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Formula None

AP News this week offered a deep dive into one of the most (over)hyped sporting events of this year, Formula One’s Las Vegas Grand Prix.

The event so far has proven a bit of a damp squib, according to the author, who points to several factors serving to undermine the relevance of the event for American sports fans.

First, entry to the event was originally pitched at such a high price point that it was simply inaccessible to most sports fans.

With an average “get-in price” of some $2,000, combined with hugely inflated room rates at Las Vegas hotels, “this race was never about attracting new fans to the global motorsports series or growing the American audience,” the article argues.

Rather, Formula One promoter Liberty Media has “clearly viewed a race in Las Vegas as an international showstopper for the highest of the high rollers”.

That didn’t stop Formula One Group predicting a sell-out success for the Vegas event, with CEO Renee Wilm boldly vowing on an earnings call earlier this month that “we will be sold out by the time of the event”.

Wilm’s crystal ball clearly requires a good polish, as the big race has all but arrived and tickets remain available, both directly and “on a dramatically reduced secondary market”.

Hotel prices along the Las Vegas Strip have also fallen drastically, the author adds, with all signs now pointing to Liberty Media having “grossly overshot the price point for drawing in new fans and spenders.”

Even the Formula One drivers don’t sound particularly enthused about the event.

Max Verstappen, who has already done enough to secure victory in this year’s world championship, was quoted as saying: “First of all, I think we are there more for the show than the racing itself if you look at the layout of the track.

“But you know, I’m actually not that into it. I’m more like, ‘I’ll go there and do my thing and be gone again.’” If even the drivers don’t want to be there, just imagine how it feels for the fans.

Who’s really at fault?

The Guardian’s Aaron Timms revisited the relationship between sports and gambling advertising following the 10-month ban handed to Newcastle and Italy midfielder Sandro Tonali for breaching betting regulations.

Timms questioned the apparent surprise or shock by club managers at discovering athletes involved in wagering within a sporting culture so heavily intertwined with gambling.

He emphasised that the core issue isn’t solely the few players enticed by incentives but also the clubs and officials enabling the sport’s close ties with the gambling industry on the back of sponsorship and advertising deals.

He pointed out that as gambling ads saturate the football landscape and the ease of placing bets on specific match segments increases, more players may succumb to the allure of gambling.

“Football executives across Europe have now created an impossible task for themselves: ‘protecting’ players from the very impulses they’re unleashing among fans,” he wrote.

This predicament isn’t just limited to soccer; it extends to many other sports, as evidenced by the recent suspension of three players in the NFL in the United States.

He argued that suspending players serves to maintain the illusion that football operates within a framework of laws and fair treatment, rather than acknowledging its evolution into a hub for the flow of money and influence.

He referred to Tonali and fellow footballer Ivan Toney, who also received an eight-month ban and a £50,000 fine for breaching betting rules earlier this year, as “scapegoats of a broken system.”

“The whole spectacle of player punishment in soccer today has become a way to enforce a form of selective justice that distracts from other, more consequential infractions that go unpunished, the very unevenness of the sport’s playing field,” Timms wrote.

“It substitutes thin proceduralism for a deeper fairness. The big perps run free, while the little guys get benched.”

No regrets

Entrepreneur magazine, sticking very much to its roots, has released the latest in its series of entrepreneur Q&As with an interview with Tipico chief Adrian Vella.

In the wide-ranging piece, Vella outlined his industry history, what makes him tick, as well as walking us through his “no regrets” philosophy. 

Vella – who moved to the Big Apple in 2019 to spearhead the launch of the Tipico US platform – said the company has taken a hyperlocal approach in the states as part of its strategy of building long-term customer loyalty.

Tipico took a famously relaxed attitude to the US, preferring to limit its ambitions to a moderate share in a few markets rather than getting bogged down in an expensive marketing spend war.

The company has arguably built the best iGaming product in the US, as highlighted in the most recent Eilers & Krejcik quarterly rankings.

However, the business is very far from achieving anywhere near the success it has enjoyed in its native Germany.

The University of Malta graduate said product was very much top of mind in the business’ US strategy post PASPA repeal, using that as a differentiator with the number of US companies that attempted to rush something out on white-label technology.

Prior to his American adventures, however, Vella was the rare case of a Malta iGaming professional moving to London, which he admits was a “leap of faith”.

Vella’s “no regrets” attitude extends both to life and business – and he argues this approach has been essential in the states. 

“At work and in my personal life, the only regrets I have are from the times when I didn’t put things into action — when I didn’t go for it.”