Hot copy: Stories that caught our eye this week from around the sector
Twitch gets the gambling treatment
Esports media company Dexerto published a piece this week on the increasing dominance of gambling content on streaming platform Twitch.
According to an article published on the firm’s website, the gambling vertical has officially broken into the top 10 most-watched categories on Twitch, with viewers racking up even more hours watching online casino content than Call of Duty: Warzone.
Although the emergence of the vertical on Twitch has not gone unchallenged – indeed viewers have even started petitions to have gambling content banned from the site – online slots content was the platform’s ninth most-viewed category in May, as viewers consumed a total 33 million hours of streamed slot play.
This put the vertical’s popularity firmly among esports giants such as Dota 2 at number eight and Fortnite at number seven, although it’s still a far cry from the 156 million hours of League of Legends content – the most popular single title on the site – that Twitch users watched during the month.
The success of the vertical, according to the article, was thanks in no small part to popular slot streamer ‘Trainwreck’, who racked up an impressive 300 hours of slots broadcasts in May. That’s around 10 hours per day for each day of the month.
The high-rolling streamer boasts two million followers and, on one stream, can be seen playing for $1,500 per spin with an account balance of over a million dollars, on crypto-focused casino operator Stake.com.
As the industry continues to look for ways to make slots play more social, communities are turning to Twitch to get their casino fix.
British football powerhouse Crawley Town FC (of the formidable and world-renowned League Two) hit the headlines in The Guardian this week, with a story on the club’s plans to create a “digitally native” team.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the team’s new American owners – so-called “crypto bro consortium” Wagmi United – who bought the club in April, are now gearing up to launch… you guessed it, an exclusive NFT collection.
Of course, this has been done before by professional football teams, and not without its fair share of controversy.
The collapsing value of NFTs, broken promises made to fans and the limited utility of tokens have plagued the sporting world’s efforts to muscle into the web3 space so far.
Crawley’s owners, therefore, want to do things differently. “[fan engagement firm] Socios … they’re on the right track but I’m not sure whether fans care if it’s Coca-Cola or Pepsi that’s for sale in the stands,” said Wagmi United founder Preston Johnson.
“Probably not. But how much of our wage budget in the transfer window goes towards offence or midfield or defence, that might be really intriguing, right?
“Being able to take part in the decision-making is absolutely on the table and those are the things we need to weigh: what fans care about where the actual ability to have governance and have a say is worthwhile.”
It seems, then, that Crawley is set to become the UK’s most democratic football team, with fans able to have their say on the decisions that actually matter to them.
The club’s owners, in collaboration with newly appointed manager Kevin Betsy, now seem likely to attract more attention to Crawley Town than it’s accustomed to.
US betting ads back under the microscope
A common story for those of us in established online gambling markets across Europe – that of the ever-increasing pervasiveness of gambling advertising and its possible effects on the public – reared its head once again this week in the more nascent US market.
NPR published a story on the prevalence of gambling ads in the US as a wave of regulation sweeps across the country allowing bettors to access legalised online betting with growing ease.
“If you’ve driven past a billboard, turned on a TV or used the internet lately, odds are you’ve seen an ad for sports betting,” the article said, as it pointed out a contrast in US regulations, which tightly control how sportsbooks are operated – but not necessarily how they are advertised.
Indeed, as we have heard countless times in Europe, the possibility of gambling ads being shown to people under the legal betting age – especially around sporting events – is causing growing concern.
“If gambling is not legal for those who are under 21, then it probably would not make sense to allow advertising to be targeted on programming where a reasonable share of the population is under 21,” said Marc Edelman, a professor at the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College.
The story quotes studies in other countries with legal sports betting, which have found a link between sportsbook advertising and riskier betting behaviour.
Edelman also suggested that leagues offer an alternate “clean” broadcast devoid of any gambling content, in a move reminiscent of the UK’s ‘whistle-to-whistle’ marketing ban, adopted by members of the Betting and Gaming Council in 2019.
If European markets can teach us anything, it’s that patience wears thin among the public when gambling ads become too prevalent. US operators would do well to exercise restraint where possible.