The Daily Mail’s relentless crusade against fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) isn’t taking Easter weekend off. On Thursday, the Mail published the results of a YouGov poll that showed 48% of UK respondents wanted to see FOBTs tarred, feathered and ridden out of town on a rail.
As for the controversial Category B2 machines, which allow a maximum wager of £100 per spin, the poll found 61% wanted the maximum wager lowered to £2. Then again, 59% suggested the government should intervene and impose restrictions on any form of gambling that poses a risk to vulnerable individuals, “even if not all the evidence is available yet.” Well, so long as nobody’s rushing to judgment, then…
The Mail’s FU to FOBTs went even further on Friday with a lengthy piece on Teddy Sagi, the founder and largest shareholder of online gambling software developer Playtech, or, as the Mail described him, “the jailbird pornographer behind Britain’s crack cocaine gambling machines.” The Mail’s Steve Bird accused Sagi of having “made much of his vast fortune by exploiting the poorest and most vulnerable in the country.”
After spending a good deal of time ginning up the drama by describing FOBTs of having “an almost hypnotic effect that leaves players like zombies,” Bird ultimately gets back to detailing Sagi’s checkered past, including his jail stint for stock fraud in the 1990s. But the focus quickly shifts to Sagi’s post-jail interest in internet companies, in particular his 1999 investment in Unlimited9, a company that designed websites for pornography businesses.
While the experience wasn’t without its hiccups – Sagi was sued in 2006 by two of Unlimited9’s founders for allegedly defrauding them out of their shares – it left Sagi convinced that “sex and betting are the most profitable businesses on the internet.” The fact that Bird chooses to paint this somewhat ‘well, duh’ conclusion as further evidence of Sagi’s fiendish qualities suggests Bird still isn’t over losing his nest egg investing in Pets.com.
Sagi is undeniably a polarizing figure within the online gambling industry. For every gambling company that views Playtech as its savior, another is willing to pay hundreds of millions of pounds to avoid having to deal with the company any longer. Rank-and-file Playtech shareholders have at times expressed frustration at the board of directors’ eagerness to pay top dollar to purchase assets from Sagi at a premium.
But honestly, who gives a damn about porn in this day and age? Last summer, when the UK government proposed requiring all new internet connections to ‘opt in’ if they wanted the ability to view pornography online, a YouGov poll found that a plurality (46%) would only support an ‘opt out’ system, a number that leapt to 59% among male respondents.
The Mail’s bunched-up knickers are even more preposterous given their website’s preoccupation with scantily clad female celebrities. Among the thumbnails accompanying the Sagi story are references to Millie Mackintosh’s “TINY bikini,” Michelle Keegan’s “crop top and skintight leggings,” Hilaria Baldwin’s “taut tummy in tiny shorts,” Joanna Krupa’s “curvaceous figure in form-fitting dress,” Diane Kruger going “bra-free,” Mylene Klaas’ “taut bikini body,” Rachel Bilson’s “skimpy bandeau bikini,” Carmen Electra’s “hourglass figure in a tight floral dress,” and Eva Longoria’s “impressive pins in skimpy hotpants.” Physician, wank thyself.