Zlatan Ibrahimović

Small stake is still against the rules

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the administrative organization for European soccer, has fined superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović €50,000 ($61,000) for his involvement in online casino and sportsbook Bethard.

UEFA began its investigation a little over a month ago, appointing an ethics inspector to examine if Ibrahimović violated any of UEFA’s rules. He owns a company called Unknown AB, which reportedly owned 10% of Bethard. UEFA does not permit anyone to compete on the soccer pitch if they hold any financial interest in companies that “promote, broker, arrange or conduct betting, gambling, lotteries or similar events or transactions connected with football matches and competitions.”

Ibrahimović plays for AC Milan, which was also fined €25,000 ($30,500).

In a statement, UEFA added, “The Chairman of the UEFA Appeals Body also issued Mr. Ibrahimović with a directive aimed at ceasing the player’s association with the relevant betting company.”

As it turns out, it looks like Ibrahimović may have, in fact, ceased association with Bethard as of this week. On Tuesday, Bethard’s parent company, Gameday Group, announced that it has sold Bethard to New Jersey-based Esports Entertainment Group (EEG) for €16 million ($19.5 million) plus a 12% net gaming revenue share for two years.

As Bethard is based in Sweden, one of the important parts of the deal for EEG was that it now has access to Bethard’s Swedish gaming license.

There is no mention of whether or not Unknown AB’s stake in Bethard was included (we could say it is…unknown), but it seems logical that it would be.

All things considered, the fine and warning was likely a pretty welcome punishment, as Ibrahimović could have faced a ban of up to three years. There would have been a good chance at such a ban effectively ending his career, as Ibrahimović is 39 years old.

EEG wheeling and dealing

Bethard’s new owner has had a big week. In addition to its acquisition, EEG was awarded a sports betting license on Monday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. As one might be able to tell from its name, EEG focuses on esports. In a study, the company found that over 50% of US esports fans said they would be likely to place bets on esports, so there is a market among the company’s core customers.

But EEG obviously has its sights set higher. CEO Grant Johnson said, “Securing access to what is currently the largest market for sports betting in the US is very exciting. We are also in discussions with partners and regulators in additional jurisdictions to continue our expansion plans.”

On top of that, Esports Entertainment Group inked a deal with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers to become the team’s official esports tournament platform provider. EEG will host three esports tournaments per year through its Esports Gaming League and will be a presenting sponsor of the Cavs’ NBA 2K League affiliate, Cavs Legion GC.

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