Hot copy: Stories that caught our eye this week from around the sector

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Universities staying out of gambling? Don’t bet on it

The relatively new phenomenon of legalised sports betting in the US has led to some highly questionable marketing techniques – and none more so than the one pointed out by Bloomberg this week.

The media company put out a story detailing a marketing message that had been sent to students at Louisiana State University (LSU) by the institution’s athletic department, on behalf of Caesars Sportsbook.

Students were encouraged to sign up to place bets with the operator in an email under the subject line “$300 in Free Bets Await”, leading one student, Piper Hutchinson, to express her concerns. 

“There needs to be a line between the business aspect of athletics and the academics of a major flagship university,” Hutchinson said – deftly pointing out the obvious fact that, in all likelihood, universities probably shouldn’t be encouraging their young students to get into gambling.

According to Bloomberg, LSU is one of at least seven universities to have reached lucrative advertising agreements with sports betting operators – which have them display and broadcast ads across student radio, the schools’ mobile apps, and inside college sports stadiums and arenas.

While sports betting is certainly a solid way for college teams to pump up their budgets, the industry will need to find very clear ways of preventing universities from aggressively promoting gambling to their young students, before both sides of these deals find themselves in hot water.

NFTs? So 2021

The Financial Times raised its concerns over the future of the NFT market this week, after revealing that the average selling price of the blockchain-tethered artworks had fallen more than 48% since peak in November.

Over the past two weeks, the average price of an NFT has slumped to $2,500 according to data from NonFungible, while daily trading volumes on NFT marketplace OpenSea have plummeted around 80% in March after peaking in February.

Of course, it’s the smaller investors and generally gullible who lose out, with some members of an NFT discussion group on Telegram commenting that they would be “living off rice, porridge and grass this month.”

The virtual world of NFTs is feeling the impact of real-world conflict, as the average price of the popular Bored Ape collection has fallen 44% since the war in Ukraine began, with investors deciding to channel their money elsewhere.

This downturn in trading has also mirrored a broader sell-off in Ether, the most popular cryptocurrency used for trading NFTs, with its value falling over 40% since an all-time high in November.

Meanwhile, Instagram owner Meta showed how its size may now be slowing it down, as it also announced this week that it will be adding the NFTs to the photo-sharing social media app, perhaps just a few months too late.

According to a piece in CoinTelegraph, male humanoid Mark Zuckerberg reportedly said at the SXSW conference that Instagram users will “hopefully” be able to mint NFTs within the platform in coming months.

If this project goes the way of Facebook’s ill-fated Libra cryptocurrency, investors in the social media giant had better keep an eye out for some mega losses in the near future.

Fox Bet saga continues as Murdoch weighs in

Bloomberg published a story on the ongoing trouble between Fox Corp. and Flutter Entertainment as the Fox Bet brand continues to struggle in the US market.

The piece details a long and drawn-out relationship between the media giant and gambling operator, which began when Flutter bought out The Stars Group, which had created Fox Bet together with the Murdoch family back in 2019.

Flutter now owns the operator, but Fox has an option to acquire 50% of the business. However, with Flutter’s flagship US brand, FanDuel, raking in some 40% of US online sports betting market share, and Fox Bet securing less than 1% outside Nevada, Flutter appears reluctant to invest into the struggling brand or engage in a dual-brand strategy.

The poor performance of Fox Bet is considered a real problem by Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch, who views the burgeoning sports betting industry as a huge opportunity for the media giant.

One way into the business would be for Fox to exercise an option to purchase 18.6% of FanDuel – but the two parties have so far failed to agree on a price, and are set to go to arbitration in June.

Earlier this month, Flutter CEO Peter Jackson said on an earnings call that the company has had talks with Fox to resolve the issue of its option to invest in FanDuel but that no agreement had been reached.

“If we can’t get the deal that’s right for our shareholders, we’re very comfortable going to arbitration,” he said.

The Murdochs may well be accustomed to getting what they want – but it appears they may have met their match in Flutter.

About the author

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Conor Mulheir

Conor entered the gaming industry in 2018 producing high-level live event content for audiences in London, Amsterdam and São Paulo. From 2020, he went on to report news and commission exclusive content for various gaming media brands before joining iGaming NEXT as editor in January 2022.

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