iGB Diary: Star losers, US betting, Paddy blackout, Donald and the wise guys, Malta kind of blue

18 August 2017

Happy Friday igamers! Another busy Diary for you. This week: Stars wants more losers, US betting - beginning of the end? Paddy's Twitter shutdown, Donald's beautiful launderette and Malta, a sunny state of mind (jammy gits).

Come on you losers!
The Stars Group’s (aka Amaya) recent results look healthy enough on the surface, with revenues, EBITDA and net earnings up on the previous year. But a closer look at the financial statements shows that it was casino, sportsbook and B2B that drove the growth, while its poker revenues were down about 6%. But Stars has a cunning, if not particularly original, plan to reverse the trend — drive out the sharks. In its earnings call chief executive Rafi Ashkenazi said Q2 saw the company’s old reward system finally come to an end and from July a new one has been fully rolled out. It’s out with the VIP treatment for professionals and in with the perks aimed at the more profitable customers (aka the losers). To further its bid to change the poker ecosystem the company has also signed up two new brand ambassadors: actor Kevin Hart and superstar (ex-)athlete Usain Bolt. But does Bolt really have much in common with the average player it’s looking to pull in? How many of us can really identify with the world’s fastest man? We reckon Stars would have more luck inspiring the average Joe if it did a deal with John Hesp, the Yorkshire man who’d rarely before played a hand worth more than £10 but who recently won £2 million pounds after stumping up £10,000 to enter the World Series of Poker just because it was on his bucket list. After all, it was accountant Chris Moneymaker’s surprise 2003 WSOP win after qualifying on PokerStars that is largely credited with poker’s huge surge in popularity from 2003. We reckon Hesp’s success could be similarly inspiring.

US sports betting conundrum
“For US sports betting, the tide has finally turned and it is a pretty huge momentum swing,” said David Purdum, writer at ESPN, during a webinar held this week as a prelude to the November WrB Sports Betting USA conference. But how far will momentum get New Jersey (NJ) and the rest of the US when it comes to legalising sports betting? Although the Supreme Court deciding to hear the NJ case later this year was a big boost and the NBA changing its tune after staunch opposition may be a sign that attitudes are thawing, the Supreme Court still has a lot of paths it could take, even if it decides in favour of NJ. One path, based on ‘equal sovereignty’, could end up with states that are exceptions to PASPA, the act preventing betting on sports in most states, having their sports betting legislation brought into line with other states. This could result in Nevada losing its sports betting market, which would be bound to upset some of the sports leagues who have recently moved or are in the process of moving their teams to the gambling hub. Although it is unlikely the Supreme Court will make any extreme decisions, its results in the NJ case should be known in the next 10 months following the hearings – a mere drop in the ocean in this already years-old saga. 

Paddy’s Twitter blackout 
The mischief makers at Paddy Power saw their Twitter account suspended this week, but no one knows why. Trade outlet The Drum reported that no one at Paddy Power or Twitter (aka Twatter, as some of the Diary’s cleverer colleagues like to call it) responded to its requests for comment. The bookie apparently published one of its Fan Denial features (the Chelsea one from this week is very funny by the way) that was deemed so offensive the social media giant took it down and suspended the bookie's account. But then with Twitter one really has to wonder how it decides on what does or doesn’t comply with its editorial rules and guidelines. A quick look at the level of hatred and outright bile the social media giant is happy to leave online throughout an average day leaves you wondering: what did Paddy’s marketing bods put out that was so bad it got them suspended? After all, Twitter has no issues with reactionary nut jobs or neo-nazi sympathisers. Demented misogynists who threaten all kinds of horrors on women? Not a problem! Rude and offensive comments about music or film stars just because you... feel like it? Come on over! And so much more. Yep, Twitter is great alright. But of course we all know who the biggest t*** to inhabit the Twittosphere (try that one when you've had a few down the pub) is and where he resides. If only the tech firm suspended his account, just for one day (wouldn’t make them heroes, would give us all a break though). Go on Twitter, don’t be a bunch of SAD LOSERS! (™ Trump Organisation) 

“Dangerous” Donald and the wise guys
Carrying on with with the T***-in-chief. The Donald’s approval rating hit an all-time low this week following his continued defence of the white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, and those nagging questions over the depth of his dodgy Russian connections just won’t wash away. How do they say in Moscow? From laundromat to kompromat

Surely it couldn’t get any worse, right? (Let's go existential on the Donald for a sec: what is worse than what is currently going on? Or, what could be worse than the worse that has already happened? Does some future 'worse' event negate all the 'worse' episodes that we've already witnessed from him? And how do you decide on what is worse than the previous worse? This one's got legs eh... Known knowns anyone?) Anyway, declassified government papers from New South Wales in Australia show that suspected connections to the mafia derailed his bid to build Sydney’s first casino back in 1987. According to documents obtained by News Corp (yes that same News Corp that also owns constantly-outraged Trump-supporting TV network Fox News in the US and other similar press outlets), a consortium Trump formed with the Kern construction company was one of three tenders deemed too “dangerous” by the police board to go any further in the bidding process. “Briefly stated, the Police Board considers that HKMS, Federal/Resorts/Sabemo, Kern/Trump, are unacceptable,” they said. “Atlantic City would be a dubious model for Sydney and in our judgment, the Trump mafia connections should exclude the Kern/Trump consortium,” a summary of the police board’s report said. The owner of the world’s most famous comb-over also famously boasted in his 1987 tome The Art of the Deal (see last week’s Diary for Tom Galanis’ tribute) that he had managed to speed up background checks for his casino licence in Atlantic City to just six months instead of 12 by insisting that he was as “clean as a whistle”, despite just three years earlier hiring mob-controlled firms to help erect Trump Tower and Trump Plaza. And now he’s the holder of the most powerful political office on earth. Good luck everyone!

Malta kind of blue 
We are always hearing how Malta is the most amazing place to live and work (aka it’s very sunny) and the latest love letter to the island comes from BtoBet marketing boss Sabrina Solda. Her latest post says the blue water that surrounds Malta gives rise to a meditative state called the blue mind (feeling calm and happy basically). “Walking by the sea to go to the Btobet headquarters every morning, and contemplating the blue colour of the magnificent Mediterranean Sea, brings me the ‘Eureka’ moment — the insight or solution feels like it drops out of the sea and into my head.”

All right we get it Sabrina... and thanks for reminding us while we're sweating our way to work on a crowded tube carriage with our faces pressed into a stranger’s armpit. We don't know why but it just doesn’t inspire the same tranquil state of mind upon our arrival at our office in grey ol’ Blighty. In any case, do you really think we'd be able to bring you the Diary every week if we were that chilled out???!! Not that we're jealous of the weather or anything...

Have a great (and sunny) weekend!