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Oh, crypto gambling it’s a wild world

Sky News invited us “inside the wild world of crypto casinos” this week, as it published a superbly formatted long-form feature on the emerging vertical.

The piece saw digital investigations journalist Sanya Burgess chart her journey into the world of crypto gambling, starting with a chance encounter with a video of rap superstar Drake playing roulette on social media.

“I was intrigued,” Burgess writes. “It’s not like crowds gather around punters chancing it on slot machines in pubs. Nor are there queues of spectators spilling out of betting shops.”

The video in question showed Drake win an eye-watering $6.7m on a single spin of the wheel, and left Burgess asking herself: “Why was one of the most famous people in the world streaming himself gambling online?”

In searching for the answer to that very question, she went on to discover “some troubling practices in this online community.”

“Some influencers are playing with ‘fake’ money provided to them by their casino sponsor and may also be breaking British gambling laws by promoting and showing how to access these sites, which are illegal in this country,” she writes.

Not that that has slowed the rising tide of online crypto-gambling influencers, she points out, with popular casino streamer xQc boasting a combined social media following of almost 17 million.

The rise of such influencers is a real concern for those seeking to tackle gambling harm, Burgess adds.

“While there’s evidence that watching these streams can help addicts satisfy cravings without using their own money, [clinical lead for the NHS Northern Gambling Service Matt] Gaskell warns there is a risk of a relapse because the sounds and images can trigger ‘physical and psychological reactions’ which could end up driving someone back to the casino.”

While streaming platform Twitch has taken its own, much-publicised action against such dangers, relatively new rival Kick.com, which was set up by one of Stake’s co-founders and does not follow the same guidelines, reportedly hit 10 million users in July this year.

Add in the fact that streamers often have referral deals with online casinos, meaning they are effectively incentivised to turn viewers into gamblers, and Burgess suggests the phenomenon could be a recipe for disaster.

Readers are encouraged to check out this article in all its glory, which is a feast for the eyes.

Anyone remember NFTs?

Business Insider this week asked if readers remembered “when NFTs sold for millions of dollars.”

A far cry from those halcyon days, according to the article’s headline, “95% of the digital collectibles may now be worthless.”

The article points to a recent report on NFT collection valuations, which after studying more than 73,000 collections, found that almost 70,000 were now completely worthless.

“This daunting reality should serve as a sobering check on the euphoria that has often surrounded the NFT space,” the researchers said. 

“Amid stories of digital art pieces selling for millions and overnight success stories, it is easy to overlook the fact that the market is fraught with pitfalls and potential losses.”

Big names in the NFT space like Bored Apes and CryptoPunks changed hands for millions of dollars at the height of the craze, back when a single bitcoin was worth almost $70,000.

Today, however, 79% of all NFT collections remain unsold, “and the surplus of supply over demand has created a buyer’s market that isn’t doing anything to revive enthusiasm.”

Less than 1% of collections today boast a price tag of more than $6,000, the article suggests, while around 40% of collections are worth between just $5 and $100.

“It becomes clear that a significant portion of the NFT market is characterised by speculative and hopeful pricing strategies that are far removed from the actual trading history of these assets,” the quoted researchers said.

“Additionally, the apparent disconnect between listed prices and actual sales could suggest that many sellers are waiting for another massive surge in NFT interest akin to the boom witnessed in 2021, which may not ever occur again.”

To those holding on to their digital assets in the hope of the market bouncing back, there’s only one thing to be said: good luck.

Winners not welcome in Washington

The Washington Post this week brought us the unusual story of a successful gambler in Washington, DC.

After being limited on the state-sponsored GambetDC mobile app, the bettor took to wagering upwards of a million dollars on retail betting kiosks in a local poke restaurant, where bettors were not required to identify themselves before having a flutter.

After using discrepancies in the odds to extract significant value from the operator, the customer soon found that his betting was also set to be limited at Gambet’s retail locations, ostensibly as part of a new responsible gambling policy introduced by the state regulator.

Not only had this single customer “provoked city officials to limit how much he could wager in the District. He had prompted them to change the process by which anyone could be limited,” the story explains.

The change could further weaken an already struggling sports betting operation, The Washington Post suggested, as well as negatively impacting many of the operator’s retail partners.

“The episode provides a window into problems that have plagued Washington’s operation since its launch, according to observers of the D.C. betting scene: unsatisfied customers, unhappy partners in the restaurant business, uninspiring returns for the District government, perplexing decisions and a minimal response to public health concerns.”

All those elements have added up to “the worst rollout of legal sports betting in the US,” according to gambling media veteran Dustin Gouker. “It is the punchline of a joke at this point.”

The impact is not difficult to see. GambetDC users wagered $5.4m in June, $3.1m in July and $3m in August, while the betting industry in other US states continued to boom.

“There’s typically a drop between those summer months,” the Post points out, “but this year’s 45% decrease from June to August was far larger than a 9% decrease in 2022.”

To get the full lowdown on exactly what’s gone wrong in Washington’s betting scene, readers are encouraged to check out this long read in full, as it spells out the whole story in granular detail.

From the politics behind Intralot winning a five-year contract to operate the GambetDC app, to customers crossing state lines just to have the chance to bet with the brand’s commercial rivals, the story sets out precisely how not to roll out regulated sports betting.