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A stupid gamble on evil machines

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The government’s failure to clamp down on fixed-odds betting terminals must be down to stupidity or corruption and I’m not sure which of those I hope it is.

Which is better? Idiots or crooks? It would make a good parlour game.

It’s possible that I’ve spent more time among sick gamblers than you have (and if that’s not the case, we probably know each other). But if you’ve popped into a friendly high street bookmaker’s any time in the last 10 years, to bet on the FA Cup final or get some change for the parking meter, then you’ll have seen a “FOBT”.

A FOBT is a sort of glorified fruit machine with a choice of games (roulette, virtual sport, novelties) and a massive possible loss rate. The biggest difference between the old fruities and these devices, waved through by the Blair government of 2001, is that you can lose £500 a minute on a FOBT.

And people do.

How many times, in the year ending September 2016, do you think somebody lost more than £1,000 on one of these machines?

Have a think. We aren’t talking about rich people, glitzy casinos or friends having a big night out. We’re talking about people on their own, playing the slots on regular, trafficky, local streets. Poor people. Bored people. Sometimes desperate, sometimes ill. Lonely old men. Women with their babies locked in the car outside. The average national wage is about £25,000. How many times, over a year, do you think £1,000 or more was lost in a single gambling session, on a local high street, in these circumstances?

No. You’re wrong.

It was 233,071 times.

I mean, for fuck’s sake.

Let me confess: I myself have, often, lost more than £1,000 in a single gambling session. But when I’m losing £500 a minute, this is what I’m getting:

A high-end Las Vegas casino has sent a limousine to collect me from the airport. I’ve got a complimentary hotel room with a view of the iconic Vegas Strip. I’ve got free meals, free cocktails and a cabana (a sort of shady little house with loungers and a drinks cabinet) by a luxurious swimming pool.

This doesn’t make me clever. It makes me a mug. This is what casinos give you if they think you can afford to lose the money. But your man down the Kilburn High Road, losing at the exact same rate because he’s depressed, lost, stuck, sad and has nowhere else to be, gets the square root of sod all. He gets monotony, shame and kicked out at 10pm.

This guy (or girl) hasn’t opted in consciously. They never meant to get involved for those hours or play for those sums. They didn’t join a casino, they wandered into the bookies: outlets once considered cheery and welcome on British high streets because betting on horses is traditional, fun and, to a great extent, social. But in 2001, a black hole was unrolled in the middle of them. FOBTs are demons, succubi, squatting between the chemist and the bus stop like a pile of heroin on a cheese trolley.

UK city dwellers complain that there are now dozens of bookies in their nearest shopping street where there used to be one. But most don’t know why that is.

It’s because the government capped the number of FOBTs at four per shop. But these things are free money to their owners. Punters lose and lose and lose. And when they disappear, or kill themselves, or their child is taken into care and they start self-medicating with drugs instead, someone else steps blindly up to feed the monster. So, if you’re only allowed four per shop, open more shops!

What optimistic fool, no doubt some well-meaning MP or civil servant, thought up that “four max” rule? Did you think you were smarter than the bookies, love? We’ve all been there. That’s the fast route to eating cat food out of the tin.

But the latest government move can’t be about optimism. Everyone was expecting the betting cap (or possible loss) on these machines to be slashed. Labour and the Lib Dems went into the election actively promising it; the Tories hadn’t yet committed, but John Whittingdale warned the Association of British Bookmakers: “I can’t say I would be surprised if there are quite radical measures produced… You should brace yourself.”

And then, last week, Philip Hammond decided there would actually be no curb at all – because, according to a Whitehall source in the Daily Mail, the attendant loss of tax revenues would be “financially crippling”.

Is this bent or just stupid? The shops pay 25% duty on FOBTs (it’s much cheaper for them than horseracing). In return, we get an expensive rise in crime, theft and embezzlement, family breakdown, costly court proceedings and criminal damage as the machines are often smashed up. Meanwhile, many FOBT addicts are on welfare, so 100% of the money they put into the machines goes out of the Treasury and 25% comes back. Well done everybody.

Let’s say it’s not bent. The lobbying and hospitality for MPs is massive and rising, but I’d hate to suggest any impropriety. So that suggests a moronic misunderstanding of the true maths in play.

The argument is not being had on moral grounds. If our government said they were libertarians, planning to decriminalise all drugs and abolish income tax alongside this invitation to go skint in 10 minutes at teatime in the shop next to Tesco, we could have an interesting debate. We could weigh up that freedom against the depression and suicide, the abandoned children and associated crime, and really challenge ourselves.

But they argue this situation is financially profitable for us, as a nation? They think we make money from it? Jesus. That’s their understanding of economics? As professional gamblers say about chumps: I’d like to be locked up with them.

The above article written by Victoria Coren Mitchell, first appeared on The Guardian.

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MainStreaming Announces Appointment of Nicola Micali as Chief Customer Officer

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MainStreaming, an iMDP INTELLIGENT MEDIA DELIVERY COMPANY, which is redefining the CDN market with its innovative Edge Network services, announced the appointment of Nicola Micali as its new Chief Customer Officer (CCO).

With a track record of improving processes and efficiency and creating go-to-market strategies, Harvard alumnus and former Akamaite, Nicola Micali joins MainStreaming with the goal of solidifying a customer-centric organisation that prioritises long-term relationships, customer experience (CX) and satisfaction, ensuring MainStreaming’s continued business growth and market leadership.

Nicola brings a wide range of professional experience as a Leader of Customer Success & Professional Services at Akamai for over 10 years, where he was responsible for services and overall revenue. He developed the services strategy for the Americas’ media & entertainment, gaming and partners verticals exceeding all revenue targets year after year. Nicola’s expertise in leading technical customer-facing teams has resulted in higher customer satisfaction and successful worldwide streaming events.

With a Master’s degree in Business Administration and Management from Harvard, Micali’s educational background further enhances his capability to lead and innovate in the Edge video technology sector. As Nicola steps in as CCO, he will play a pivotal role in guiding the entire customer lifecycle journey. His expertise in customer success positions him perfectly to lead MainStreaming’s efforts in providing world-class service to a global clientele.

MainStreaming’s CEO, Antonio G. Corrado, said: “QoS for our customers and QoE for end users are at the core of our streaming business. It is the best proxy for customer satisfaction for us. We are happy to welcome Nicola Micali, who demonstrates his expertise in customer success. Together, we are set to strengthen our commitment to being a customer satisfaction-oriented company, leveraging our world-class services directed to broadcast-quality standards that are requested by industry players.”

MainStreaming’s video delivery technology is meticulously developed in-house, offered as managed private Edge Network to help broadcasters, OTT TVs and content owners overcome the toughest challenges of live streaming at scale, addressing the limitations of classic CDN and enabling new application solutions on the Edge.

“I am honored to join a team that is on a mission to write a new chapter in video streaming delivery, setting new standards, and paving the way for the future of TV. I am ready to contribute to MainStreaming’s innovative approach and customer-centric philosophy. Together, we are set to revolutionize how the streaming industry approaches Edge Network architecture for live streaming, emphasizing a more distributed, ultra-low-latency, energy-efficient, and globally scalable design,” Nicola Micali said.

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Safer Gambling Tools Use Hits Record High in 2023 – New Report from EGBA

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Members of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) significantly stepped up their efforts to implement and promote safer gambling in 2023, according to the association’s fourth annual sustainability report. The report reveals that 65% of European customers – a record 21 million of them – used safety tools last year, with over half doing so voluntarily, a 14% increase compared to the previous year. Additionally, the association’s operators sent a record 67.6 million messages to their customers to promote safer play, a 49% yearly increase. Over 23 million of these messages were personalised based on a customer’s actual playing behaviour.

EGBA’s Sustainability Report 2024 outlines the joint efforts and progress made by its members to promote a sustainable approach to gambling and contribute positively to society in Europe. The report aims to track yearly progress, support transparency and reinforce a strong culture of social responsibility. This year’s report includes key sustainability highlights from EGBA and its members during the past year, as well as data points collected from its members related to customers, safer gambling tools and promotion, social contributions, employment and diversity, and energy and environment.

“We’re pleased to publish our latest sustainability report, highlighting significant progress by our members in many areas of safer gambling, particularly in the roll-out of safety tools and their direct interactions with players about their playing behaviour. This demonstrates their collective efforts to embed a sustainable approach to gambling at the heart of what they do. In the report, our CEOs also quite rightly flag their concerns about the growing black market in Europe and the risks it poses to players and the progress made in safer gambling. We’re pleased to expand our reporting this year with specific new metrics about the use of safety tools and messages to promote safer play,” Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of EGBA, said.

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CT Gaming Introduces “Tournaments” Module

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CT Gaming’s Casino Management System has been a cornerstone of the product offerings for nearly a decade. It has continuously evolved to meet the industry’s and the client’s changing needs. One of the most exciting recent developments is the introduction of a separate module dedicated to tournaments.

The new feature represents a significant advancement in the company’s capabilities and offers a range of benefits for both operators and players. The tournament module enables a variety of competitive formats, allowing for dynamic competitions between players, software applications, gaming machines and even specific games. This flexibility means operators can create and manage tournaments tailored to their unique audience and strategic goals.

For players, the tournament module enhances the gaming experience by introducing an element of competition and excitement. It encourages engagement and loyalty by providing opportunities to compete for prizes and recognition. The ability to participate in tournaments adds a new layer of interaction, making the gaming experience more immersive and enjoyable.

Additionally, the module’s integration into the company’s Casino Management System ensures operators can easily track and manage tournament activities. This includes real-time monitoring of player performance, automated scorekeeping and detailed reporting on tournament outcomes. Such features not only streamline the management process but also provide valuable insights that can be used to refine future tournaments and promotions.

The implementation of this module underscores CT Gaming’s commitment to staying at the forefront of technological advancements in the gaming industry. By continuously enhancing the Casino Management System, the company aims to provide its clients with cutting-edge tools that drive engagement, optimise operations and ultimately contribute to their success. The company believes that this new module will be a game-changer for the clients, offering them a powerful new way to attract and retain players while setting a new standard for competitive gaming experiences in the casino environment.

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