21 Bet Closed: What Happened?
You might be reading this and thinking, ‘21Bet has closed? I didn’t even realise they were a betting site to begin with’. If this sounds like you, you can be forgiven because 21Bet first appeared during a relative boom period for the industry that saw lots of new names emerge. It is not as though the brand stuck around for a long time either as only three years after its creation, 21Bet was no more.
A Solid Start
Although 21Bet were never close to being one of the big names in the industry, it would be unfair to think they were a complete nobody that had no impact whatsoever. The brand was the creation of Aureate Gaming Solution who themselves had a licence from the Malta Gaming Authority, and ran on FSB Tech’s platform. As a Malta licence is not valid for use in the UK, 21Bet used FSB’s white label licence for their operations within the country.
Aureate were happy to spend to accumulate in the early days as they penned sponsorship deals with figures and teams across sports. None of these was particularly huge or vastly expensive but they were still notable. In addition to sponsoring IBF flyweight title challenger, Charlie Edwards, the brand also penned deals to become betting partners of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Gloucester Rugby. They even signed a one-and-a-half-year deal in the summer of 2017 to be the front-of-shirt sponsor of Waterford FC. At the time, the club were in the second tier of Irish Football but were strong contenders for promotion back to the Premier Division.
The End for Aureate
After a reasonable enough start and a growing (albeit still relatively modest) customer base, 21Bet stuck around for the rest of 2017 and all of 2018. The latter was a particularly good year for bookmakers generally as it featured a World Cup, among other big sporting events. Prepping themselves for extra traffic as a result, Aureate moved the brand from FSB Tech to a new platform, Digitain, although the licence remained with FSB Tech. It was hoped this improved offering, which included more features, would not only entice new customers but encourage them to stick around.
Moving to a new provider proved insufficient in attracting the kind of revenues Aureate needed to register a profit. Losing money, they reached a point where they had to invest more into sponsorship/advertising and hoped it paid off or call it quits and leave before the losses got any bigger. They ended up opting for the latter, a sensible option given their limited funding and lack of experience. Fortunately for Aureate, they were able to find a buyer quickly, allowing them to recoup some of the money lost.
Do not think it was some sort of big payday for the company though as the sale of 21Bet in April 2019 only paid off some of their mounting debts. There was no hope of a return either with a new brand as in October 2019, Aureate had their Malta Gaming Authority licence removed. Although the possibility of appeal remained, by this stage the brand’s reputation and finances were well beyond what a successful appeal could fix.
Incentive Group Ltd Takes Over
At the time of acquiring 21Bet, the Incentive Group were already in the UK market as they ran a fantasy football-inspired betting website. Acquiring 21Bet allowed them to expand further though and added something more of a traditional betting experience to their portfolio. It might have been a more valuable purchase though had player accounts from Aureate’s running of 21Bet moved across following the change of ownership. As it was, players had to re-register and of course, many took this opportunity to simply head somewhere else.
The move brought some considerable changes such as 21Bet moving to SBtech’s platform. Additionally, the Incentive Group ran the site using their own licence. They only accepted card payments initially too although Neteller, Skill and Paypal were added very soon after. Even though they only took ownership of the site in April 2019, 21Bet did not even make it to the end of the year.
Late in 2019, 21Bet informed players that it would not be taking any more bets, nor accepting any new customers. In what proved rather inconvenient fashion, they also closed the website meaning that players that did have money in their account had to speak to customer support in order to get their funds. This was a slightly strange approach as it put far more strain on paid customer service staff than there needed to be. It did, however, buy Incentive a little more time as rather than customers all withdrawing at once, they were effectively placed in a slow-moving digital queue.
If buying themselves more time was the genuine reason for this decision, it did not pay off as the Incentive Group went bust early in 2020. This led to their other sites (Premier Punt and BetSide) ceasing trading immediately too.
Why Did 21Bet Fail a Second Time?
Under Aureate’s ownership, the 21Bet brand was (allegedly) badly mismanaged and the company has been accused of some potentially shady practices. The initial decline, therefore, is not too hard to understand. Why the brand failed on the second attempt, however, is a little more complex as the Incentive Group had existed since 2013 and was enjoying a good amount of success with Premier Punt. They had even successfully raised £200,000 through crowd-funding (for 7.25% equity) and earned a nomination for Best Fantasy Sports Product at the SBC Awards.
The main thinking is that the purchase of 21Bet was simply a poor one. In addition to the cost of the brand, there was all the marketing involved too and all this investment led to the collapse of the entire operation. There was also some speculation that the company were unaware of (or were potentially misled about) how much debt they were taking on when acquiring 21Bet. Given the allegations of foul play surrounding Aureate’s general conduct that later emerged, the latter is not a farfetched possibility.
Whatever the actual reason, 21Bet is unlikely to return (there is a live casino game called 21Bet from TVBET but this is completely unrelated). The name itself is not particularly well remembered and those that are familiar with it probably associate it with going bust twice. Some brands are simply best off not being revived and we feel this is the case here.