Various experts on the growing issue of problem gambling in the United Kingdom (UK) have weighed in on the increasing number of football clubs being sponsored by online casinos and betting companies as worrying and disturbing. They also argued it is time to start a national debate in England on the possible danger of blatant gambling sponsorships.
This season almost 60% of squads in the top two English divisions will have the names of gambling companies on their football jerseys. That includes almost half of Premier League teams and nearly three-quarters of squads in the Championship division.
In fact, all three divisions of the English Football League (EFL) are sponsored by Sky Bet.
Some of the other prominent gambling sponsors include Bet365, the Mansion Group, dafabet and Fun88.
British pro athletes are not permitted to place wagers on any football matches or endorse any betting brand personally. In 2017 the controversy involving the ban of Joey Barton for betting caused the Football Association (FA) to end its business partnership with Ladbrokes.
Anti-Gambling Campaigners Concerned
Problem gambling has become a serious issue in the UK and the government along with the UK Gambling Commission are taking aggressive steps to address these concerns.
In a statement, Jim Orford, Professor of Gambling Watch UK said
This is worrying. There is evidence that gambling is becoming ever more normalized, particularly among young people, so that increasingly betting is seen as part and parcel of following and supporting one’s favourite sport or team.
The Gambling Commission’s latest statistic reports 430,000 UK adults are problem gamblers. Meanwhile, another two million people are in danger of developing an addiction to gambling. Another shocking statistic is that 370,000 children between the ages of 11 and 16 place wagers weekly and 25,000 of those gamblers are classified as problem gamblers.
GambleAware’s chief executive Marc Etches says one of the main reasons why they are concerned over the massive betting sponsors involved in football is because football fans have started to believe that it is mandatory to place a wager on your favorite team in order to fully enjoy the beautiful game.
EFL Looking To Promote Responsible Gambling
An EFL spokesperson argued sponsorship contracts with gambling companies are significant in helping professional football teams stay afloat financially. Meanwhile, he added the league has taken steps to make sure its relationship with Sky Bet is socially responsible.
In addition, the EFL’s campaign for responsible gambling will involve players in each division wearing special sleeve badges. It will also require each club to provide training about gambling’s risks.
Iran’s currency is facing a tough time. With impending sanctions from the Trump administration, the Iranian rial is continuing to drop in value creating serious concerns for their economy. This is bad news for the rial but it is good news for Bitcoin.
There are reports coming in that bitcoin and other decentralized assets are gaining popularity with the locals as a way to elude these sanctions.
The rial has struggled for years but was slowly beginning to gain momentum when it once again hit a bump in the road. Only July 30, the currency posted its lowest price trading at 100,000 rials at black market prices. This is a very worrying sign for the local economy and has many Iranians fearing an economic collapse.
It does not help that the Iranian government has imposed restrictions on those seeking to turn their rials into more liquid foreign currencies. They are also trying to stop conversions into gold, which is a traditional way to convert assets into a commodity that is sure to retain its value.
Bitcoin To The Rescue
With their options being limited, savvy investors are turning to bitcoin and other digital assets as a way to weather the economic storm. The amount of bitcoin transactions in Iran has rise sharply since May 2018, when the US announced new sanctions on Tehran. The rise was quick but it still not as high as it was in the middle of the December 2017 bitcoin rush. At that time, Iranian media claimed that Iranians bought $2.5 billion worth of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Nowadays, many Iranians are seeking to put their money into bitcoin, despite the central government recently banning Bitcoin along with other cryptocurrencies in April. One Iranian who preferred to remain anonymous said she buys bitcoin and Ethereum every month with money from her salary. Many others are doing the same, thinking that the Iranian central bank won’t be able to resolve this issue in the near future.
Iranians are switching over to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies but their buying power is declining as the rial drops in value. In the past, buyers could buy one Bitcoin for the equivalent of $10,000. Now, buyers are shelling out as much as $20,000 to acquire one Bitcoin. This is in sharp contrast to the international price of bitcoin which is pegged at $8,120 at the time of this writing.
Seeking a National Cryptocurrency
The Iranian government is doing its best to resolves its economic woes and seems to be turning to blockchain technology. It has already confirmed the development of a national encryption key and it is moving to launch its own national cryptocurrency as a way to get through sanctions.
President Donald Trump and NFL players went at it last year over the decision of some NFL players who decided to ‘take a knee‘ during the National Anthem. The issue quickly sky rocketed as President Trump called on NFL owners to take a tough stance on players who disrespected the National Anthem.
The NFL tried to address the issue by coming out with a new policy for this season that made it mandatory for players to stand during the National Anthem.
Players who did not want to stand for the National Anthem had the option of remaining in the change rooms according to the new policy.
The new policy was expected to draw a clear line in the sand and settle the issue once and for all. However, that hasn’t been the case as the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) objected to the policy saying that they were not consulted and the NFL was trying to bully players into subjection. The NFL responded by stating that it will not enforce the policy immediately and would engage in discussions with the NFLPA to come to a mutual agreement.
Players Start Throwing Shade At Each Other
The problem has become a lot bigger for the NFL as the players have started taking sides and lashing out at each other. Dan Prescott who plays as a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys made his stance clear.
In a statement, Dak Prescott said
I never protest during the anthem, and I don’t think that’s the time or the venue to do so. The game of football has always brought me such peace, and I think it does the same for a lot of people, so when you bring such controversy to the stadium, to the field, to the game it takes away. It takes away from that, it takes away from the joy and the love that football brings a lot of people.
Oakland Raiders linebacker Tahir Whitehead wasn’t happy with those remarks who accused Prescott of saying the ‘right things’ to keep his lucrative contract and sponsorship deals. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot was also not in favour of the protests along with team owner Jerry Jones.
Richard Sherman who plays as a cornerback for the 49ers threw shade at the Cowboys and accused Jones of having a slave owner’s mentality and forcing his players to agree to his views. If the NFL does not sort this issue out quickly, it could create a lot of bad blood between players and teams in the NFL coming season.
Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) has processed a loan application for $300,000 on a blockchain platform. This is the first time the bank applied the technology for solving a real-world issue. The loan was issued by the bank’s branch in China’s Guizhou province. A farm land was used as collateral to secure the loan.
The bank, being one of the main financial service providers in the country, aims to build a world class commercial banking group with extremely competent and comfortable services, variegated functions and proven value-creation ability.
Furthermore, ABC specializes in loans and other services related to agricultural, industrial, commercial, and transportation enterprises in rural areas. The bank also offers personal banking, wealth management and Forex services and credit card products.
The Agricultural Bank of China explained that other parties involved in the deal, including the provincial branch of the People’s Bank of China, commercial banks, as well as the local government’s Land and Resources Bureau act as nodes for the blockchain system.
The bank also explained that the use of tamper-proof blockchain enables streamlining the loan approval process as all data related to borrowers and collateral are stored in a distributed ledger. Furthermore, the use of blockchain terminates the problem of double spending, a dishonest method of using the same parcel of land as collateral to receive loan from multiple banks.
The third largest Chinese bank aims to enhance its ability to offer loans for farmers who own agricultural land in rural China. The use of blockchain is one of the strategies employed to achieve the objective.
ABC is planning to extend its services by granting loans based on other kind of assets in the future. Earlier this year, the bank has developed an automated decentralized network for providing small unsecured loans to e-commerce merchants who are active in the agricultural sector.
It must be remembered that several banks, non-banking financial institutions and trading firms are adopting blockchain to improve the service and realize cost advantage. By this year end, the Chinese authorities are planning to form National Blockchain Standardization Committee. The Chinese authorities are also planning to fulfill reliability, interoperability and safety requirements.
Already, 12 of the 26 publicly listed Chinese banks have started building their business platform based on blockchain technology. China, ultimately, aims to make blockchain as a “core” technology for the next generation digital economy. The technology has received complete support from Xin Guobin, Deputy Director of China’s Ministry of Industry and information Technology.
China has been one of the countries which have done everything that is possible to wipe of cryptocurrencies and mining business. However, the government is extremely encouraging when it comes to blockchain, the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies. The fact is illustrated by the launch of a $1.5 billion blockchain investment fund by Nanjing, the capital city of Jiangsu province.
Not every state has been eager to jump on the sports betting bandwagon since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the PASPA ban in May 2018. While it is true that many states are scurrying to implement legalized sports betting legislation and tap into the lucrative revenue stream, Michigan is taking a cautious and more measured approach.
Although the Michigan House recently passed a bill giving permission to Detroit casinos to offer online gambling, Bill HB-4926 does not allow those casinos to offer sports betting. That doesn’t necessarily mean that sports betting is off the table though.
Michigan Gaming Control Board spokesperson Mary Kay Bean claims that none of Detroit’s three commercial casinos have asked about opening sportsbooks.
However, these casinos appear to be biding their time as regulations for sports betting are clarified. Bean has stated that sports betting is an issue that needs to be addressed by the legislature and governor’s office but that Michigan Gaming Control Board would look at any proposals and see if they comply with the Revenue Act and the Michigan Gaming Control.
Jack Entertainment’s CEO Matt Mullen said that his company has received a lot of interest from their patrons who are want sports betting options at their facilities which includes Greektown Casino and Hotel in Detroit. MGM Grand Detroit and the MotorCity Casino have also indicated that they want to see sports betting legalized in Michigan. Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo Township, says that he will introduce legislation with the intention of clarifying the regulations pertaining to sports betting in the state’s brick and mortar casinos. This legislation is expected to be rolled out in the fall.
Legislation Must Address Conflict Of Interest
Iden has stated that he wants to make sure that the legislation is detailed and makes sense so it might take a bit of time. There are a couple of complicated angles to consider in Michigan’s case. Iden points to the fact that Marian Ilitch, who owns MLB’s Detroit Tigers and the NHL Detroit Red Wings, also happens to own and operate MotorCity Casino while Dan Gilbert owns the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers as well as Greektown Casino. These blatant conflicts of interest will definitely be addressed when Iden’s sports betting legislation is introduced. While sports betting fans in Detroit await the new legislation, they can still cross the Ambassador Bridge and head to Caesars Windsor in Canada where parlays have been offered for several years.
GVC Holdings and MGM Resorts International are going into business together in a deal worth $200m. Reports emerged over the weekend that these two giants were in the final stages of a deal that will create new gaming services and online sport betting throughout the United States.
While the two companies will not be swapping equity, many industry experts predict that this joint venture is the first step in what could be a full-scale merger that would create a gambling juggernaut with a global presence with an estimated value of over $26 billion. GVC Holdings is one of the biggest operators of online gambling sites while MGM is one of the most recognizable names in the gaming and hospitality industry.
50/50 Partnership Expected
For now, the operation is expected to be a 50-50 partnership in which GVC Holdings and MGM Resorts International will provide an investment of about $100 million each. Insiders believe that the deal will include a 25-year commitment from both parties with a possible option to buy each other out in 10 years. If finalized, this merger is expected to provide quite a boost to the value of GVC shares which currently have a market value of over £6 billion. MGM’s current market value stands at about £13.5 billion.
This partnership is great news for the sports betting industry in the United States as well as the online casino industry. This new deal will also likely mean the return of GVC’s flagship brands like partypoker and Sportingbet to much of the American market.
New Deal Targets US Sports Betting Market
This deal between GVC and MGM will see operations begin in Nevada where sports betting has been legal since the early 1990s. New Jersey has recently legalized sports betting and there are over a dozen states that are poised to make sports betting legal in the near future. This partnership will expand into those states as they open up.
Now that the US sports betting market has opened up with the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) in May 2018, there is no shortage of companies that are actively seeking their piece of it. There has been a lot of activity lately as some of the big European bookmakers try to claim their share. Paddy Power Betfair recently acquired the American fantasy sports service FanDuel while William Hill opened New Jersey’s Ocean Resort Casino and is actively looking to expand further.
Blockchain technology has proven to be immensely useful when it comes to supply chain management. This fact was once again proven with the successful completion of a cross-border shipment that made use of blockchain to monitor goods on the supply chain. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), one of the parties involved in the deal, made an official announcement regarding the completion of the trade.
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), one of Australia’s “Big Four” banks, stated that about 37,000 pounds of almonds were shipped to Germany from Australia and a private blockchain platform built on the Ethereum network was used to track the movement of goods.
The parties involved in the transaction acted as nodes. This includes agricultural producer Olam Orchards, logistics firm and port operator Patrick Terminals and the Port of Melbourne.
According to the information provided by the CBA, the blockchain-based platform stores the containers data, financial transactions and other relevant documents on a distributed network. All parties involved in the transaction can observe and track information about a shipment in real-time basis, including the location, humidity and temperature within the containers.
Commenting on the blockchain platform, the CBA said
“This level of data provided partners in the supply chain with a greater level of transparency and efficiency regarding the location, condition and authentication of the goods being transported.”
Emma Roberts, supply chain manager at Olam Orchards’ said
“Trade inefficiency can be extremely detrimental to our business. It is vital that as an industry, we look at emerging technology for ways to enhance the supply chain to develop a more transparent and efficient platform.”
Notably, the bank previously tested a blockchain system for tracking overseas shipments of cotton in real-time. The test was conducted in partnership with Wells Fargo. The bank also disclosed a plan to release a bond over a blockchain based system.
Last year, the CBA stated that it is planning to spend about $1 billion on technology update, including a regular investment on blockchain.
Wells Fargo and Gallup conducted a poll about cryptocurrencies in the US and the results were published earlier this week. The survey results indicate that only 2% of U.S. investors own Bitcoin. However, 26% are captivated by it. Between May 7 and May 14 of this year, the online survey was conducted among the US investors who hold at least $10,000 worth stocks, bonds or mutual fund units.
While the results indicate that astounding majority of investors have heard about Bitcoin, the actual interest in investing in the cryptocurrency is far less. More than 72% of those who had heard about Bitcoin are not interested in investing in the cryptocurrency.
Notably, 96% of the poll participants had heard about Bitcoin However, only three in ten investors, or 29%, say they know a little bit about digital currencies. Nearly 67% of those who have heard about Bitcoin do not seem to have any idea about the cryptocurrency.
The basic idea of creating Bitcoin is to make it as a means of payment or “electronic cash”. However, the volatility and deflationary characteristic of Bitcoin has made it a store of value and an investment vehicle. Bitcoin, however, is slowly gaining adoption. The survey has also revealed that nearly 75% of the respondents view Bitcoin as a “very risky” investment, while 23% of survey participants consider it as “somewhat risky.”
The Bitcoin statistics related to gender and age indicate that young men are most likely to know about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Furthermore, investors holding a portfolio of less than $100,000 have a better chance of knowing about innovations such as Bitcoin, compared to those holding a portfolio of over $100,000.
A survey conducted by Finder.com indicated that 8% or about 26 million Americans already hold some cryptocurrency. A study about ten cryptocurrency projects which raised at least $1 million in 2017 indicate that on average each of them generated returns of over 136,000%.
Nasdaq held a closed-door meeting last week to discuss the process of legitimizing the cryptocurrency sector in global markets. According to Bloomberg, more than half a dozen executives representing traditional finance and cryptocurrency firms participated in the meeting.
The Winklevoss twins, founders of the Gemini exchange, participated in the meeting held in Chicago. Nasdaq conducted the confidential meeting “get the industry on the path to legitimacy.”
Nasdaq did acknowledge that the meeting took place, but resisted from divulging additional details. One of Bloomberg’s unknown sources “familiar with the event” has revealed that many such meetings are expected in the months to come.
Notably, Adena Friedman, President and CEO of Nasdaq had mentioned that cryptocurrencies have the capability to become a “financial element of the internet.”
In April, Friedman stated that Nasdaq could become a platform for trading cryptocurrencies in the future, provided the market becomes regulated.
UK bookmakers haven’t been a very happy bunch this year as the government passed a bill on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) reducing the maximum bet from £100 to £2. This was a huge blow to gambling operators who derive more than 50 percent of their revenue from FOBTs which is by far the most popular form of gambling in the UK.
Betfred, one of the major bookmakers in the UK had filed an appeal against the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) stating that they imposed illegal taxes on FOBTs during 2005 and 2013. The company had to shell out a 20% VAT on FOBTs along with another 15% tax filed under betting duty. Betfred claimed that while it paid out these taxes, the HMRC did not impose a similar tax on online casinos and brick & mortar casinos who offered their patrons similar roulette themed games.
A tax tribunal looked at the case and ruled in favour of Betfred stating that the HMRC had breached European fiscal neutrality and did not act fairly. The HMRC dropped the 20% VAT tax on UK bookmakers and replaced it with another 20% tax which falls under machine games duty. The 20% tax has also been increased to 25% which forces FOBT operators to shell out a massive amount on taxes.
Betfred was happy that the tax tribunal ruled in its favour as the company is expected a tax rebate of nearly £100 million.
UK Bookmakers To Get A Combined £1 Billion
If the HMRC appeals the ruling and loses or chooses not to appeal the ruling, then UK bookmakers are expected to get a combined tax rebate of up to £1 billion as they paid a total of £8 billion on FOBT taxes during 2005 to 2013. A representative of the HMRC said that the decision made by the tax tribunal was very important and the HMRC would take their time to review the decision and then decide on what will be their next step.
In a statement, Mark Stebbings, managing director for Betfred said
We welcome the decision regarding the historical tax treatment of FOBTs, which pre-dates the introduction of machine games duty in February 2013. It does not concern Betfred’s ongoing tax liabilities
Betfred is owned by billionaire Fred Done who is one of the main donors of the Conservative party.