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Stake deal could hit skid mark

It might be a case of full throttle into murky waters for Swiss racing team Sauber, who unveiled their shiny new C44 car in London on Monday, only to find the glitz overshadowed by a regulatory speed bump.

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Their new main sponsor, crypto casino giant Stake, has emblazoned its logo on everything from the car to the crew’s new threads, injecting a dose of high-octane neon green controversy into the mix.

Sauber team boss Alunni Bravi is revved up about the new partnership, touting Stake as a turbo-boost to Sauber’s fan base and fortune.

But there’s a ‘but,’ and it’s a big one, according to Swiss news site SRF.

The sponsorship will not wash in countries where gambling ads are as welcome as a puncture on race day. The plot thickens back home in Switzerland, where Stake is playing the part of an unwelcome gatecrasher – it does not have a local licence, which makes its ubiquitous logo a bit of a no-no.

This has caused the Swiss Federal Casino Commission to wave the yellow flag by opening proceedings against Sauber, which could see the team cough up half a million francs as punishment.

So as the new F1 season gears up, Sauber’s got more than just rival teams to outmanoeuvre – it has legal loops to jump through and could be in for a bumpy ride.

Jeff jumps out of his skin

The Guardian this week turned its attention to the controversial world of skins gambling in online gaming, telling its readers the story of Jeff, a professional video gamer, with 750,000 subscribers on YouTube alone.

Jeff, who is skilled in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), declined a lucrative marketing deal to advertise skins gambling, which he believes is negatively impacting young gamers.

“I wanted to show how unregulated gambling is rotting the brains of young people,” he said.

Skins, virtual items within games that can be bought or won, have become a significant aspect of online gaming, offering gaming companies a new revenue stream beyond initial purchases.

“Some skins carry enormous price tags in the real world,” the article reads. “One website that tracks skin prices values a ‘Gungnir’ sniper rifle, available in the CS:GOgame, at more than $18,000.

“A knife – a ‘factory new, case-hardened Karambit, pattern 387 (blue gem)’ – is reputedly the most expensive CS:GOskin in history, attracting a $1.5m offer that its owner turned down. Further down the scale, guns, outfits, stickers and knives sell for hundreds of dollars,” the writer reports.

However, what concerned Jeff most was not the skins themselves, but the fact that a host of third-party marketplaces, such as SkinBaron and Skinwallet, allow gamers to sell skins for real money.

The operator that offered the promotional deal to Jeff, Cyprus-based KeyDrop, attracted almost 17 million visitors in one month last year, states The Guardian.

To use these sites, players must have an account on gaming platform Steam, where gamers can buy skins. Steam was created by the maker of CS:GO, US-based game developer Valve.

Jeff believes that while Valve doesn’t endorse skins gambling or take a cut when players cash out their winnings, it still indirectly benefits from this overlooked industry.

“It [skins gambling] helps drive the value of the skins up and Valve takes a cut of every Steam market sale. So in the end they get more,” Jeff asserts.

Numerous other entities in the online gaming sphere also reap the rewards.

Upon rejecting the offer to endorse skins gambling, Jeff created a documentary to voice his concerns about the industry, exposing that some of the biggest names in esports earn substantial incomes from sponsorship deals with the websites he opposes.

Jeff’s decision to expose the practices has drawn backlash.

While ordinary gamers have largely applauded his actions, with overwhelmingly positive comments on YouTube, Jeff has also faced threats and intimidation.

“We know where you live my dude,” wrote one anonymous individual. Ah, that old chestnut.

MP warns of parliamentary ‘illiteracy’ on racing

As the starting gates open for a pivotal Commons debate on affordability checks, there’s a jockeying for position among MPs, and not all of them know their furlongs from their finishes.

Conor McGinn, co-chair of the all-parliamentary group for racing and bloodstock, is saddling up for a February showdown that could see financial checks rein in the industry.

But according to the Racing Post this week, he’s bracing for a hurdle: a “real illiteracy in parliament around horseracing and gambling.”

Gone are the days when MPs could tell a trifecta from a treble, laments McGinn, an independent, ex-Labour MP whose turf includes Haydock.

Today’s political handicappers are quick to moralise on wagers they’ve never placed, he suggests, eager to dictate the spending habits and leisure pursuits of their constituents.

The petition against these checks, championed by Jockey Club chief executive Nevin Truesdale, has McGinn and racing’s backers champing at the bit.

“We’re the last of the Mohicans,” he declared, determined to defend the punter and the sport against the odds.

He also urged the racing world to embrace its bond with betting – a relationship that should be championed, and not shied away from.

As the debate looms, the industry finds itself in a race against more than just time – it’s a battle for understanding, acceptance, and the freedom to bet on a good time.

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