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Where betting meets abuse

The Guardian brought us a troubling story this week, as it reported that “social media and gambling have made death threats routine for college athletes.”

Former professional basketball player Etan Thomas penned the article, in which he recalls being heckled during his time as a college player in the 1990s, something which he says pales in comparison to the “ocean of bile from all areas of the internet” today’s athletes are exposed to.

Throughout this year’s NCAA tournaments, athletes have reported receiving death threats on social media, Thomas writes, as well as messages apparently attempting to push sports pros towards suicide.

“Is this the new norm?” he asks. “Should college athletes now expect this type of abuse and threats from fans?”

Sadly, it seems the phenomenon may also be linked to our own sector, specifically the world of sports betting.

Data indicates that one in three high-profile athletes receive messages of abuse from someone with a betting interest in their performance, while athletes are also exposed to abuse in-person, including on college campuses.

Thomas’ own career – which began with playing for Syracuse University from 1996 to 2000 – “was a whole different world,” he suggests, since which “the abuse, hatred and threats have been magnified a thousand times” thanks to the rise of social media.

The tech has given fans across the world “too much access” to professional and college athletes, he suggests, something which is only exacerbated by punters taking out their frustration after losing bets.

“These harassing behaviors seem to have gone up because of the legalisation and normalisation,” Amanda Blackford, director of operations and responsible gambling at the Ohio Casino Control Commission, told The Guardian.

Now, many are calling for harsher punishments for those sending abuse and threats online.

For its part, the NCAA is launching a new campaign “to battle some of the issues that come along with sports betting, including abuse and death threats.”

“The bottom line is that no college athlete, or any athlete for that matter, should be subjected to death threats. There is nothing they can do on the court that warrants a threat to their life,” Thomas concludes.

Well, it sounds obvious when spelled out like that. If only everybody thought that way.

How much pizza will that buy?

Elsewhere, CNBC brought us a story about a previously major figure in the world of sports betting, Barstool Sports owner Dave Portnoy.

It seems Portnoy’s love affair with gambling isn’t over, despite Penn Entertainment having sold his business back to him in favour of a new partnership with ESPN.

According to the article, in March Portnoy staked a whopping $600,000 with DraftKings on the University of Connecticut to win the NCAA men’s championship, which the team finally did in its Monday night battle against Purdue.

Portnoy took home a cool $2.7m on the back of his win, which he referred to on X as “the greatest bet of my life” and “the biggest win of my life by a mile.”

His victory also makes for pretty good marketing for DraftKings, who signed a deal with Barstool in February to become its official betting partner.

Clearly, Portnoy wasn’t the only one having a bet on this year’s tournament, with GeoComply reporting a 42% increase in the number of geolocation checks it carried out over its duration compared to 2023.

DraftKings said Monday night’s final was its most bet-on college basketball game of all time, while FanDuel added it had seen 52% more bets and 42% higher handle than last year.

At Caesars Sportsbook, meanwhile, the game accounted for the most same-game parlays ever placed on a college basketball game.

One has to wonder from all that betting activity, whether any of the sportsbooks mentioned paid out more to any single punter than DraftKings did to Portnoy.

One thing’s for sure; $2.7m will certainly keep Dave’s pizza habit covered for at least another year or two.

Entain’s top job? Not me!

Sky News brought one of the biggest questions in the industry back to our attention this week, namely: who is going to take over as the permanent CEO of Entain?

After Jette Nygaard-Andersen departed the post late last year, non-executive director Stella David stood up to the role on an interim basis and left us all wondering who would be coming in to save the day in the long term.

Well, as Sky News reports, one figure previously thought of as a potential frontrunner for the top job can now be counted out.

Former Sky Betting and Gaming CEO Richard Flint was previously “one of the favourites for the role,” the article says, but has unequivocally counted himself out of the running.

He told Sky News to “Ignore what other bookmakers might say or the odds they might put out there – I am very much enjoying the package of things I’ve got on at the moment.”

At the moment, that package includes acting as the chair of dog food subscription service Butternut Box, as well as for ticketing and hospitality platform Seat Unique.

Clearly, a new executive role at Entain could only detract from Flint’s responsibilities in those roles, so for now at least, it seems we can definitively count him out.

That only leaves one question remaining: who else might be fit to take on Entain’s top job?

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