iGB Diary: Turning the tables, deja vu and So Solid Carew

15 November 2019

Happy Friday igamers! The Diary is back after a short absence, and this week has cast its bleary eyes over some lottery betting machinations, was struck by deja vu when reading about a "lottery savings scheme", and has been terrified by a footballing legend's digital incarnation.

Turning the tables
Monopoly lottery operators frequently claim betting on lottery firms are taking funds away from good causes, usually with the aim of convincing politicians they should be banned so they can keep the market all to themselves. Typically, they offer up scant evidence to back up their claims, which then prompts a response from Lottoland et al that points out they’ve offered no evidence. Presumably tired of the defensive approach, this week the European Lottery Betting Association (eLBA) adopted a rather punchy offensive stance.

The trade association, of which Lottoland, Multilotto and Lottogo are members, released a report that essentially accused Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI), Ireland’s National Lottery operator, of itself taking funds away from good causes. Crucially, it backed up these claims with research carried out by Dublin City University economist Tony Foley, who suggested the business approach of PLI was far more harmful to good causes funding in Ireland than betting on lottery companies.

Last year alone €19m was lost due to PLI’s licence conditions allowing it to retain unclaimed prizes, unlike the system in the UK where they are returned to good causes. In total, Foley said up to €43m could be lost to good causes each year. According to the Irish Examiner, PLI rejected the criticism and pointed out that both prizes and good causes funding were higher last year than they were in 2014. It also said that eLBA members make no contribution to good causes. While both these things may be true, neither takes us any further towards understanding why that €43m going astray is justifiable.

A familiar concept
Speaking of lotteries and reports, Diary was a little confused by a proposal put out by think tank the Social Market Foundation this week. In a report entitled, ‘Win and Save: Exploring the potential of a lottery savings scheme in the UK’, it proposes a “hybrid savings and lottery product” that offers people a chance to win money but also save, with calls for the government to fund, at least partially, the savings portion. The report cited the success of such schemes in other countries, but one has to wonder why such a concept warrants a 37-page report and oodles of press coverage when we already have Premium Bonds i.e., a product that since the 50s has allowed people the chance to win money and also save.

The author hasn’t completely overlooked the fact they are proposing something that already exists, however, but rather pointed out that this product will appeal more to lower socio-economic groups than Premium Bonds.

It’s difficult to understand why a marketing campaign for Premium Bonds aimed at lower socio-economic groups couldn’t be more effective in addressing the problem of their lack of enthusiasm for the product. Rather hilariously considering the perception of the gambling industry in the UK right now, the report extols the virtues of it “being branded as a ‘gambling’ rather than a ‘savings’ product”, explaining that lower-income consumers “find the formal concept and label of ‘saving’ as disempowering” and have a “mistrust of financial services and banks”. It continues: “A product marketed as a gambling product may also help overcome loss aversion. Evidence suggests that individuals may view savings as a loss.” Hmmm… Maybe all the gambling industry needs to do to solve its image problem is start offering products with a savings element. 

So Solid Carew
Today’s editions of Fifa and Pro Evolution Soccer use sophisticated technical doohickeys to make players look as realistic as possible, creating sense of realism unparalleled in video gaming. Back in the day, however, things were… different. England international Kyle Walker’s PES 14 avatar, with its orb-like cranium springs to mind.

But what happens when a long-retired player comes to the virtual world? Well, thanks to Yggdrasil’s new blackjack game, we need wonder no longer. The new title developed for ComeOn, John Carew Blackjack, features the Norway international, who retired back in 2012. Perhaps mindful of this, the studio has created something that wouldn’t look out of place in that year’s edition of Fifa. Virtual Carew glowers up from the uncanny valley in the title, going straight from players’ screens into their nightmares.

Its eyes follow you around the room, expression unchanging, and if you look away for a second you’ll always be wondering if it’s moved slightly when you didn’t have eyes on it. If there’s any justice this game will be a smash hit.

If that's not a good place to stop, we don't know what is. See you next week!