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Death to the Metaverse

Business Insider this week brought us a moving obituary to what it calls “once the hottest idea in tech,” the now seemingly ill-fated Metaverse.

The concept, it argued, has died after three years in the limelight, having now been “abandoned by the business world.”

Despite taking the world by storm for a brief and at times bewildering period, “the hype could not save the Metaverse,” the piece argues, as “a lack of coherent vision for the product ultimately led to its decline.”

In its place, of course, sits the new hot topic of generative AI (check out this 15-second roundup of Google’s I/O 2023 earlier this week), which BI suggested sealed the fate of the Metaverse by, frankly, being a lot more useful.

The article proceeds to eviscerate tech companies – with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg bearing the brunt – and their often outlandish claims about the oncoming impact of their latest innovations.

His “grandiose promises heaped sky-high expectations on the Metaverse,” the article argues, while the underlying technology failed spectacularly to live up to those promises and expectations.

Another of the concept’s pitfalls was its “identity crisis,” as it lacked the basic needs of a functional business proposition to flourish – they are “a clear use case, a target audience, and the willingness of customers to adopt the product.”

Most now seem to agree that the Metaverse benefited from none of the above.

That didn’t stop its stratospheric rise in recent years, of course, with other tech CEOs, including Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, also claiming they couldn’t “overstate how much of a breakthrough” the Metaverse would be, as investors started to jump in on the hype and take Metaverse-based companies’ valuations through the roof.

Roblox was one such example, which went public amid a $41bn valuation. The firm’s market cap has fallen by almost half since then.

Then non-endemic companies started to join the mix too, as Disney (understandably) jumped on the trend and Walmart (inexplicably) also wanted to get in on the Metaverse action.

All that hype of course soon came to a head, and as the old adage says; what goes up must come down.

The piece goes on to set out a veritable who’s who of Metaverse failures, from Decentraland to Meta’s Horizon Worlds.

While it might not be surprising to see the Metaverse rear its head once again in the coming years, for now it should probably Rest In Peace.

Brooks shreds white paper

Meanwhile, in The Telegraph, racehorse trainer and newspaper columnist Charlie Brooks penned an open letter to the UK’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Lucy Frazer.

In it, he suggests the recent publication of the UK government’s Gambling Act review white paper “must have been embarrassing,” as politicians left more than 60 aspects of the review open to consultation despite having received 16,000 contributions during the consultation period preceding its publication.

Rather than the “gambling white paper for a digital age” the government promised, Brooks suggested, “what you actually delivered was a morally bankrupt, confused fudge that kicks pretty well every issue into the long grass.”

Blimey, Charlie, why don’t you tell us what you really think?

Brooks goes on to criticise a lack of concrete action on online slot stake limits, despite the swift measures taken to counteract punters making huge losses on FOBTs some years ago.

Instead, he said, the government is “keeping the door open for a £15 maximum bet for anyone hooked on these games which are the crack cocaine of gambling.”

Brooks also suggests that the affordability checks put forward for consultation “are guaranteed to be an abject failure,” and will damage the horse racing industry to the tune of £14m-£40m.

Following a seemingly never-ending deluge of delays to the process, he concludes that “if I could only have one bet this year, it would be that there is no chance whatsoever that this review will be completed and implemented during 2024, as is stated in the white paper.”

Ultimately, Brooks argues that the review will end up damaging “the funding of human and horse welfare in the [racing] industry.”

It remains to be seen whether Frazer will pen a response…

(She won’t.)

Happy birthday dear PASPA

SportsHandle treated us to “an oral history of the US sports betting gold rush” this week, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the repeal of PASPA coming up this weekend.

The piece, which is listed as a 41-minute read (!), offers a near-exhaustive rundown of events in the US betting industry since 2018, from the headache of pre-regulation betting with offshore bookies to the burgeoning regulated industry we see today.

It features quotes taken from interviews with more than 20 industry giants, including the likes of veteran casino exec Richard Schuetz, Action Network chief content officer Chad Millman, Acies Investments’ Chris Grove and former William Hill US CEO Joe Asher, among others.

There’s far too much going on in the piece to summarise here, and readers are encouraged to have a read of the full rundown for themselves.

Of particular interest is the view of an anonymous New York-based sports bettor, who went from “before PASPA was overturned, placing a bet was terrible,” to “these legal betting apps are amazing. You know, just in terms of ease of access, funding, reliability, the interface with the betting companies.

“I could pull [my phone] out of my pocket and make a bet within a minute as a result of all this.”

Ultimately, the trajectory of US betting is summed up perfectly by former New Jersey state senator Ray Lesniak.

He said: “The only thing that surprises me is that not even more states have legalised it. We love sports, and we love to gamble on sports. It’s just as simple as that.”

Good luck arguing with that one.

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