and one in North America.

Those agreements helped bring the total number of brands live with GiG to 60 by the end of the quarter, while the business has 21 further brands in its integration pipeline and is also poised for further expansion in the US, after being awarded licences to deploy its products in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Finally, the business launched its Enterprise Solution during the quarter and entered into its first contract for that product.

The Enterprise Solution complements GiG’s SaaS licensing model “by providing technological and operational autonomy to clients wishing to modify, enhance or build upon GiG’s existing application,” the business said.

The first contract signed with the new product has an average annual value materially above current averages for GiG’s SaaS contracts, it added.

Best quote

“It’s a very big and important lift. We said at the beginning that we would do it aimed towards flawless execution, not rushing it through time. And that was exhibited by our largest customer being migrated with zero downtime.”
– GiG CEO Richard Brown on the migration of clients from GiG’s legacy sportsbook platform onto its acquired Sportnco technology

Best question

Regarding the launch of GiG’s new customisable Enterprise Solution, Redeye analyst Hjalmar Ahlberg asked CEO Richard Brown how the market size for that product compares to that of GiG’s regular client base.

In response, Brown said that was something the business is currently trying to map out.

“There’s definitely a demand for this kind of solution, and this normally tends to be from larger, more sophisticated or more mature operators who have a technological ability themselves, have a really clear vision and know exactly how to execute upon that both technically and operationally. 

“So I think that the physical number of those opportunities is probably less than the software as a service structure, but the materiality of those contracts tends to be larger as well.

“We’ve seen demand [for a more customisable solution] arising, but we don’t think in the platform and sportsbook business that anybody is really addressing it properly.

“So around two years ago, we started building a technological solution that would be perfectly catered towards enabling people to really build on top.”

Current outlook and trading

Following the end of the reporting period, “April has developed positively,” GiG said, with monthly revenue up around 30% compared to the same period last year. 

CEO Brown said the business was “very pleased” with the growth rate, given that numbers from Sportnco were integrated into last April’s results following completion of the acquisition on the first day of the month.

In the Platform and Sportsbook segment, GiG said it continues to add new clients each quarter, helping to build a sustainable and recurring SaaS revenue stream.

The launch of its Enterprise Solution is expected to bolster that revenue, while the full effects of cost initiatives taken in 2022 are also expected to be seen over the next quarters, with growing contributions from the SaaS segment.

A plan to split the business off into its separate divisions is also underway, in order to “optimise growth opportunities and ensure each business can benefit from the strategic and financial flexibility of their distinctive business models.”

Planning for the split has begun and is expected to continue throughout 2023, with a focus on outlining the strategic and operational objectives which need to be achieved before executing.

Looking forward, the business aims to achieve annual organic revenue growth in the region of 20%, alongside an EBITDA margin in excess of 50% during 2024.

Catena Media revenue grew 15% to €27.4m in Q4 2022, while the sale of its AskGamblers business to GiG has freed up resources for future acquisitions.

Topline numbers

In Q4 2022, revenue from continuing operations was €27.4m, which represents a 15% year-on-year increase.

North America accounted for 78% of total revenue as the region grew by 31% year-on-year to €21.5m.

Adjusted EBITDA from the group’s continuing operations increased by 14% to €12.3m, up from €10.8m in Q4 2021.

That corresponds to an adjusted EBITDA margin of 45%.

For full-year 2022, revenue from continuing operations was €110.1m, an increase of 7% compared to 2021.

In contrast, adjusted EBITDA from continuing operations decreased by 16% to €50.1m, at a margin of 46%.

News nugget 

Catena Media confirmed its commitment to regulated market growth and shared some more insights into its strategic priorities for 2023.

CEO Michael Daly said the sale of its AskGamblers brand to GiG had freed up resources for M&A and organic investment without taking on excessive levels of debt.

Daly said: “AskGamblers is a solid business with healthy margins. However, the accelerating trend towards market regulation led us to conclude that the brand, which partly addresses non-regulated grey markets, would enjoy better development prospects under new ownership.”

Catena Media added that following the completion of a strategic review first announced in May 2022, the business “will positively evaluate M&A investments to further strengthen its position in strategic markets.”

The firm also revealed in its report that it had divested its Financial Trading segment via a management buyout at the end of January 2023.

Daly explained that “shifts in the global sports betting industry and in various trading markets led Financial Trading to become an under-appreciated part of the Catena Media portfolio”.

He added: “Over time, we ceased to have the bandwidth or parameters to maximise the business’ potential under our ownership.”

Daly said the company now has “the ability to invest flexibly into newly regulated markets in different regions”.

“At present, those opportunities are concentrated in North America and it is our firm belief that the US and Canada offer the best investment case for the company and its shareholders in current conditions,” he said.

Best quote

Catena Media CEO Michael Daly: “Some 90% of revenue from continuing operations now comes from regulated markets. We are nevertheless not averse to investing in markets that offer stable and predictable operating conditions, even if they are not yet regulated. One example is Japan, which operates a tolerant approach to online casino and where we are committed to expanding our already-significant market presence.”

Best question

Analyst Oscar Rönnkvist from AGB Sundal pointed to Catena Media’s recent trading update that projected adjusted EBITDA from continuing operations of €10.8m. However, the company actually reported adjusted EBITDA of €12.3m.

Rönnkvist asked about the cost reductions made to achieve this result.

In response, CFO Peter Messner said that Catena Media was not focused on faster cost-cutting measures, but was following the plan previously announced as part of its European restructuring and streamlining measures.

Messner further explained there were several elements to consider when comparing Q4 of the previous year to Q4 of 2022.

One element is that certain European grey market assets were divested at the end of Q3 2022, which distorts the year-over-year comparison. The divested Financial Trading segment also had a negative contribution that further deteriorated during the quarter.

Current trading & outlook

Despite a 19% increase in North American revenue in January 2023, group revenue from continuing operations decreased by 4%.

This outcome was not unexpected, Catena Media said, as the previous year saw record-breaking market launches that resulted in a 65% increase in North American revenue compared to January 2021.

In other news, the affiliate announced last month that third parties had expressed interest in acquiring the entire company. Today, Daly stated that he would not provide further details on the process but expected the company’s strategic review to be concluded in 2023.

Meanwhile, the affiliate has initiated the process of hiring a new CFO as Messner prepares to leave his current position.

Catena Media’s revenue from the North American market has risen 31% year-on-year to reach €21.5m during Q4 2022.

However, according to preliminary figures released today (19 January), the affiliate giant’s total revenue was down. The company generated €31.5m in Q4 of last year, a slight decrease from the €31.9m recorded in Q4 2021.

The company expects a total adjusted EBITDA of €12.7m, corresponding to a margin of 40%, as compared to €13.2m and 41% respectively in the previous year.

Catena Media is currently going through a period of change and reorganisation after revealing in mid-2022 that it wants to divest its European assets to focus on growth in the US, Asia-Pacific and Latam markets.

In December 2022, Catena Media sold its flagship website AskGamblers and several smaller domains to Gaming Innovation Group (GiG)for €45m.

This was followed by the news earlier in January that that third parties have shown interest in acquiring the entire company.

Revenue from continuing operations

During the quarter, the group generated total revenue from ‘continued operations’ of €27.4m, a 15% increase year-on-year.

This figure does not include revenue generated by the discontinued operations of AskGamblers, and related brands, as well as the Financial Trading segment, which is currently up for sale.

Adjusted EBITDA from continuing operations, excluding items affecting comparability, is expected to reach €10.8m, up 14% year-on-year and representing a margin of 39%.

Catena Media CEO Michael Daly: “We successfully delivered on our strategy of further expansion in North America while completing our strategic review with the sale of AskGamblers and related assets.”

The North American market accounted for 78% of group revenue from continuing operations during the quarter.

Commenting on the results, Catena Media CEO Michael Daly said: “It is pleasing to see such strong performance from our core North American business in Q4.

“We gained uplift from the launch of licensed online sports betting in Maryland in November and a strong run-in to the go-live for online sports betting in Ohio on January 1, 2023, which delivered our strongest ever launch period for a US state sportsbook launch.

“We successfully delivered on our strategy of further expansion in North America while completing our strategic review with the sale of AskGamblers and related assets. These preliminary results reaffirm our strategy and provide a solid platform as we enter 2023,” he added.

Moreover, Catena Media reported a reduction in operating profit due to non-cash impairment charges on goodwill of €7.3m and on other intangible assets of €9.9m.

The company said these write-downs relate to the current restructuring measures.

Catena Media has confirmed that third parties have shown interest in acquiring the entire company.

The news has led to a significant increase in the value of the company’s shares, with the stock price rising by more than 20% at the time of writing.

The Malta-based company said it has mandated financial adviser Carnegie Investment Bank to help assess strategic options and engage in conversations with third parties who have expressed interest in acquiring certain assets, but also in taking over the entire business.

In December 2022, GiG struck a €45m deal to acquire the casino affiliate’s flagship website AskGamblers and several smaller domains.

At that time, Catena Media also revealed that third parties had shown an interest in acquiring its financial trading business.

The firm has now revealed that during ongoing discussions, third parties have indicated a desire to acquire all the remaining assets of the group in a strategic transaction, or through a public tender offer for the group.

No bid received

Catena Media said it has not yet received any firm or indicative bids for the company or any of its assets.

When speaking to iGaming NEXT, Catena Media CFO Peter Messner emphasised the company’s board would evaluate all viable options when, and if, the interest translates into any firm or indicative bid.

He further added that the timeline for a process, if there should be one, cannot be determined as of now and will depend on the outcome of any evaluation of strategic options.

Catena Media first embarked on a strategic review of its business in May 2022.

Subsequently, in August, the firm expanded the scope of its review to include its European sports betting and casino assets in order to redirect resources towards higher margin growth opportunities in the US market, as well as the Asia-Pacific and Latam regions.

In its Q3 2022 financial results, Catena Media posted a 29% decline in adjusted EBITDA to €11.7m and a 2% year-on-year revenue decrease to €32.3m, which it mainly attributed to worsening macro-economic conditions.

Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) has struck a €45m deal to acquire the casino affiliate website AskGamblers and several smaller domains from Catena Media.

Of the total consideration, GiG will pay €20m in cash on closing, €10m 12 months after closing and the €15m balance 24 months after closing.

The transaction, which includes a deal for JohnSlots and NewCasinos as well as AskGamblers, is expected to be completed in Q1 2023.

At the time of writing, shares in GiG were up nearly 6%, while Catena Media’s share price fell by 1.7%.

iGaming NEXT understands Catena Media was initially targeting a higher sale price in the region of €70m to €80m as little as six months ago.

Catena Media first announced its intention to sell its flagship online casino affiliate brand AskGamblers in May 2022 when it launched a strategic review of its business.

In August, the Malta-based affiliate said it has also included its European sports betting and casino assets that are separate to AskGamblers in its review to free up resources from its legacy European assets to focus on higher margin growth opportunities in the US, Asia-Pacific and Latam markets.

GiG’s affiliate business meanwhile has expanded steadily. In Q3 2022, GiG Media generated revenue of €15.1m, an increase of 35% year-on-year, or 2% compared to the previous quarter in 2022.

With this acquisition, GiG Media said it aims to diversify its media business further and “cement its position in the industry as the leading casino affiliate”.

GiG CEO Richard Brown: “Combining the assets with GiG’s media technology and operational capabilities, provides us with a great opportunity to expand our global reach and to deliver a path for the brand to continue with its strong evolution.”

The acquired websites generated revenue of €12.9m in the first nine months of 2022 with an EBITDA of €8.4m.

Going forward, GiG expects to have an EBITDA margin between 60-70% from the acquired assets, which are expected to generate around 53,000 First Time Depositors (FTDs) in 2022.

GiG said the websites are strong in markets that are currently non-core markets for GiG Media, therefore expanding the company’s geographical reach. Previous suitors are understood to have questioned the grey market exposure of AskGamblers, according to sources familiar with the process.

Further to the revenue growth potential, GiG expects to realise operational synergies after the acquisition via the shared use of marketing technologies, business intelligence systems and key functions.

Commenting on the acquisition, GiG CEO Richard Brown said: “GiG is extremely excited to take over the premium AskGamblers brand from Catena.

“Combining the assets with GiG’s media technology and operational capabilities, provides us with a great opportunity to expand our global reach and to deliver a path for the brand to continue with its strong evolution.

“The expansion of our strategic position in conjunction with the deal structure gives the group another great blueprint for growth. We look forward to integrating the assets and current staff into Gaming Innovation Group,” he added.

The deal is structured by way of a Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) with GiG’s subsidiary Innovation Labs, which is part of GiG Media.

As part of the transaction, GiG will acquire two subsidiaries: Catena Publishing in Malta and Catena Media D.O.O. Beograd in Serbia that operate the AskGamblers brand and the associated online casino brands JohnSlots and NewCasinos.

These companies currently employ around 90 people, with 80% based in Serbia and 20% in Malta.

GiG will finance the initial consideration through a combination of own cash, a revolving credit facility (RCF) and a share issue.

Existing shareholders have committed to participate in the share issue and the RCF, securing sufficient financing to complete the transaction at closing.

Catena Media CEO Michael Daly: “We are now in an even stronger financial position and equipped to capture the exciting market opportunities ahead of us and to take steps to broaden Catena Media’s exposure and access to the US capital markets over time.”

Catena Media CEO Michael Daly commented: “Today’s agreement is a major step in our journey to focus the business on online sports betting and casino affiliation in high-growth, regulated markets in the Americas.

“I am confident that in GiG we have found a buyer that will provide a strong environment for AskGamblers and the other brands and their talented people to develop and grow,” he added.

In addition, Daly noted: “We are now in an even stronger financial position and equipped to capture the exciting market opportunities ahead of us and to take steps to broaden Catena Media’s exposure and access to the US capital markets over time.”

Catena Media said it intends to continue streamlining its business. This will involve further divesting from markets and assets, including the group’s Financial Trading brands, as well as the remaining European brands.

The affiliate further revealed that third parties have shown interest in acquiring the Financial Trading business and is currently evaluating its position.

Online casino affiliate and dispute mediation website ThePOGG.com has been put up for sale by its owner, Brand Streamers.

Brand Streamers first acquired ThePOGG in April 2022, with a view to rapidly expanding its footprint in North America’s regulated iGaming states.

But just a matter of months post-acquisition, Brand Streamers is now looking to offload the asset as part of a broader restructure of the business.

“The mission of Brand Streamers has always been to revolutionise gaming streaming in the US markets where we’ve already obtained over 20 US licences,” said Brand Streamers CEO Clas Dahlén in a statement.

“To most effectively achieve this objective, the board of directors has agreed that it would be advantageous to more tightly focus on our streaming objectives and restructure the business away from other areas.

“To this end we are now talking to several parties about the potential sale of ThePOGG,” he added. 

ThePOGG founder Duncan Garvie: “Integrity and trust have been at the core of everything I’ve worked to develop and I’m very proud of the achievements that we’ve made. It’s now time to pass the torch on to someone who can take the brand to the next level.”

ThePOGG was founded in 2011 by Duncan Garvie, and launched its Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service in 2012 to help manage player complaints against gambling operators.

Since launch, the ADR service said it has managed more than 6,500 player complaints as more than $7.5m was returned to players.

In 2017, ThePOGG also founded responsible gambling service BetBlocker, which provides free self-exclusion software to consumers.

“The brand’s achievements in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and responsible gambling are not only unique but have established it as an authority resource without parallel in the sector,” said Dahlén.

Brand Streamers’ comparison of ThePOGG and AskGamblers

Duncan Garvie, founder and ADR official of ThePOGG, added: “ThePOGG.com has been a work of passion for me for over a decade. 

“Integrity and trust have been at the core of everything I’ve worked to develop and I’m very proud of the achievements that we’ve made. It’s now time to pass the torch on to someone who can take the brand to the next level.”

In a sales pitch deck obtained by iGaming NEXT, Brand Streamers has drawn parallels between ThePOGG and Catena Media’s flagship AskGamblers brand, which has also been put up for sale

According to a November report from iGaming Business, Catena Media is now thought to have found a prospective buyer for AskGamblers and is expected to close the deal soon.

ThePOGG is likely to be for sale for a substantially lower asking price.