Multi-national sport betting and gaming group Entain will invest more than $130m to launch a global innovation lab to develop immersive gaming and sports experiences.

The hub, named Ennovate, will invest up to GBP100m ($118.2m) in innovation projects, start-up investments and collaborations with UK, European and global partners, with GBP40m ($47.2m) alone specifically earmarked for innovation investment in the UK. Some of the first technology companies to be working with Ennovate include Verizon, BT, and Theta Labs.

The investments in Ennovate will help the company achieve its ambition to be a global leader in interactive entertainment, Jette Nygaard-Andersen, Chief Executive of Entain stated that “We want to lead the way with new, exciting products and experiences for customers and use our cutting-edge technology to pioneer innovations in sport, gaming and interactive entertainment for the metaverse.”

Entain, formerly known as GVC Holdings, owns sports brands including bwin, Coral, Crystalbet, Eurobet, Ladbrokes and Sportingbet and gaming brands Foxy Bingo, CasinoClub, Gala, partypoker, Gioco Digitale and PartyCasino bwin.

Entain hopes investments in immersive entertainment will help it stand out

The lab will be involved in developing new entertainment products for the metaverse, a virtual reality space where people will be able to interact in a computer-generated environment. An estimated 2.6 million searches for the term “metaverse” were made in October 2021, illustrating the interest it has garnered from online.

Immersive experiences in Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) will also be shown and developed at the Ennovate Hub, including a pioneering VR multi-sports club experience. According to GlobalData estimates, the global AR market will reach $152bn by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 36% over the 10-year period from 2020 to 2030, highlighting its potential.

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By GlobalData

The company is also aiming to develop Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), or unique digital collectible assets, which Entain is developing for brands across the Group. Today Partypoker announced plans to launch its first official non-fungible tokens (NFTs) powered by Theta Labs shortly.

Online gambling industry is highly competitive

The online gambling industry is seeing huge investment in new technology and optimism for the future as major new markets are opened up, particularly in the US and Europe. However, this optimism and expansion comes with significant risk as some previously lucrative markets also see crackdowns on the industry in the form of tighter regulations and even outright bans.

Its broader UK business has been affected by new regulations which have led to the closing down of betting shops, but the poor results in retail have been more than compensated by growth in online bets. The online gambling industry is highly competitive, with major competitors of Entain including Webis Holdings Plc, Flutter Entertainment plc, William Hill Plc, among others. As a result, investments in technologies such as the metaverse, which have strong potential, will prove to be increasingly valuable in the coming years.