• Home
  • News
  • Features
  • Hot copy: Stories that caught our eye this week from around the sector

Time to do Betr

This week The Closing Line by +More Media offered up its two cents on the possible US betting industry disruptor, Betr.

In an article published on Monday, US gambling sector expert Dustin Gouker set out why he thinks “Betr isn’t taking over the US sports betting landscape, and it probably never will.”

Why he spent his time writing about an operator “that accounts for approximately zero percent of the US sports betting market by share,” Gouker wasn’t sure, he said, but the resulting read is well worth a few minutes of anyone’s time.

The Jake Paul-fronted company “seems to be a bit of a media and industry darling, despite its underwhelming launch this year,” he wrote.

“But for the life of me, I am not sure why anyone is excited about Betr, at least from a gambling perspective.”

Gouker points out that in the two states where its operations are currently live – Ohio and Massachusetts – Betr ranks 18th out of 18 and eighth out of eight, respectively, by the amount it has handled in bets since launch.

“You can say ‘slow burn’ and ‘we just got started’ and ‘we’re still working on product’ all you want,” Gouker writes.

“I am pretty sure given the same tech platform, I could launch a sportsbook tomorrow and get more users and handle and revenue just by going to Ohio and trying to sign people up at bars or promoting it from my Twitter handle.”

The problem with that reality, he adds, is that Betr’s whole shtick is based around its unparalleled strength when it comes to customer acquisition. 

Gouker dives much deeper into the issue than can be reflected here, so readers are encouraged to check out the full article in all its glory.

Betr vs. ESPN

Careful not to be outdone when it comes to criticising others in the industry, Betr co-founder Joey Levy took to Medium later in the week to offer up his view about the soon-to-launch ESPN Bet.

In his post, Levy set out to demonstrate the “juxtaposition between the recently announced partnership between Penn and ESPN, and our approach at Betr.”

“I expect ESPN Bet to be a formidable competitor,” Levy said in a note sent to colleagues earlier in the week. 

“It would be naive to suggest otherwise. The ESPN brand is synonymous with sports in America, and ESPN’s portfolio of sports media rights is unmatched. 

“Additionally, Penn Entertainment is well capitalised, has a capable management team, has expansive market access through their regional casino business, and now controls their own product and technology through their acquisition of The Score.”

So far, so positive. But Levy does not stop there and instead goes on to suggest that “there are some nuances and execution challenges that should be considered” around the deal.

He goes on to describe differences in Penn and Betr’s strategies when it comes to combining the worlds of sports media and betting.

Penn’s lack of differentiation in its Barstool Sportsbook product comes under fire, for example, while the firm’s customer acquisition and retention strategies are also put under the microscope.

The operator’s existing product, which is likely to serve as the basis for the eventual launch of ESPN Bet, “is still the same legacy sportsbook everyone else has – a glorified spreadsheet of moneylines, point spreads, and over/unders that are uninterpretable to the sports fan who has never bet on sports before,” Levy writes.

He rounds off the piece by contrasting Penn’s strategies with his own, setting out precisely how his business aims to position itself as “the brand in this category for the 21-34 year old demographic.”

As for which company will come to be more successful in the end, only time will tell.

Walters’ Life at Risk

On to a piece from Vanity Fair, now, which this week released an interview with gambling legend Bill Walters, who now “wants to teach you to beat the house.”

Walters “has long had sports gambling advice to give,” the article begins, having worked for decades in Las Vegas with the Computer Group, “a celebrated network of algorithmically minded sports gamblers.”

ESPN previously named Walters “the world’s most successful sports bettor,” before he was sent to prison on charges of insider trading in 2017.

The timing of his imprisonment came, incidentally, just shortly before a wave of legalised sports betting began to take hold across the US, Vanity Fair points out.

As a result, “by the time he was released, a new, emboldened audience for his life’s work had emerged.”

Sports betting had by this point become a major fixture in the US sports industry and culture.

That reality was part of the reason behind Walters’ decision to publish his memoir, Gambler: Secrets From a Life at Risk, which was published on Tuesday this week.

The book is not just about gambling, however, and provides autobiographical insights into Walters’ life more generally, including the tragedy of his daughter’s death by suicide, which took place while he remained in prison.

Vanity Fair’s interview with the cult figure offers up a wide-ranging read covering topics from Wall Street to the legalisation of sports betting in the US, via police raids on Walters’ home and just about everything in between.

For those still unsure whether Walters’ memoir is worth their time, this interview provides a good place to start.

Time to get back to the office

Workers looking to hang onto their jobs should reconsider a return to office-based work, according to the latest article published on the issue by The Telegraph.

It’s no secret that attitudes towards remote working have changed rapidly in recent years, with tech companies like Facebook, Apple and Google leading the charge on sending their employees to work from home at the onset of the Covid pandemic in 2020.

Since then, as companies across the world have embraced remote and hybrid working structures, the results of this “mother of all experiments” have started coming in, and the future doesn’t look too bright for those opting for an entirely remote setup.

The article points out that earlier this year, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg suggested that staff did a better job when they worked from the office, particularly when they were new to the company.

“Engineers who either joined Meta in-person and then transferred to remote or remained in-person performed better on average than people who joined remotely,” he said. “Our hypothesis is that it is still easier to build trust in person.”

Similar results may well have been observed across a range of businesses, as more and more begin to backtrack on earlier promises made about the option to work remotely.

Twitter, for example, previously introduced a policy to permanently allow employees to work fully remotely. Since Elon Musk took over the social media site last year, that policy has been reversed to such an extent that some employees have reportedly taken to sleeping at the office.

Among other factors, mass layoffs in recent months will likely have a lot of employees thinking twice about how they want to work in the future.

According to Thomas Roulet, an associate professor in organisation theory at the University of Cambridge, who studies home working policies, “tech firms right now are downsizing, and they’re going to target first for downsizing the people who will not come into the office.

“People who are not visible, people who stay at home because they thought tech firms were going to be super flexible, they’re going to be first in line because their bosses have never seen them. And they are not connected to the culture of the organisation.”

The shift is also reflected in the numbers. According to figures from jobs website Adzuna, the number of tech jobs in the UK advertised as fully remote fell from 39% in April last year to 27% last month. Hybrid jobs, which combine office and home work, have risen from 20% to 29%, while office-based roles have climbed from 7.7% to 9.1%.

It seems the remote working revolution may be starting to wane.

Digital currency? Too ‘woke’ for DeSantis

The winner of this week’s ‘not knowing what ‘woke’ means’ award goes to Governor Ron DeSantis, who, according to a column from The New York Times’ Paul Krugman, proudly announced last year that “Florida is where wokeness goes to die.”

According to the article, the ‘wokeness’ DeSantis wants to put a stop to includes acknowledging the role that racism has played in American history, accepting same-sex relationships and, apparently, allowing the creation of a central bank digital currency.

DeSantis insisted in March that the introduction of such a currency – as he terms it, “Big Brother’s Digital Dollar” – would lead to the imposition of an “ESG agenda,” with Americans being prevented from spending too much of their hard-earned cash on fossil fuels or automatic weaponry.

Columnist Krugman suggests that DeSantis might be speaking from a position of “general paranoia,” but to take a more cynical stance, thinks his opinions have been influenced by people who fear the introduction of a digital central bank currency could lead to a clampdown on anti-woke activities like evading taxes and laundering dirty money.

“In that sense,” Krugman offers, “DeSantis’s new crusade is a lot like the vote by House Republicans – one of their first legislative moves after taking control of the chamber – to rescind funding that would allow the IRS to crack down on tax cheats.”

The author points out, however, that there is a strong argument for the introduction of digital currencies to modern economies – and indeed that most money already exists in a digital-only format inside people’s bank accounts.

Still, there remains a “bizarre” $2.3 trillion still out there in cold, hard cash, and Krugman points out that it is the payment method of choice for those operating in less-than-legal industries.

“The thing is, whatever one’s reason for holding a big pile of cash may be, paper currency is inconvenient,” he argues.

“People can and do keep stacks of bills in their home safes and do business with briefcases full of greenbacks, but that’s increasingly annoying in a digital era. So there’s a demand for digital currency – virtual equivalents of old-fashioned cash that can be stored and transferred electronically.”

In that sense, he argues, the introduction of central bank-backed digital currencies is a no-brainer, as they would provide the best of both worlds of crypto and fiat currencies – the convenience of the digital format combined with the stability of government-issued money.

Crucially, it would also “strip away the veil obscuring the dark side of crypto,” which currently “protects the ability of wiseguys to evade taxes, launder money, buy and sell illegal drugs, and engage in extortion.”

“But hey,” he concludes, “I guess thinking that money laundering and extortion are bad things is just another example of the wokeness that DeSantis is trying to kill.”

The Murdoch family: Stranger than fiction

Hot off the heels of the global success of TV series Succession, Vanity Fair published an epic tale this week on a similar situation playing out in the real world, among News Corp media baron Rupert Murdoch.

HBO smash hit Succession “centres on the Roy family, the owners of a global media and entertainment conglomerate, who are fighting for control of the company amid uncertainty about the health of the family’s patriarch.”

Sound familiar? Well, as it turns out, the truth is often stranger than fiction.

The past 12 months have been tumultuous for the family’s patriarch, Rupert, to say the least. A $1.6bn lawsuit looms over Fox News, he is recently divorced from Jerry Hall (after ending their relationship via email), and a slew of medical problems – including a broken back – have left him significantly weakened.

Vanity Fair laid out an impressive roster of additional dramas taking place within the family, as his children vie for position to take over the business at such time as the 92-year-old relinquishes control.

There is far too much drama going on between the Murdochs for it to be neatly summarised here. Readers should set aside half an hour and dive deep into this tale to get a real taste of what’s going on in the inner circle.