Two years ago, when Everton swapped gaming sponsor SportPesa for car seller Cazoo, chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale admitted that ‘in an ideal world’ the club would prefer to have a ‘different type of sponsor’ rather than a betting company.
But now Everton do not live in an ideal world.
The club narrowly stayed in the Premier League last season, are constrained by Premier League financial regulations after years of lavish spending and sanctions imposed on Alisher Usmanov have put a dent in their finances as they plan . to build an expensive new stadium.
This week it emerged that owner Farhad Moshiri was receiving offers to sell from Everton. As things stand, this is a club that needs an injection of cash.
Enter Stake Casino, which also sponsored Watford in the Premier League last season and renewed for next season in the Championship.
The company markets itself on social media as a “leading crypto betting platform”, raising eyebrows on Merseyside last week when Everton announced “the biggest senior partnership deal in the club’s history”.
Other top-flight clubs, including Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Wolverhampton Wanderers, have dropped sponsorship of the game this season, perhaps with an eye to planned new legislation that cracks down on links between the game and football.
Everton, however, have gone the other way, signing a long-term deal worth over £10million a year with a company unlike any other that has become ubiquitous on football shirts and in the football media.
It’s worth revisiting the page on Everton’s website titled “Who are Stake.com?”
The article mentions sponsorship deals with Canadian hip-hop star Drake, various other sports teams around the world and Premier League legend Sergio Aguero.
But the word “cryptocurrency” is not included.
However, any Everton fan who searches for Stake’s own social media profiles will clearly see it as a “crypto casino”.
There is also no mention of cryptocurrency if a UK-based fan tries to find out more about Stake through a search engine or internet browser.
This launches an online gambling website offering a bookmaker, the ability to bet on sports like football, a casino, and virtual games like roulette and slot machines.
Why is it?
Further down it says: “Stake is powered by TGP Europe Ltd of 22A Castle Street, Douglas, Isle of Man, IM1 2EZ”, a company which is “licensed and regulated in Great Britain by the Gambling Commission”.
It’s called a “white label” deal where a gaming company pays a third party to run a completely separate website for a particular territory. In the case of Stake, this blocks the crypto gambling website from viewers in the UK.
TGP is headquartered above a small bookmaker in the Isle of Man capital and also ‘feeds’ many other Premier League sponsors, a problem Athleticism has long been documented.
It is possible to place a bet from the UK on these white label sites. But websites visible to UK viewers are just one way to access the UK market and are not the same gaming product marketed to TV viewers in other parts of the globe.
A tool called virtual private network (VPN) allows you to see what a website from another country looks like.
Seen from countries in Asia, for example, there is abundant use of a word never mentioned on the UK Stake site: cryptocurrency.
“Stake.com is a global leader in crypto gaming with one of the best casino and sports betting platforms for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies,” it says.
UK-based bookmakers tend not to accept crypto because the UK gambling regulator says it carries significant risks of money laundering and illegal activity.
Betting and gambling companies regulated by the UK Gambling Commission also have a responsibility to “know their customers inside out”, which may include checking bank statements to ensure a customer is not gambling. not with money he doesn’t have.
Although it is possible to place bets using payment services such as Paypal or Skrill, which convert fiat currency into cryptocurrency, gambling using cryptocurrency directly is not possible on websites. British. The Gambling Commission website lists a variety of potential issues with accepting crypto as a form of payment, such as the difficulty of “properly assessing the source of funds” and ensuring “safety of funds prisoners”.
Cryptocurrency, by its very nature, is decentralized and anonymous – unlike money in your bank account saved to your home address – while the price of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin has fallen in recent weeks. This means that fans who may have recently invested in the virtual assets will be paid out.
Last year, Watford announced its deal with Stake by emblazoning the logo for Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency token intended as satire but treated as a bona fide investment by many. Its value has collapsed by 80% since the announcement of this agreement and is down 93% from its peak.
But rather than a volatile asset, seen from countries other than the UK, Stake promotes cryptocurrency as a way to place bets, as opposed to dollars or pounds on a conventional gambling site.
So Everton is now sponsored by a website with crypto gambling at its heart.
On Everton’s website, it says that Stake “operates under the domain Stake.uk.com and is licensed under TGP Europe Limited issued by the Gambling Commission”, adding that Stake is “one of the world’s leading operators and of the biggest brands in the sports betting and gaming sectors”. ”.
The Australian Connection
The fine print on Stake’s website – rather than the white-label one visible in the UK – states that it is “owned and operated” by Medium Rare NV, a company on Curacao, a Caribbean island that is part of the United Kingdom. -Low but largely politically autonomous.
The company claims to be “licensed and regulated” by the Curaçao government. Stake’s payout agency, on the other hand, is Medium Rare Limited in Cyprus.
But a survey of the Sydney Morning Herald last year also revealed links to Australia.
The founders of Easygo Gaming, billed as a Melbourne-based video game start-up, are the masterminds behind Stake, which has “handled tens of billions of bets across sports, slots and table games. casino” according to the Herald, adding that “industry watchers conservatively value the deal at $1 billion.”
Online casinos are banned in Australia. However, it is legal to operate one as long as it does not serve or advertise to Australians. Registration in Curacao means there is no formal commercial connection with Australia, so they are not breaking any laws.
The only registered administrator of Easygo is James Ashley Craven. His son, Ed Craven, is the owner and founder of Stake.com.
A complex business structure involving multiple offshore jurisdictions allows Stake to operate legally by separating the gaming product from other domains, allowing the company to base most of its staff and operations in Australia despite its inability to offer services to consumers nationwide, the Herald reported.
Last year, the French gambling regulator won a court order forcing internet service providers to block access to Stake.
The National Gaming Authority (ANJ) went public with the blocking of Stake specifically, due to the site’s popularity in France, where online casinos are illegal. The regulator called the business “dangerous” in a statement.
Stake has a widely documented history of paying celebrity “influencers” to promote its sites on the Twitch live-streaming service, a site most commonly used to watch other people play video games.
This is particularly controversial because, while websites can easily be geo-blocked, it is less straightforward for Twitch streams.
Players live stream gaming sessions on Twitch, often showing big wins to large numbers of followers.
It has been widely reported that a large portion of Twitch users are under the age of 18, which means children may be aware of gambling advertising.
In August 2021, Twitch announced that it would stop links and referral codes to roulette, dice games, and slots on its platform to prevent harm and “scams” by “network operators.” dubious game”.
Everton and Watford are far from the first Premier League clubs to sign sponsorship deals with gaming companies, while Liverpool are among other clubs seeking cryptocurrency partners.
But what can be viewed from the UK and accessed in other countries does indeed look very different.
(Top photo: Everton Football Club)