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Kick vs. the kids

An article in the Michigan Daily this week peered into the sometimes murky waters of the intersection between online gambling and livestreaming.

Since the Covid pandemic, it argued, the market for livestreaming platforms has grown significantly, while many have begun offering up gambling content to their viewers despite many being below the legal age to participate in gambling.

“Streaming platforms such as Kick should ban gambling content for those who are underage, especially as rates of gambling addiction and teenage gambling are increasing,” the piece argued unequivocally.

The article’s writer is not the first person to suggest this, of course, and the piece points to societal pushback against gambling in the world of livestreaming and YouTube, with many influencers facing criticism for their involvement with gambling or gambling-style games.

‘Mystery box’ opening videos back in 2019 – while not technically gambling content – “established a dangerous precedent” by encouraging viewers to buy mystery boxes without knowing their contents.

The YouTubers pushing these boxes were doing so under sponsorship deals, and the article draws parallels here with the world of online gambling livestreamers on platforms such as Twitch.

And when that platform began to crack down on gambling streamers and the sites they promoted, Kick quickly appeared to fill the gap it left in its wake.

“Now, Kick is exposing many of the underage members of its massive audience to gambling,” the article suggests.

“Those streaming the gambling, however, argue that it is a matter of choice whom or what people choose to watch.”

While Kick viewers can indeed opt out of being shown gambling content on their homepages, the writer argues this safeguard is far from sufficient.

Instead, streaming platforms must take more action to ensure gambling content cannot be accessed by those underage, he suggests.

Until such time as that happens, many young people who shouldn’t be exposed to it may well continue to get a Kick out of gambling content.

Macau back on top

A story in Fortune took us east this week, as it shed some light on the ongoing recovery of the world’s largest casino market, Macau.

The city has had a “tough few years” to say the least, it points out, as travel rates plunged across China and Macau in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

Casino revenues crashed as a result, and Macau found itself generating less money from gambling than its American counterpart Las Vegas for the first time in years.

With a regulatory clampdown dampening the spending of many of Macau’s high rollers alongside all that, the city’s casino sector found itself struggling on every front.

But, the piece says, “punters are now flocking back to a newly opened Macau.”

The results are in for many of the casino operators in the region, with the Venetian Macau and Londoner Macau owner Las Vegas Sands this week reporting $2.8bn in revenue in Q3, up from just $1bn in the same period last year.

CEO Robert Goldstein said the compay was “deeply enthusiastic about our opportunities for growth in both markets [Macau and Singapore] in the years ahead.”

MGM has also reportedly doubled its H1 revenue compared to last year, while Grand Lisboa Palace Resort operator SJM Holdings also reported a 127% year-on-year increase.

Prior to the Covid pandemic, casinos in Macau generated around $36bn in revenue – some three times more than Las Vegas’ $12bn.

While gambling continues to be the city’s bread and butter, it is reportedly now looking for new ways to strengthen its economy further.

Sands, for instance, has promised to invest $3.8bn in new facilities in the city over the next 10 years, with more than 90% of the investment going towards non-casino attractions.

The plan appears sensible, as with a crackdown on high roller-focused junket operators, the customers responsible for Macau’s recovery appear to be mass market tourists looking for more casual entertainment, retail and fun in the city.

After a difficult few years, it seems Macau is finally back on the up and up.

RIP the five-day office week

A guest essay in the New York Times this week suggested bluntly that: “The five-day office week is dead.”

In it, the author suggests he can back up his theory with hard data, which shows that a return to full-time office work is simply no longer on the cards in the modern world.

This month, for example, office occupancy rates in the US were just 50% of what they were in February 2020, before the declaration of the Covid pandemic.

“That number has flatlined not only in office buildings in San Francisco and New York but also in workplaces in Atlanta; Charlotte, NC; Dallas; Denver; and Philadelphia,” the article says. 

“Blue and red, inland and coastal, Northern and Southern workers who might have disagreed on pandemic-related behaviors like mask wearing and vaccine boosters have quietly united behind work-from-home habits throughout 2023.”

The newly united front of home workers took a while to settle, the piece explains, as occupancy rates did rise steadily as the pandemic began to ease – but only up to a point.

As of now, around 31% of workdays are spent at home in the US, as “hybrid work arrangements have killed the return-to-office hype.”

In fact, employees equate the value of being able to combine working from home with going into the office with an 8% pay rise – a value principally driven by the ability to cut out the commute.

And it’s not just employees who are winning, the article suggests. Companies are also saving money by allowing staff to work from home as costs can be cut and productivity improved simultaneously.

Other major advantages include the decreased environmental impact as fewer people commute into work, while families have been strengthened by the increased presence of parents in the home.

And the trend isn’t over yet. The article predicts that over the next 10 years remote working is likely to increase, not decrease.

Technological advancements in recent decades have made home working increasingly accessible, a trend which was of course accelerated by the pandemic.

“Rarely as an economist do I see a change so profoundly positive for the majority of America’s businesses and workers,” the author concludes. 

“We should support the working-from-home revolution that has finally yielded a win-win-win. Companies, employees and society all benefit.”

With evidence like that staring us in the face, it’s difficult to argue with this point of view.

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