Hot copy: Stories that caught our eye this week from around the sector
United Gambling Emirates
Gambling could soon be added to the list of attractions available in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to an article published by Bloomberg this week.The piece followed up on plans announced last year by Wynn Resorts, to open an integrated resort including a gaming area in the country’s sixth largest city, Ras Al-Khaimah.
Those plans have already expanded since being announced, with the resort now set to offer 1,500 rooms, suites and villas when it opens for business in 2027.
And according to Bloomberg, Wynn is not the only major casino operator looking to get in on the action.
Caesars already operates a non-gaming resort in Dubai, while MGM also has plans to develop its own hotels in the city.
Still, whether the country will eventually legalise gambling remains a mystery. According to the article: “Officials are giving mixed messages: one in Dubai said the infrastructure for casinos is already in place, while another said there were no plans whatsoever to allow gambling.”
An international law firm is said to be drafting policy that could be used to regulate gambling across the whole country, although it is not clear who commissioned that work.
If the UAE does eventually legalise gambling, Bloomberg predicts it could become an even bigger market by GGR than Singapore, home to the world-renowned Marina Bay Sands.
Singapore generates $5.9bn a year of GGR from its gambling operations, equal to 1.6% of the country’s GDP.
If the UAE could also reach GGR equivalent to 1.6% of its GDP, operators could expect to generate some $6.6bn annually in the country.
Senior government officials say there are no imminent plans to allow gambling, but with so many operators seemingly eyeing up their options in the region, it looks increasingly likely it will be permitted sooner or later.
Is sport just ‘wagering content’?
Chairman of Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL), Peter V’landys, caused quite the stir this week when he referred to his own sport as “wagering content,” as reported by The Guardian.
According to the article, anti-gambling advocates have responded “furiously” to the chairman’s unapologetic pursuit of gambling revenue in rugby, suggesting that his description of the sport as mere wagering content is “scandalous and counterproductive”.
V’landys is keen to capitalise on the spread of legalised sports betting across the US, and the next NRL season will open in Las Vegas with a view to helping develop broadcast and gambling markets in the US.
He has suggested that some Americans were looking for betting opportunities in different time zones, for which Australian rugby league would be “perfect”.While he has said that gambling revenue is just one part of a broader revenue base for rugby league, that hasn’t stopped his critics from having their say about the perceived impact of gambling on sport.
“He’s said the quiet part out loud,” said public health professor Charles Livingston in reference to V’landys’ “wagering content” comment.
“On one level, it’s entirely obvious this is not a game anymore, or a pursuit in its own right, it’s become fodder for gambling companies and he wants to maximise the revenue he gets for it.”
“Is that satire? Surely that’s satire,” added Tim Costello, chief advocate of the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
“It is a tragedy to me that it is actually changing the way people follow sport, especially young people. They are now following the game not to support their team but to see if their multi comes off.”
Criticisms notwithstanding, some market analysts believe the NRL’s US expansion plan could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars in broadcast fees, sponsorship and gambling revenue.
Here’s hoping the American audience can truly fall in love with the sport, and not just turn it into more “wagering content”.
Leaving so soon?
Another story from The Guardian makes it into this week’s Hot Copy, as the paper reported that News Corp-backed Australian operator Betr is up for sale less than a year after it first hit the market.
The company launched with an aggressive customer acquisition strategy in October, offering generous bonuses and outlandish odds to new customers, before being slapped with a A$210,000 fine by regulators last month.
Now, after talks for a possible takeover of rival PointsBet fell through, Betr has been approached by “a number of international and domestic operators seeking to acquire the business,” according to the article.
“We assess all opportunities with the aim of maximising value for shareholders. Our primary focus remains identifying and executing opportunities to further our ambition to be a tier-one operator,” said a spokesperson for the business.
The approaches are being managed by corporate advisory and financial services firm Barrenjoey.
That was after the firm had already been ordered to pay A$75,000 by the Northern Territory Racing Commission for further marketing breaches, before its product had even officially launched on the market.
The Guardian said News Corp has been distancing itself from Betr in recent months, with two of the company’s executives leaving the bookie’s board not long ago.
If a buyer can be found and a sale approved, perhaps the media conglomerate will soon have nothing to do with the business whatsoever.