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Loving life after being laid off

Bloomberg ran an interesting feature this week on those learning to love being laid off.

US employers slashed more than 100,000 jobs last month, primarily in the tech sector. Reporter Claire Ballentine points out that while getting laid off is often considered a crisis, it can also be quite liberating.

“No regular 9-5 role means more time for hobbies and passion projects, some of which can be turned into new careers. Others are simply catching up on sleep,” she writes.

Profiled in the piece is Bobin Singh, whose reaction to being laid off as a social media producer at an LA-based esports company was one of jubilation.

Now he is free to focus on freelance video editing, especially for short-form videos on TikTok.

Other coping strategies included getting straight back into work, switching to consultancy or booking a one-way ticket to Guatemala.

According to career coach Rana Rosen, employment crises can help people take new risks or embrace changes they may never have otherwise considered.

How many people in iGaming could benefit from a break or a jump outside of our comfort zone? More than many might care to admit.

How do you solve a problem like match fixing?

The Washington Post turned its eye to the murky world of match fixing this week, as journalist Timothy O’Brien examined whether the proliferation of online sports betting in the US brings increased risks for sport integrity.

The author pointed to recent scandals in the snooker world – with 10 Chinese professional players currently under investigation for match-fixing charges – as well as the significant risk of fraudulent betting activity across a wealth of other sports, to show that match-fixing is showing no signs of slowing down.

“Match fixing exists because gambling exists, in much the same way that insider trading exists because the stock market exists,” O’Brien suggested. “It’s where the money is.”

Although it has been taking place consistently for an indeterminate period of time, match fixing is “now more frequent and ubiquitous” according to analysts, thanks to the increased proliferation of online and mobile sports betting.

“Odds and wagers are offered on a global buffet of different sports – and all of them are potentially corruptible,” he said.

The author spoke with representatives from a variety of organisations including Sportradar – which offers one of the gambling industry’s best known anti-corruption programmes – as well as spending time with pro gamblers and Native American gambling operators in the US, to learn more about the world of sport corruption.

And with the Super Bowl coming up this weekend in the US, the growing potential for match fixing has become an increasingly hot topic stateside.

The integrity of the NFL is relatively secure, the author argues, as players, coaches and others within the league are handsomely remunerated and therefore at lower risk of being tempted by the ill-gotten spoils of match fixing.

In other sports, leagues and geographies, however, the allure is all too strong.

The piece points to college leagues in particular, where student athletes who “aren’t properly compensated, remain ripe targets for corruption as the sports gambling boom accelerates.”

“If you needed to design a league that would incentivise corruption, it would be very difficult not to do better than the National Collegiate Athletic Association,” match fixing expert Declan Hill told The Post.

“They don’t get paid, a few of them get their image rights, some of them get scholarships, but those scholarships are, in most cases, instantly voided if they get injured. This is a recipe for disaster.”

So, while the NFL might appear rock solid, the risk of match fixing in sports is going nowhere. And the increasing number of betting options for punters across the US may only serve to make it even riskier.

DAZN’s billion dollar bet on the NFL

A new 10-year deal between DAZN and the NFL – for the rights to stream NFL Game Pass International to customers worldwide – is likely to be worth around $1bn, according to an article released by Forbes this week.

The deal was announced initially by the Hollywood Reporter, but no financial terms were disclosed at that time.

An NFL insider who spoke to Forbes on the condition of anonymity, however, said the deal was likely worth around $100m per season for the next 10 years, bringing the total value of the agreement to an eye-watering sum.

DAZN has distributed the NFL Game Pass in Canada since 2017 and has been the league’s broadcast partner in Germany and Japan since 2016, as well as in Italy since 2018.

Football fans outside the US will be able to watch every league regular-season and post-season game on NFL Game Pass International, including the Super Bowl, from the 2023 season onwards.

The pass also offers access to NFL Network and NFL RedZone programming, as well as a library of NFL Films and NFL Media programming, all available on demand.

According to Forbes: “Last summer, NFL Game Pass was rebranded to NFL+, with the NFL folding free local game live-streaming into the app, allowing fans to see games in their market on a mobile device in addition to catching replays.”

NFL+ also offers other features besides its on-demand content, including out-of-market preseason games and live radio broadcasts of all games.

DAZN said in its 2022 annual review that it has 15 million subscribers, the majority of which are outside of the US.

UAE looks like a Wynner

Arabian Business reported this week that Wynn Resorts’ plans to build the first casino in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have come one step closer to fruition.

The plan, first revealed in January this year, involves Wynn building a luxury integrated resort in Ras Al-Khaimah, the sixth largest city in the UAE.

It would be the first resort in the UAE to include a gaming area, after the Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism and Development Authority (RAKTDA) was reported to have created a new Department of Entertainment and Gaming Regulation.

At present, gambling is illegal in the country. Authorities are currently working on their gambling regulations, Arabian Business reported, using a combination of Singaporean and US regulations as their foundation.

On Wynn’s Q3 earnings call with investors this week, the operator’s CEO Craig Billings said of the yet-to-be-built property: “The casino component – where at least for some period of time, we will be operating on our own, which makes it quite exciting – is shaping up to be somewhat larger than Wynn Las Vegas, but with numerous pockets of energy and compression.”

When it opens in 2026, the resort is expected to boast an 18,500 square meter casino, making it one of the top 10 largest casinos worldwide and almost double the size of the casino at the Wynn Las Vegas.

Billings was also able to shed some more light on the nature of upcoming regulations in the jurisdiction. 

He said: “We’re not looking at a multiyear process for legalisation like we have seen in some other markets. Regulations are well advanced, having been modelled on those of Singapore and the United States. The tax rate and license structure are very reasonable.

“And finally, with the regulatory framework taking shape and a regulator in place, we will be licensed to conduct gaming in Ras Al Khaimah.”

It appears, then, that travellers to the UAE can look forward to kicking back on the tables and slots in just a few short years.

Time to Meta your maker

As reported by the New York Times, Facebook and Instagram owner Meta employees saw a tidal wave of staff cuts this week, as more than 11,000 people lost their jobs with the tech giant.

The figure relates to some 13% of the firm’s workforce – which stood at more than 87,000 employees as of the end of September.

Layoffs were made across several departments and regions, with some areas including recruitment and business teams affected more seriously than others.

Departments which emerged relatively unscathed from the process included engineering teams working on projects related to the metaverse, NYT reported.

“I want to take accountability for these decisions and for how we got here,” Meta CEO Zuckerberg wrote in a letter to the firm’s employees. “I know this is tough for everyone, and I’m especially sorry to those impacted.”

Zuckerberg added that the cuts were the result of a too-fast expansion during the Covid-19 pandemic, where a surge in online commerce led to significant revenue increases for the firm.

At the time, he said, he thought that growth would be permanent, which led him to significantly increase the business’ spending.

“Unfortunately, this did not play out the way I expected,” he said. “I got this wrong, and I take responsibility for that.”

Having thrown around its spending power in recent years – buying up tech brands like Instagram and WhatsApp – Meta’s fortunes seem to have changed over the course of 2022.

Once valued at a staggering $1 trillion, shares in the tech giant are down 67% this year, and it now boasts a market cap of less than $300bn.

The news follows on from the much-publicised recent takeover of Twitter by Tesla owner Elon Musk, who also made enormous cutbacks on staff numbers at the social networking giant.

It seems the big tech bubble could now be starting to burst.

Save me a Barstool

According to an article in the Washington Post, a US district court judge this week dismissed a lawsuit filed by Dave Portnoy, founder of sports and culture website Barstool Sports, which is now part-owned by casino and online gambling operator Penn Entertainment.

Portnoy had attempted to sue digital news outlet Insider.com, over the publication of two articles quoting two women who accused the founder of sexual misconduct and assault.

The case filed by Portnoy accused Insider, its chief executive, top editor and two correspondents, of “willful and unlawful defamation and privacy rights violations” over the publication of the stories.

Portnoy also alleged that Insider timed the publication of the two articles about his personal conduct to hurt the share price of Penn Entertainment, which owns a 36% stake in Barstool Sports.

This week, Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV granted Insider’s motion to dismiss the case, writing that Portnoy’s suit did not succeed in proving that Insider published the stories with “actual malice” or “reckless disregard for the truth,” the legal standard required to prove defamation of public figures in the United States.

Because Portnoy did not allege that the anonymous sources used for the stories were fake, or that the articles misrepresented what they told Insider, the complaint was deemed not to meet the standard for defamation.

Insider spokesperson Mario Ruiz said: “Our reporting on Dave Portnoy was careful, fair, and accurate. We are pleased and gratified that the judge dismissed his complaint.”

In response, Portnoy said in a five-minute video posted on his social media accounts that the case: “Ain’t over … but I don’t know where I’m going from here to be honest. The champagne bottles will remain on ice.”

The Affiliate Football League

The Guardian has urged football clubs in the Premier League to reveal whether they have affiliate deals with bookmakers, after discovering that some of the clubs in the English Football League (EFL) had acted as affiliate partners for Flutter Entertainment-owned SkyBet.

The EFL said that some clubs are expected to continue to receive revenue from those deals, and by default losing gamblers, until the end of the 2023-24 season – although the arrangement lasted for a total of six years before being scrapped at the start of the 2019-20 season.

The story certainly struck a chord with British commentators and politicians, many of whom have campaigned aggressively for gambling reform.

Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who co-chairs a cross-party parliamentary group on gambling-related harm, said: “This appears to be proof that football clubs are exploiting their own fans, some of whom will be gambling addicts, by taking a cut of every penny they lose to greedy bookmakers. The government must now step in to loosen the hold that the gambling industry has on the national game.”

The Guardian said it understands that one League Two club made £5,000 from the contract in a year, while the team involved in the deal whose details were first discovered by the paper – Accrington Stanley – “made no revenue from acting as a betting affiliate during the fourth quarter of the 2021-22 financial year.”

There are concerns, however, that if the more popular clubs in the Premier League have similar deals, there could be a great deal more money than that changing hands between bookies and pro teams.

Evidence of affiliate deals in football was “a gamechanger in the fight to end gambling sponsorship in football,” said James Grimes, who campaigns for an end to gambling sponsorship in football via his group The Big Step. 

“No one should accept that this is normal or safe,” he concluded.

Retention time for bookies in the US

The Washington Post took a deep dive into US gambling advertising spend this week, examining the “considered gamble” taken by operators which have so far invested “astronomical” sums on marketing their wares to the American public.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, household names in the US like Caesars and BetMGM were singled out for their unusual stunts, including Caesars transforming a fleet of Ubers in Arizona to look like chariots, and BetMGM claiming to have “received the first bet from space.”

It pointed out that in spite of the firms’ commitment to spending whatever it takes to acquire customers in the US, Flutter-owned FanDuel is the only publicly traded US operator to have turned to profit in the market so far.

With market share of around 47%, FanDuel eclipses its competition in the US, while DraftKings and BetMGM take up a further 35% of the market between them, the Post said.

As a result, the other 60 or so US operators hoping to carve out their slice of the remaining market are now increasingly under pressure to become more cost-conscious.

Punters in the US are therefore likely to see “skimpier” promotions and fewer sportsbooks advertising on national TV this autumn, it added.

“You’ve seen the industry pull back and say, ‘Wow, fighting for market share got pretty ugly in terms of losses’,” said David VanEgmond, a former executive at FanDuel and Barstool Sportsbook who now leads investment group Bettor Capital.

Still, the investments could yet pay off for US bookies who were brave with their advertising spend in the first few years of the market opening up.

According to McKinsey partner Dan Singer: “When a market opens up, you’ve got to get out there and start acquiring, because being the first book that someone downloads gives you roughly twice as much action as being the second or the third.”

And, with the average customer expected to be worth thousands of dollars to a bookie over their lifetime, those operators will now look to retain the customers they’ve already got hold of.

Rather that, VanEgmond suggested, than going the same way as Caesars, who had “a bunch of people come in, then losing them to other places and now having nothing really to show for it.”

The ‘Netflix of Gaming’

Netflix is setting up its own video game development studio in Helsinki, according to a report released this week by BBC News.

According to the piece, the streaming giant has long had an interest in the gaming world – having acquired small developers including Oxenfree creator Night School Studio – and now wants to increase its capabilities in the sector by establishing its own Helsinki-based development studio.

The studio will be run by former Zynga and Electronic Arts executive Marko Lastikka, who is an established figure in gaming as one of Farmville developer Zynga’s co-founders.

Apparently, Lastikka will help Netflix attempt to improve its retention rate by offering a more engaging product to customers, after the service announced its first quarterly reduction in subscriber count in April this year.

The firm went on to lose another million subs between April in July, the biggest drop in its history. It still has more than 220 million subscribers worldwide, however.

According to the article, Netflix is also working to identify areas where TV, film and video gaming cross over. The firm has already released several series based on games, including Arcane based on League of Legends and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.

Netflix is also working closely with Ubisoft, the BBC said, which will see both a live-action Assassin’s Creed television series developed, and a Netflix-exclusive mobile game.

Independent industry analyst Eric Seufert told the BBC that he thought Netflix was making substantial investments into gaming.

“If they want to utilise a lot of the IP that they have, they probably have to build a lot of those games themselves,” he said. “Because working with external publishers on IP licensing deals becomes very tedious and complex.

“They have so much data on customer preferences on the video-streaming content side, my sense is they can probably bring some of that to bear.”

So it looks like anyone promising to create “the Netflix of gaming” has some bad news awaiting them… they’ve already beaten you to it.