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Flop Gear

Jeremy Clarkson, the 63-year-old motoring enthusiast famous for once punching a BBC producer (and Piers Morgan, to his credit) in the face, proved himself once again to have his finger on the pulse of popular culture this week, as he took to The Times to insist “gambling just doesn’t feel right without a wad of cash.”

After complaining that his exclusive Oxfordshire hometown of Chipping Norton had recently welcomed an influx of “800 million” new residents (citation needed), he went on to bemoan the impact this had had on his formerly quaint, traditional high street.

Gone were the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker, he cried, replaced by five (yes, FIVE) so-called ‘supermarkets’ – which one supposes he determined were probably something like Harrod’s, but for poor people.

Worse still than that, he said, was that as he popped along to his local retail bookmaker to place a bet on this year’s Grand National, he was shocked to discover that it too had been closed down.

Curse the 800 million new residents of Chipping Norton and their so-called supermarkets, he wept, for they are also responsible for the death of retail sports betting!

After finding the bookies was closed, “what to do?” he asked. “You can’t watch horse racing if you don’t have a bet on, because it would be more interesting to watch a television that’s not plugged in.

“And you can’t not bet on the National. So I had to come home, get modern, and fire up the internet.”

After placing an each way bet on a reasonably sensible nag at 16/1, Clarkson set about trying to calculate what his winnings were, after the horse romped home in fifth.

And after discovering he had in fact lost £30 on his ‘win’, he found the experience to be a markedly disappointing one.

Clarkson longs for the days where cash was king, he writes, when he could drive home from a successful day at the races, sitting on a wad stuffed into the back pocket of his ill-fitting jeans.

That, he argued, is “what’s missing from online gambling sites. You have wins and you have losses and all that changes is the number at the top of the page. I don’t want that. I want the olden days back. I want a wad. And some shops where I can spend it.”

I’m sure readers will join us in sparing a moment’s thought for the multi-millionaire in these most trying of times.

PointsBet up for half a billion?

The New York Post this week offered us a closer look at PointsBet’s potential sell-off of its US division.

Difficult market conditions in New York’s sports betting sector, including its 51% tax rate, combined with a tech bubble which “had a mini pop when Silicon Valley Bank ceased operations,” have led to sportsbooks in the US to try and get out of debt and into the black as quickly as possible, the article suggested.

PointsBet, in turn, has made its ambitions clear regarding how it plans to do that, by putting itself up for sale.

The questions remain, however: who could buy the business, and how much for?

As for the first question, the Post was keen to rule out a few options.

Fanatics looked at one time like a possible suitor for the business, but since investing in sportsbook technology through Amelco, can be more or less dropped out of the race.

Depending on the price, it suggested, Bally’s could be a possible buyer, and DraftKings will certainly be paying attention one way or another, given its history of buying up its competitors.

With regards to the second question, the Post reckons PointsBet could be put up for sale for a cool half-billion, given its roster of impressive assets.

Chris Grove of Acies Investments points out that: “PointsBet represents an attractive opportunity to acquire a proven operational team, a proprietary technology stack, existing market share and user base,” as well as “market access across several supply-constrained states like New York and Michigan.

“The more of those boxes a potential acquirer needs to check, the more valuable PointsBet becomes,” he concluded.

The Post compared PointsBet to a similar attempted sell off, when casino giant Wynn tried to offload its online betting division, which also had access to the Michigan and New York markets.

The asking price on that business was $500m, it said, although a sale never came to be.

“North of WynnBet’s half-a-billion dollar asking price is likely the best launching point for PointsBet.”

After Sam Swannell told analysts today that the firm would seek to create the greatest possible shareholder value through any potential sale, one can’t help but think that half a billion dollars would go down pretty nicely.

Millionaire loses Star Sports suit

The Daily Mail this week told the story of millionaire high-roller Scott O’Brien, who tried to sue London-based bookmaker Star Sports after claiming they should’ve protected him from his gambling addiction as he lost more than £100,000.

O’Brien sold his paper recycling business, Pulp Friction, for £9m in 2012, after which time his gambling habit spiralled out of control, he told the court.

At one point, he even stashed £1m in cash at the bottom of his wardrobe.

Despite losing nearly £100,000 at Star Sports, the operator founded by Ben Keith of Twitter Gambling fame, a judge dismissed O’Brien’s claims that he informed the staff of his gambling problem when he first visited their Mayfair shop.

O’Brien insisted he told an employee he was a “compulsive gambler” and asked her not to tell his ex-wife.

But defence barrister Christopher Gillespie argued that O’Brien’s addiction confession was “nonsense” and that staff had no reason to suspect he was in deep trouble after he portrayed himself as a successful businessman with a luxury lifestyle.

Although O’Brien claimed to have a gambling problem, the judge found no evidence to support this when he first visited Star Sports.

In fact, staff had no inkling he might be overstepping himself until his losses hit their “internal trigger point of £40,000” on his last day of betting.

In the end, the judge ruled O’Brien did not inform staff that he had a gambling problem, meaning he lost his court claim as well as his fortune.