The SportsFolio Journal - April 8, 2021

GamStop

No, this is not a typo. This is not GameStop, the now infamous stock that is having more than its fifteen minutes of fame, thanks to the subreddit r/WallStreetBets. This actually is GamStop (Short for Gambling Stop).

What is Gamstop? Here is how it describes itself:

GAMSTOP lets you put controls in place to help restrict your online gambling activities.

Sign up for the service and you will be prevented from using gambling websites and apps run by companies licensed in Great Britain, for a period of your choosing.

GAMSTOP is a free service for users. GAMSTOP is available for consumers resident within the United Kingdom (Great Britain and Northern Ireland) only.

It’s essentially a commitment device for gamblers. The idea is simple; you know that gambling is bad, but you also know that you may not be able to stop yourself when you get the itch, so what do you do? Your current self, in this case, is wiser than your future self, so you make the commitment to not being able to gamble now, for a period of six months, one year, or five years. You put a bandaid on the wound so when the irresistible itch comes, you can’t scratch it. 

This is a self-exclusion business and it is on the rise. GamStop recorded a 21% increase in new exclusions during the month of February according to The Guardian

There is a common myth that is perpetuated by the pro-gambling faction that is a variant of this school of thought: look at the UK, they didn’t collapse because they legalized gambling. They didn’t; however, that doesn’t mean the issue of gambling is not controversial, even with a long history of legalization. GamStop numbers are one thing. Soon gambling logos may be banned from football shirts. The head of Great Britain's Gambling Commission has resigned,  interestingly just after Football Index imploded, which seems to have been an AllSportsMarket copycat without the operators having the slightest clue around what they are doing. 

More broadly, Britain’s betting industry seems to be out of control, and the Guardian did not mince its words:

Not a day goes by without another horror story about gambling. A familiar theme now dominates the front pages: for too long, the betting industry has encouraged excessive spending, exploited vulnerable people, and failed to tackle money laundering or protect its customers.

Gambling has become a canary in the coalmine of our economy. It is now embedded in every aspect of our lives: our banks, high streets, television screens and football teams. When we talk about gambling, we enter a vast world that spans questions from addiction and isolation to market failure and machine learning. It is a world that stretches the limits of the relationship between freedom and the protection of the state. And, in the breakdown of that relationship, many people have been harmed.

This one sentence is worth repeating, over and over:

It is a world that stretches the limits of the relationship between freedom and the protection of the state.

That, right there, is the very issue at hand. The typical defense you’ll hear is along the lines of this: “It’s my money, I can do whatever I want with it.” We are all for personal liberties, but your freedom stops where ours starts. Casino gambling is already bad: it is a non-productive entertainment mechanism that imposes an unnecessary burden on society. But to the extent it is a local activity (mobile is a different beast altogether), there is an argument that it should be up to the state whether or not to regulate it within its own borders. Even if you believe that, that argument does not extend to sports gambling. Sports gambling, whether traditional sports betting or daily fantasy sports, is not a game. Sports gambling is a claim on sports performance. Being a claim on sports performance per se is not what makes it gambling, it is rather the fact that these are structured as pure entertainment claims that do not serve a purpose. Football is a commodity, and, in our opinion, if claims on football performance (by teams or athletes) do not serve the public interest, they should certainly be prohibited.

Instead of pointing to the UK as having found success in gambling, we should see it for what it truly is: a failed experiment. There is no reason to expect that the US experience will be any different. In fact, it could turn out even worse.

GamStop is a helpful step in the right direction, but it is a small one. We need a different solution altogether. 


These Sports May Look Different In the Future

Tennis and swimming … Great sports that can keep us glued to our screens. Will they look different?

Here is a fascinating article on tennis. Ultimately, this is about dissatisfaction with the status quo, the inability to monetize fan interest and provide an opportunity to reform the sport. Novak Djokovic is leading the charge, but can he pull it off?

Another enthralling article on swimming depicts an attempt to modernize the sport by an Ukrainian billionaire. Attempting to summarize this piece will not give it the justice it deserves. Read the whole thing here:

That’s it for today. As always, thanks for spending your early morning with us. We’ll see you next week for another edition of The SportsFolio Journal!