Hot copy: Stories that caught our eye this week from around the sector
Rewriting the corporate rulebook
In honour of International Women’s Day, Entain CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen emphasised the crucial distinction between equality and equity on LinkedIn this week.
She highlighted that the theme for this year was #EmbraceEquity, encouraging us collectively “to think about how we can create a world that’s not only gender equal, but free of bias, stereotyping, discrimination, and inequality.”
In case you feel confused because you’ve heard another theme, it’s worth noting that while “Embrace Equity” has been promoted by some organisations, the United Nations has chosen “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” as the official theme for International Women’s Day 2023.
Whether the existence of multiple themes for IWD is helpful or not is certainly a discussion for another day…
Back to Nygaard-Andersen. Drawing from her personal encounters with prejudice against female leaders in the business world, she said that it’s evident that bias is deeply ingrained in our society and pervades every aspect of life, even today.
“Women often have to adhere to a set of rules that have been established by men in order to achieve success,” she wrote.
Tech companies, she argued, can benefit significantly by tapping into the female talent pool.
According to a report released by the European Institute for Gender Equality in 2017, closing the gender gap in STEM education could result in an economic improvement of €820bn in the EU’s GDP by 2050.
“Equality is only one part of a solution, it is like being invited to a party whereas equity is ensuring that at the party, you’re able to take part, be involved and hit the dancefloor, like everyone else is.
“It’s all about fairness and the right to opportunity. Women not only need to play their part in organisations but have the opportunity to thrive within them at all levels,” she wrote.
Nygaard-Andersen believes that rewriting the corporate rulebook through collaboration between men and women is necessary to increase female representation in organisations.
“Companies that tackle the equality and equity issue and focus on opportunities for women are those that are more likely to win,” she concluded.
Kalish gets callous
As Massachusetts prepared for the launch of its legal online sports betting market today (10 March), a rivalry as old as time resurfaced this week – albeit briefly – on Twitter.
DraftKings co-founder Matt Kalish took to the social media site to publish a decidedly unceremonious: “Fuck fanduel sportsbook 🗑” [sic].
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Tweet was deleted quickly, but not quickly enough to prevent Legal Sports Report from grabbing a screenshot and laying out the history of US sports betting’s fiercest feud, which is now taking place on a new battleground – DraftKings’ home state of Massachusetts.
The piece details an interesting history between FanDuel and DraftKings. The pair have been rivals “since they flooded ESPN and sports broadcasts with their daily fantasy sports ads starting nearly 10 years ago,” said author Matthew Waters.
Still, that didn’t stop them working together on the things that mattered. The firms joined forces “to fight the DFS-is-not-betting battle” across the US, and continue to work together to campaign for legal sports betting throughout the country.
Waters also pointed out that the pair had even considered merging in 2017, before the idea was quickly called off not long before the repeal of PASPA.
Perhaps one reason for the DraftKings founder’s ire on Twitter is FanDuel’s dominance of the US sports betting market, which Waters lays bare in his article.
With 50% market share across US sports betting, the Flutter-owned brand is clearly the product of choice among American customers.
DraftKings will certainly be hoping that its Boston roots help contribute to a better performance for the brand in Massachusetts, where the firm was born and raised.
In any case, the winning firm in that particular state will undoubtedly be the one with the most *ahem* Mass. market appeal.
When a firm goes bust, it’s easy to think about the negative impact on its leaders, shareholders and employees. But of course, there is another group of people who feel the failure of a business, and especially in the gambling sector: its customers.
The UK’s Football Index left some half a million such customers in the wake of its highly publicised collapse two years ago.
This week, on the second anniversary of the biggest UK gambling scandal in recent years, the i newspaper published a story looking at the often heartbreaking impact of the operator’s collapse.
The firm went bust with £124.5m worth of open bets on its books, all of which simply disappeared into the ether, leaving hundreds of thousands of trusting customers out of pocket.
Some lost sums well into six figures, according to the i.
“There’s honestly not a day that goes by where I don’t think about the money I’ve lost,” said one anonymous former customer. “For me, it was £165k. I often think about how that would now change my life, especially given the current cost of living crisis.
“It has caused me to suffer from depression. Weirdly, I’m suffering worse from the fallout now than when it happened. Those initial feelings of anger have been replaced with guilt of letting my family down. I also promoted the platform to my wife, dad, brother and sister-law, all of whom lost money. So that’s been very hard to deal with.”
The story spells out just how far the impact of Football Index’s catastrophic failure spread, with repeated references to customers’ “guilt and shame” at feeling they had been duped by the brand – wreaking havoc on their own finances and having significant impact upon their families, as well.
The sad truth of the matter is that the customers were duped, and were left to the wolves by a company that either failed or flat-out refused to care, and regulators that refused to take responsibility for the situation before it spiralled out of control.
Football Index’s business model should have rung alarm bells much sooner than it did, and long before the brand had the chance to disappear with more than a hundred million pounds of customer money going with it.
But the brand’s presence in the UK – its Gambling Commission licence, high-profile sport sponsorships and TV ads – all helped contribute to its apparent trustworthiness.
Even I remember a friend telling me (who had been working in the gambling industry for some years at that point) that “you can buy shares in footballers now!”
“No, you really can’t,” was my response. “What you can do is play a game which replicates the experience of ‘buying shares’ in footballers.”
That distinction is an important one, and one which should have been made a lot clearer by Football Index.
Their customers appeared to genuinely believe the game was more secure than traditional sports betting, because, well, it looks and feels like a financial trading platform, so it must be safe. Right?
Now, disgruntled former customers are coming together and campaigning to recover the sums they lost as a result of Football Index’s failure.
It’s not clear where they might recover the funds from. But if they did, it would be difficult to describe it as anything but ‘justice’.