Italy Issues Blanket Ban on Gambling Advertising, Sponsorships

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Effective January 1st, 2019, all forms of gambling advertising and sponsorships will be banned under Italian law. Gambling operators, media outlets, sport groups and event organizers are all required to follow the new Dignity Decree; failure to do so will result in administrative fines up to 5% of the value of the advertising or sponsorship, per violation. The government intends on issuing larger fines (up to $+/- $570,000) to those who advertise gambling services/products to kids. Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Maio has expressed intentions of lobbying the EU for a Union-wide ban.

Howie Long-Short: Gambling is synonymous with Italian futbol. Stadiums are named after gambling companies and gaming companies are represented on club kits as primary sponsors. To put the significance of this ban in perspective, Alun Bowden, Senior Consultant, Eilers & Krejcik Gaming called it, “by far the most significant thing to happen in online gambling this year and yes I include PASPA in that.”

The Italian government issued this ban to strengthen consumer protection laws and all money raised from fines paid will be invested into programs designed to fight gambling addiction, so while gaming operators (and their shareholders) are upset, they’re unlikely to find much sympathy from the public, here.

That will change though if Serie A clubs start to struggle financially, a likely outcome when club sponsorship deals expire (existing agreements can be fulfilled); gaming companies invest +/- $135 million/year in Series A sponsorships and Italian clubs (see: AC Milan, 2-year ban) are already struggling to meet UEFA Financial Fair Play rules.

Several Italian clubs are publicly traded including Juventus, AS Roma and Lazio.

Fan Marino: Maio won’t have to lobby hard in England, senior gaming execs (think: Philip Bowcock of William Hill, Peter Jackson of Paddy Power Betfair) there are already asking the government to implement regulations; concerned children are being subjected to far too many gambling-related ads on television (particularly, tied to sporting events). Of course, a blanket ban on advertising is beneficial to the giants of the industry as it becomes more difficult for small outfits to take mindshare.

It’s worth noting that Australia also now has a ban on gambling related advertisements during sporting events. While no ban is needed here yet, it’s easy to foresee one coming down the pike if the competition for legalized sports bettors begins to look like the infamous DFS competition of 2015. Perhaps the time is coming sooner than later, CBS is reportedly “all-in” on gambling related advertising.

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WSJ: Just 7 Ways to Publicly Invest in Sports, JWS: Not the Case

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The WSJ published a recent story asserting there are few ways to directly invest in sports, a notion we dispute. The article deemed just 7 publicly traded equities to be sports-related and based their conclusion, that fans are better off watching and playing sports than investing in them, on the performance of 2 exchange traded funds; one of which (FANZ) has beat the S&P since its July ’17 inception, which would seem to counter to their argument. The article cites Matt Hougan, the CEO of Inside ETFs, and his belief that most of the economic value within sports (ownership and player contracts) “comes in private transactions”, to support the author’s thesis; but fails to pay consideration to the revenue streams that support those contracts (and generate ownership profits). It’s worth noting that JohnWallStreet follows over 100 sports-related equities.

Howie Long-Short: Sports teams generate revenue from 4 sources; broadcast rights, ticket sales, sponsorships and merchandising. Several publicly traded equities use a similar business model; Churchill Downs (CHDN), International Speedway (ISCA), Dover Motorsports (DVD) and Speedway Motorsports (TRK), and thus should also be included on the list. Others, like Acushnet Holdings Corp. (GOLF) and Callaway Golf Company (ELY), are undeniably directly tied to sports; and no one would claim your basket was unfocused if companies like Nike (NKE), Lululemon (LULU) and Fitbit (FIT) were to be included. Oh, and don’t forget Activision Blizzard’s (ATVI) new esports league (Overwatch); their inaugural season starts today.

Fan Marino: The story names the New York Knicks, New York Rangers (MSG), Atlanta Braves (BATRK), Manchester United (MANU) and Borussia Dortmund (BORUF) as the teams you can purchase equity in. The Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Maple Leafs (RCI), Juventus F.C. (JVTSF), A.S. Roma (ASRAF) and SS Lazio (BIT: SSL) are also all publicly traded.

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Adidas Invests in Facebook for Soccer

Onefootball, a German mobile application with 25 million users across 200 countries, announced it has closed on Series B and Series C funding rounds; the company previously acknowledged raising $20 million in investment capital. Described as “Facebook for football without the social element”, the app offers news, live scores and stats for over 140 leagues in 16 languages. Focused on building a premier user experience that results in higher conversions for advertisers, founder Lucas von Cranach said that despite the captive audience (90% opt-in to receive push notifications), the company “won’t build a betting business, won’t build a merchandise business, and we won’t build a ticketing business”.

Howie Long-Short: Onefootball remains privately held, but Adidas (ADDYY) participated in the most recent round; finding value in the captive mobile fan base mentioned. Information pertaining to the amount of capital invested and valuation were not disclosed. There are several publicly-traded soccer teams. Manchester United is traded on the NYSE under the symbol MANU. You can buy A.S. Roma (OTC: ASRAF), Juventus (OTCJVTSF) and Borussia Dortmund (OTCBORUF) over-the- counter. Lazio is traded on the Borsa Italiana under the symbol BIT: SSL.

Fan Marino: As recently noted, more teams at the 2018 World Cup will wear uniforms made by Adidas (11) than Nike (10); but that won’t be the case when it comes to cleats. It’s expected that for the 2nd World Cup in a row, more than half of all players will be wearing NKE footwear; 52% wore the brand at the ’14 WC. For comparison purposes, just 36% of players wore Adidas footwear in 2014.

Onefootball has quietly raised a Series C round and added Adidas as an investor

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