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

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The Sting-dian Premier League

A unique betting operation hit the headlines in the Guardian this week, as the paper revealed Russian gangsters had orchestrated a fake “Indian Premier League” (IPL) cricket tournament in one of the most bizarre betting scams in years.

The tournament was set up on a remote farm in the western state of Gujarat, according to the article, and saw labourers and unemployed people paid 400 rupees (€4.98) per game to pretend to be top-flight cricket stars.

Using halogen lights, high-resolution cameras, computer-generated graphics, downloaded crowd noise and a fake IPL commentator, the gang was able to broadcast its bootleg tournament on YouTube and convinced Russian bettors to place their wagers via Telegram.

Naturally, the criminals running the scam would alert the game’s fake umpire, who would signal to the bowler and batsman to hit a six, a four, or get out, thus ensuring the gang always maintained the upper hand.

Commentators have said the story reminds them of classic 1973 swindle movie The Sting, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

In the end though, the scammers received a rude awakening, with local police barging into the operation to shut down play before it finished. 

What year is it? 

LimeWire is back. The bombshell return of the file-sharing platform has already been described as “one of the things that has happened this year,” and something which “has absolutely taken place.”

The ill-fated music download site beleaguered the lives of a generation of parents in the early ‘00s, as their (relatively) tech-savvy sons and daughters logged onto the service to eagerly, and illegally, download their favourite pop songs, alongside a slew of the hottest new malware and computer viruses. 

Now though, according to Adweek, the firm is set to return to our lives, after a 12-year hiatus during which increased internet speed and the proliferation of streaming left the old LimeWire more or less redundant.

Instead, we are now able to access the brand new LimeWire, which has relaunched as… Drumroll please… A music-focused NFT marketplace!

The launch has been accompanied by a sickly sweet ad campaign, which sees young children in the mid-noughties rush home from school to illegally download the possibly explicit novelty rap song “Crank That (Soulja Boy)”. Does anyone know the accompanying dance? 

Fast forward 15 years or so (Soulja Boy’s eponymous number one hit came out in 2007) and, you guessed it, here’s the pair of school friends once again, now portrayed as fully grown digital marketing execs who are somehow, inexplicably, still listening to “Crank That (Soulja Boy)”.

But this time, it’s different. Now, the friends actually own a piece of their personal history. For they have bought a non-fungible token which denotes ownership of this particular version of “Crank That (Soulja Boy)”, I think, and somehow, that’s even better than just stealing it off the internet in 2007 on your mum’s dial-up computer.

So yes, LimeWire is back. And if at any point anyone cares, we’ll report on that too.

More Bloomin’ sponsorship talk

Tony Bloom, one of the UK’s most successful professional gamblers and gaming industry entrepreneurs, may have surprised The Athletic readers this week when he revealed that he would back a ban on football shirt sponsorships by gambling firms.

Bloom, who in addition to his business ventures in the gambling industry is also the owner and chairman of Premier League football club Brighton, told the magazine: “It’s really important to be aware of children seeing gambling or betting advertising on the shirt in particular, because they buy shirts.

“[Brighton and Hove Albion] are aware of that. We’re not against gambling or betting at all, but the advertising certainly when it comes to children we’re aware of. Although we do have some gambling advertising around, we are careful where we place it, so we are probably a bit more cautious than some other clubs,” he said.

Although his own club takes a careful approach to gambling – and indeed cryptocurrency, which sees digital exchanges advertised in partnership with many of the other teams in the Premier League – Bloom recognised that for smaller clubs in lower leagues, gambling sponsorships can be the best way to maximise income.

In the Premier League however, that may all be set to change. The league wants clubs to support phasing out shirt sponsorships in order to avoid a government-imposed blanket ban.

A vote by all 20 top-flight clubs on the matter has been delayed by the league until later this month, however, due to a government in crisis. As our lame duck of a prime minister prepares to stand down, the future of UK gambling regulation – and its impact on football – remains clear as mud.

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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