Martin Lycka: This is 40

Martin Lycka Entain 4.0
Image: Shutterstock

It is bound to happen to the best of us–I might no longer be young. Or perhaps looking at the bright side, no longer that young. The Big 4.0 has come and gone. The day itself has been duly celebrated and washed down with relatively sophisticated drinks. Definitely more sophisticated ones than those I would have gulped down when I was turning 2.0. 

No, it was not a wild party this time around, not at this advanced age as otherwise, I would have run a serious risk of not finding my way home that night…however, perhaps because the birthday libations were not that strong, I have realized how much I owe to the industry I have had the utmost privilege to have been connected with for the last 13 years, our treasured gambling industry. 

For my sins, as I believe most of my readers (and genuine thanks for reading these usually half-mad columns) happen to know, I am a gaming attorney by trade. A gaming attorney who has branched out into regulation, RG, and a few other related bits and bobs that have been adorning my portfolio, to be fair to myself. Yet, it’s not as though being a gaming attorney was anyone’s childhood dream; though, if I’m wrong on this, those amongst you who would have always had a burning desire to have become one feel free to drop me a line. 

My childhood dream was to be a hockey player (hockey as in ice hockey, for the avoidance of any doubt). Where I am from, hockey is nothing short of a religion. One’s social status is determined by how well one can ice skate and whether one happens to know any of the guys on the hometown hockey team or, even better, is one of them. Well, that dream, just like the Big 4.0, came and went. Sticking to the positivity theme though, I can still ice skate pretty damn well…not McDavid well, but still really well. 

Having had to let the hockey dream go, I moved on to honing other skills while making my way through the Czech education system. It turned out that I’ve got a decent memory and a not-too-shabby inclination toward oratory. These being pretty much my only assets, law school was the inevitable choice. Law books are not exactly cheap, so an extra income was a must. It may come as a disappointment that I had not started my career in a pub down the road or a fast food shop. By stroke of luck, I landed a few law clerkships, including in an international law firm that focussed on… real estate. 

As a result, there was a real chance that a failed hockey player would have ended up overseeing corporate property transactions and drafting one SPA after another. The fates thought differently, as the law firm I was with at the time, I presume by pure coincidence, happened to bring in a gambling client and I was asked to get involved. Not that I would have known much about the industry, but I was keen to learn about the vagaries of a sector designed to provide folks with entertainment in return of obolus that may be irreversibly lost. 

I will not name my first industry employer (it is only too easy to look it up on LinkedIn) but will be forever grateful to them to have given me the opportunity to relocate to London and cut my regulatory teeth with them. I should actually be grateful to them even for my marriage, as I met the girl whom I am beyond honored to call my wife these days, while I was sin-binned following my resignation from the job I had held with them for eight prosperous years. I learned the regulatory ropes, having made but also lost friends in the process (some people, and you can’t blame them, do not really take a liking to the gambling industry), and took on the beautiful cause of defending our industry from its detractors and naysayers. 

Having joined another industry giant, my career would appear to have been on steroids, legal steroids, that is; jet setting around the world, speaking at conferences (only too pertinently I am writing this column while at G2E in the ultimate sin city of Las Vegas), hanging out not only with the industry greats but also the likes of Charles Oakley or Amani Toomer, to name but a few. Simply beyond belief. 

I would have never thought that having accepted a rather random offer to work on a gambling file in a Prague-based law firm would have taken me this far. In other words – and I appreciate that I may be totally biased – this industry is very cool, and we should all cherish it as much as we can. I promise that next month I will go back to not writing about myself (a little bird is telling me that there may be a piece about a chap named Bolsonaro and his sports betting quest in the offing) but, in the meantime, do indulge yourselves in reading what could be the first part of my memoir.