Grilla raises $3M for skill-based betting platform
Sharpr is a weekly newsletter covering the intersection of esports and betting
Hey everyone and welcome to the weekend (just about).
Quick update on my Nevada reporting from last week before jumping into things: The Nevada Gaming Commission, which was set to approve or deny regulatory amendments permitting esports betting yesterday (Jan. 26), did not discuss the topic during its meeting (as far as I’m able to tell).
Once able to confirm, I’ll provide a more thorough update on this story. But for now, let’s dig into this week’s content.
In this week’s edition of Sharpr…
Grilla raises $3M for skill-based betting platform.
SIS esports betting product arrives in Colorado.
Luckbox nets $2.2M in betting handle.
If this newsletter was forwarded to you, please consider subscribing.
Grilla raises $3M for skill-based betting platform
Miami-based Grilla has raised $3M in funding for its skill-based betting platform.
Grilla allows users to create their own tournaments where they can wager against others in player-versus-player matches or by putting money on other competitors. The platform allows users to compete in over 100 different games across PC, console, mobile, and VR systems.
The funding round was led by Tusk Venture Partners, early investors in FanDuel, Coinbase, and Bird.
Grilla has also formally launched its product following a successful beta phase where it claims it grew to more than 20,000 registered users.
The platform is available in 46 states, but can only legally operate real-money wagering in 39 states.
Grilla CEO Evan Kaylin says the company does not have approval from game publishers to operate real-money tournaments, though they are in “active dialogue” with a number of them. Kaylin affirms that Grilla is abiding by the community guidelines publishers have placed on their games and has yet to run into any trouble.
With that being said, community guidelines aren't exactly a watertight solution that can be relied on with much confidence. Publishers have stepped in to prevent betting on their IP in the past, and will continue to do so.
Grilla relies on its users to self-report match wins and loses, as well as “police any disagreements” or disputes in tournaments hosted on the platform. This is effectively how online amateur gaming tournament platforms have operated for years, but with real-money on the line, this could end up being problematic for both Grilla and its users without any automated features or administrative interventions, especially at scale.
Near-term plans include adding IRL sports and activities to the platform, such as golf, backgammon, chess, and basketball, as well as expanding into Canada.
🦈 Sharpr Take: There doesn’t seem to be anything new or proprietary about this product that differentiates it from the dozens of other online tournament platforms in the space.
Brands like Challenger, Matcherino, and 1v1Me are all effectively offering the same experience, so to claim that “there hasn't been a platform that allows non-professionals to monetize their skills” is a misleading statement.
It’s also not clear that peer-to-peer esports betting can generate a substantial amount of revenue, and the general feedback received throughout my reporting is that it certainly doesn’t scale. Crowdfunded tournaments seem like an even more abysmal opportunity, with little-to-no indication that there is actually material demand for a product like this in the market.
In the press release, Grilla says its platform will replace “archaic forms” of tracking games, such as spreadsheets, whiteboards, and cash boxes. If this claim was being made 20 years ago I’d probably agree here, but online bracketing platforms have been around for decades, so to say gamers are going to make the switch from whiteboards is a little distorted.
The same can be said for its forthcoming expansion into IRL sports and activities. I’m doubtful two friends playing against each other in a round of golf would opt for the added friction of creating an account and setting up an event when the loser could just send off a $20 Venmo payment and leave out the rake.
Furthermore, I suspect targeting such a broad audience consisting of gaming, sports, and backgammon enthusiasts will create serious misalignment between the brand, its marketing, and consumers.
I think the road ahead for Grilla will be challenging as a newcomer, but I’m keen to see how the company develops over the next 6-12 months with a fresh round of funding.
SIS esports betting product arrives in Colorado
Sports Information Services has launched its esports betting product in Colorado.
The esports offering will be made available in Colorado through its long-term partnership with Bet365.
SIS will initially launch with its NBA 2K betting product, though there isn’t a timeline on when it may potentially add its other offerings, including Counter-Strike Global Offensive and FIFA.
Colorado marks the company’s second U.S. entry, following a New Jersey launch in December.
SIS Content Services VP Michele Fischer commented on the company’s market launch, saying: “This deal is further evidence of the footprint SIS is making in what will continue to be a rapidly growing and key market for the company.”
SIS’s competitive gaming product consists of in-house operated esports tournaments hosted in UK gaming studios–a different approach from traditional esports betting where users wager on professional matches.
In the way that matches are facilitated by SIS, the company claims it is able to provide “superior margins” on the quality of betting markets and maintain a finer level of competitive integrity.
With that being said, my opinion is that the product loses many attractive aspects of esports, including tapping into impassioned fanbases and exciting storylines that ultimately drive betting activity. Regardless, it’s great to see esports product offerings continue to expand across the country and become more available to consumers.
Luckbox nets $2.2M in betting handle
Real Luck Group, the parent company of esports betting platform Luckbox, has revealed it achieved $2.2M ($3M CAD) in global betting handle by the end of Q4, among other performance updates.
Monthly revenue has grown 120%, as has its total player deposits with a 420% increase since August 2022.
Over 30,000 players have registered to join the platform in the last six weeks.
Real Luck Group CEO Thomas Rosander said the December results are “encouraging” and offer a “promising glimpse” into the company’s growth potential.
In 2023, Rosander says the company will look to scale up its brand awareness and reveal a new B2B product, connected to an unnamed Asian iGaming platform Luckbox announced an LOI to acquire in November, that he claims will “unlock” potential in a new vertical.
🗞 In the news
Rivalry adds a “layer of creative firepower” through RED Canids partnership.*
BETER has added Dota 2 to its portfolio of in-house operated esports tournaments and betting content.
The Washington Post has laid off its esports and gaming editorial division.
📈 By the numbers
The top 10 esports titles represented 29% of all content watched on Twitch in 2022.
iGaming Ontario says the province’s total gaming revenue is up 182% since its opening quarter in April.
Bally’s has reduced its interactive division workforce by 15%.
News tips, feedback, and sponsorship inquiries.
Reach me directly at email@example.com 📩 or on Twitter 🐦
* I am a full-time employee of Rivalry.