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

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Rishi looks less dishy after fishy taxpayer investments

Renowned party animal and Prime Minister Boris Johnson isn’t the only British politician to have come under fire this week, as chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak also found himself in hot water.

Sunak, the UK’s wealthiest member of parliament with a reported net worth of £3.1bn according to Metro, is accused of sinking millions of pounds of taxpayer funds into an online gambling firm under the government’s Covid-19 support fund scheme.

The scheme was designed to help innovative and fast-growing startups survive the pandemic by providing loans of up to £5m that could later be converted into shares.

The Telegraph reported that under the scheme, online betting exchange BetConnect was provided with a convertible loan worth almost £2m, all while the UK Government’s ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act has promised to toughen regulations for betting firms.

In addition to BetConnect, Sunak is accused of shelling out taxpayer cash to a luxury holiday provider, Edge Retreats, which offers villas and private islands to wealthy holidaymakers for up to, ahem, *checks notes*, £400,000 per WEEK.

While some would argue that gambling firms and suppliers of extreme luxury are just as deserving of government support as any other business, one thing’s for sure – this is unlikely to play well with British voters, whose cost of living has increased dramatically in recent months.

Web3 Belieber and an Ape NFT

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE. Get ready for this one, it may shock you. According to a report from High Snobiety, Canadian pop-star Justin Bieber might just have more money than sense.

The singer is not Sorry for his latest extravagant purchase; a Bored Ape NFT (that’s a verifiably unique picture of a cartoon monkey, to you and me), for which he paid 500 ETH (that’s $1.3m, to you and me).

According to Bitcoin News, however, the purchase price was 300% higher than the Bored Ape Yacht Club’s floor price (no idea), which basically means he has overpaid for it. By a lot.

Apparently, because the cartoon monkey is wearing a basic black t-shirt, rather than whatever the alternative might be, it isn’t considered to be particularly rare.

Blockchain enthusiasts took to Twitter to claim that Bieber has been ‘finessed’, which we presume means scammed, with others jumping to his defence to say that in fact he is the ultimate bullish NFT investor, paying well above the odds not because of rare characteristics, but simply because he liked the look of it.

Anyway, we hope the industry doesn’t treat Bieber like a Baby just for paying above the odds for his non-fungibles, and we certainly hope it doesn’t alter his Mood and make him feel Lonely. Perhaps even the NFT itself is regretting being ‘Stuck With U’, but Never Say Never; Bieber might just Hold On and make his money back some day.*

*The author of this piece did have to Google the names of Justin Bieber’s songs in order to write this paragraph. He thanks you for your support during this difficult time.

Same old story for New Jersey gambler in New York

It would not be an edition of hot copy without an appearance from Bloomberg. The business wire did an interesting write-up this week on the launch of legalised online sports betting in New York from a socio-economic perspective.

In it, a young man aged 24 was interviewed, saying he now feels pressure to have money in the game on all major sports events, such is the level of hype around the introduction of mobile sports betting and its proliferation among members of his peer group.

The piece also touches on the lucrative bonus offers being bandied about by the market’s seven functioning operators to acquire customers.

Dom Coppola, a 25-year-old New Yorker and habitual user of online casino apps when he lived in New Jersey, was taking a break from gambling due to mounting losses – at least until generous sign-up offers began popping up on every imaginable marketing channel in New York.

“It’s incredible how well they work,” Coppola said. “I’ve taken pretty much every free bet possible and available. And don’t get me wrong, when you win money off that, it feels like house money. But in reality, I’m still digging myself out of that same hole that I was in.”

Evidence perhaps that the US is walking something of a responsible gambling tightrope – with a blindfold on.

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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