Hot copy: Stories that caught our eye this week from around the sector
A new Gambling Act at last?
Since the UK’s new government, led by prime minister Liz Truss, came into office last month, the gambling industry’s call for answers on a review of the 2005 Gambling Act have been met with little more than radio silence.
According to a report this week in the Racing Post, however, a review may well still be on the cards, according to former Conservative party leader and long standing campaigner for gambling reform Iain Duncan Smith.
According to the article, Smith told a meeting at the party’s conference in Birmingham on Tuesday that there had been little change from the situation under Boris Johnson’s regime with regards to the Gambling Act.
The government first launched its review of the act in December 2020, with a promise to bring forward new legislation “fit for the digital age”.
However after repeated delays, the most significant of which took place as outgoing PM Johnson announced his resignation earlier this year, the industry has been left wondering whether a review will be forthcoming at all.
Smith told the meeting that it is “not altogether certain where the government is right now” following Truss’ ascension to the UK’s highest office, however he added that former gambling minister Chris Philp, now chief secretary to the Treasury, was still keen to move forward with reforms.
Smith remains optimistic that the white paper will still be published, according to the article, but added that “it’s going to be one of those things where the government will have to balance the time they have for doing it and whether or not they’re driven to do it for the right reasons, and that’s really a game of persuasion I guess.
“It’s in exactly the same place as it was before. The problem is that names have all changed and people who therefore knew something about it are no longer in the posts that they were, so that’s the problem,” he added.
While the new government continues to find its feet and establish its priorities, it appears there is still little comfort for an industry which still doesn’t know for sure which way the wind is blowing.
Legalised sports betting? California’s dreaming
Both of California’s sports betting ballot measures are “underwater” despite the near half-billion dollars spent in supporting them, according to California-focused political newsroom CalMatters.
The ballot campaigns, which are now by far the most expensive political campaigns ever seen in the state, are widely accepted to be heading for disaster when state residents are invited to vote on them next month.
With election day just five weeks away, support for Proposition 27 – which would see mobile wagering introduced allowing commercial operators like DraftKings and FanDuel to enter the market – sits at just 27%, with 53% of voters opposed to the measure and 20% undecided.
Proposition 26 – which would allow for in-person wagering on tribal gambling properties – isn’t faring much better, with support of just 31%, with 42% of voters opposed and 27% undecided.
And there is not much time left to change voters’ minds – county election offices are required to begin mailing ballots to all active, registered voters no later than Monday.
According to CalMatters, the campaigns have not been helped by the fact that many of the ads surrounding the issue have been considered confusing or even misleading, and that they are funded by four separate ballot measure campaigns featuring a “complex cast of players”.
Each proposition has attracted separate campaigns both for and against, making for a cutthroat and hard-fought competition which, it now seems, has been battled for months entirely in vain.
Twitter takeover intensifies
Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover saga continues, as the social media giant has agreed to delay a deposition by Musk originally scheduled for yesterday (6 October), as the two sides continue to hash out a way of closing his $44bn buyout of the social network, according to the Financial Times.
After saying he would buy the company in April and subsequently trying to back out of the deal, Musk this week sent a letter informing Twitter he was willing to close the deal at the originally agreed $54.20 per share price in exchange for halting the litigation to determine whether he can walk away from the deal.
A trial to determine that is scheduled to begin on 17 October in a Delaware court.
Negotiations over how to close the deal have hit problems over concerns that Musk could still sabotage a $13bn debt financing agreement he has arranged, while the FT said that according to one person inside Twitter there remains far less concern about the banks themselves being reluctant to meet their debt commitment contract.
An agreement would put an end to weeks of legal to-ing and fro-ing, during which each side has accused the other of being uncooperative and deliberately hiding information.
On Wednesday, the judge overseeing the case in Delaware Court of Chancery, Kathaleen McCormick, wrote: “The parties have not filed a stipulation to stay this action, nor has any party moved for a stay. I, therefore, continue to press on toward our trial set to begin on October 17.”
The article added that legal analysts have suggested Musk’s change of heart was an acknowledgement of weaknesses in his case in which he alleged that Twitter had misled regulators and investors by underestimating the number of fake accounts on its platform.
He also accused the company of failing to disclose cyber security failures, an issue later added to the complaint following similar allegations by a former Twitter executive-turned-whistleblower.
Twitter snapped back at those allegations, saying it was Musk who had breached his obligations in the merger agreement by repeatedly disparaging the company and its executives, while failing to move to complete the deal.
Whatever happens next, there is no question this has been the most overly dramatic M&A story of the year.