Stake co-founder Ed Craven has denied the online casino giant self-funded the gambling activity of its biggest streamers and influencers.
The crypto disruptor – which counts Canadian rapper Drake as an A-list brand ambassador – faced mounting accusations before being banned from Twitch that it lined the pockets of its collaborators as a viral marketing strategy to encourage big stakes and even bigger wins.
Craven, who has since gone on to launch fast-growing Twitch rival Kick, rejected those accusations in a live video interview with YouTube channel Gamer Update on 24 June.
A bad example
“There was a lot of speculation around the money side and I completely understand that because there was incredible amounts being bet at any given moment,” said Craven.
For example, Drake joined Stake in December 2021 under the alias DeepPockets6. He is understood to have gambled more than £800m in cryptocurrency in just two months.
The artist bet a whopping £1.67m on Israel Adesanya to beat Alex Pereira in a UFC 281 title fight and lost. He also bet £837k on Argentina to win the World Cup but lost on a technicality after Lionel Messi’s side triumphed after normal time and on penalties.
“That is something that personally, I don’t believe was good for anybody,” said Craven in response to the amount of money tabled by Stake’s high-profile partners.
“I don’t condone that at all. I think that was something which attracted unneeded attention,” he added.
Authenticity is key
Despite the outrageous sums of money being wagered, Craven has maintained that Drake and his fellow Stake ambassadors were betting out of their own wallets.
“In terms of the legitimacy and the authenticity of the gambling, that is something that of course we were very, very serious about,” he said.
“This comes back to our marketing strategy. If you have an authentic use of the product, then that is what leads to it being a successful campaign.
“Using gambling as an example, having real money is the most important aspect of having an authentic experience.
“To address the speculation, I’m not going to confirm that – I will harshly deny the fact that those rumours are true.
“We wanted to keep everything extremely above board in all areas and there have been no revelations around that otherwise. I think it has always been speculation,” he added.
Stake was one of four high-profile casino operators banned from Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch in 2022.
At the time, Twitch said it would prohibit streams and the sharing of links or referral codes to gambling sites and games that are not licensed in the US or other jurisdictions that provide “sufficient” consumer protection.
Twitch CEO Dan Clancy has since gone on record to confirm that stance, suggesting the company has a problem with sites that are “unregulated”.
Stake is licensed for online gambling by Curaçao, which is currently in the process of bringing its own gambling legislation closer in line with international standards.
While answering community-posed questions on the live stream, Craven took issue with the “unregulated” definition.
“There was controversy that came out of the gambling side of things, and there still is. There is still gambling on Twitch, there’s gambling on Kick, and there’s gambling on YouTube,” he said.
“There’s gambling on all social media platforms and I think people still question a lot of what goes on.
“I do think there are some very unfair comments, though, in regard to what is defined as acceptable versus unacceptable. I’ve heard some ideas around whether it’s regulated or unregulated,” he added.
M&A on the cards
Craven then revealed that Stake could be set to enter the locally licensed online gambling space by completing a “large” acquisition for an undisclosed company in the regulated US market.
The move, he said, would give Twitch bosses a major decision to make over whether to reintegrate Stake to the platform based on their own gambling terms and conditions.
“We look forward to hopefully being able to work back on Twitch under their guidelines,” said Craven.
“But I’m not sure whether they’re going to follow through with this whole concept of regulated versus unregulated once we meet their regulations.”
Drake ups the stakes
The New York Post took a deep dive this week into the sports betting history of Canadian rap sensation Drake.
While punters in the UK stress over affordability checks, at least our betting habits aren’t being put under the microscope by one of the biggest tabloid newspapers in the US.
The Hotline Bling singer is currently on a hot streak, having won a $1m wager on Israel Adesanya to win his latest UFC bout. Drake pocketed roughly $222k in profit that night.
“Drake is a celebrity whale,” professional sports bettor Bill Krackomberger told The Post. “He’s one of the most in-demand gamblers by casino marketing departments. I saw him at Aria and he was betting $200,000 a spin at roulette.”
With 39.5 million Twitter followers and a genuine passion for punting, it is easy to see why operators including Stake.com have paid mega bucks to sign Drake as a brand ambassador.
Gambling review falls down pecking order
Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, you will know by now that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resigned.
The Conservative Party leader had to be dragged kicking and screaming from Number 10 to announce his resignation and will now cling on to power until the autumn.
The timing of BoJo’s resignation has come at a particularly bad – or good – time for the UK gambling industry, depending which side of the fence you sit on.
The government had been expected to publish and rubberstamp its long-delayed review of the 2005 Gambling Act, but that timeline is now in tatters following the resignation of gambling minister Chris Philp, who on Thursday quit in protest at Johnson’s leadership.
“I strongly urge you to deliver the review in full and undiluted,” wrote Philp in the farewell letter to his former boss.
Industry paper the Racing Post points out that the sector could now be made to wait until autumn for any kind of clarity, with parliament due to start summer recess on 22 July.
The paper reports that a proposal contained within the review white paper places the threshold for enhanced affordability checks at a net loss of £2,000 over a 90-day period.
Operators appear to have escaped a worst case scenario in that case, although the prolonged uncertainty will do little to improve the share price fortunes of those listed in London.
Sky News looked at the delayed review and decided to run with another angle.
Premier League clubs had been expected to vote on a voluntary ban on gambling shirt sponsorship this week but that will now be postponed until 26 July at the earliest.
The initiative was thought up by the Premier League to avoid government intervention on the issue, which has been a running theme throughout the review process.
One club executive told Sky they were grateful of the breathing space as there is a wish for further discussion about the plans before they are put to a vote. Premier League rules mean that approval from at least 14 clubs is required for a vote to be approved.
Almost half of Premier League clubs, including Newcastle United and West Ham, were sponsored by betting operators last season.
Companies including Stake.com, Dafabet and Betway can breathe a sigh of relief – for now at least.
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Stake.com has ramped up its aggressive marketing drive by securing a lucrative front-of-shirt deal with Premier League club Everton.
The multi-year partnership – officially due to commence on 1 July – will become the highest value sponsorship deal in the Merseyside club’s 144-year history.
The agreement will see the Stake brand feature on both men’s and women’s playing shirts, in addition to screens and media backdrops at home stadium Goodison Park and training ground Finch Farm, as well as across the club’s digital media platforms.
Established in 2017, Stake has quickly grown to become one of the industry’s largest online casinos with millions of users worldwide.
The crypto-centric operator has shot to fame in the US by partnering with influencers and brand ambassadors including Canadian rapper Drake, UFC champions Israel Adesanya and José Aldo and former Manchester City striker Sergio Agüero.
Drake x @Stake pic.twitter.com/vdkGDnp1wt
— Drizzy (@Drake) March 4, 2022
Stake is licensed by the Gambling Commission via its white-label agreement with TGP Europe. It is not permitted to offer cryptocurrency betting in the UK, however.
The operator previously had a sponsorship agreement with Watford, who were relegated from the Premier League last season.
Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale, CEO at Everton, said: “Stake is an ambitious organisation with impressive growth plans and we’re all very excited to enter into a partnership with them at this stage in their journey.
“My talented colleagues in our new revenue team have made excellent progress in recent months and worked tirelessly to secure what is the biggest main partnership deal in the club’s history.
“I’d like to congratulate them on this achievement and, on behalf of everyone at the club, express my gratitude to Stake for choosing Everton as a long-term partner.
“Finally, I am pleased to say that we have already been working together with Stake on some exciting activities and content for our local and international supporters and we look forward to sharing more detail on these plans soon,” she added.
Everton’s newly expanded commercial team opted to end its previous agreement with car retailer Cazoo earlier than planned, paving the way for Stake to sign on.
Everton CEO Denise Barrett-Baxendale: “My talented colleagues in our new revenue team have made excellent progress in recent months and worked tirelessly to secure what is the biggest main partnership deal in the club’s history.”
Stake head of acquisition Akhil Sarin said: “We are incredibly proud to be partnering with Everton, a club steeped in tradition and with a passionate and loyal fanbase respected the world over.
“Everton is a club that perfectly complements our own growth ambitions as we seek to expand our presence globally and strengthen our top-tier sports sponsorship portfolio.
“It’s a huge honour for everyone at Stake to be joining the Everton family and playing our part in supporting the club in the transition to the new stadium. We look forward to celebrating this most exciting chapter in the club’s history with Evertonians everywhere.”
Everton’s deal with Stake was secured at a time where most top-flight clubs appear to be pulling away from gambling sponsorships with the UK gambling act currently under review.
The review appears set to impose tight restrictions on the regulated sector, including stake limits for online casino. Football sponsorships are also rumoured to be in the crosshairs, although a ban is unlikely to be imposed in time for next season.