The mainstream media’s exploration of sports betting continued last week on the newest episode of HBO’s Game Theory with Bomani Jones. The sports writer and commentator put social media star and betr co-founder Jake Paul in the spotlight with a section of commentary and an interview.
Jones was unsurprisingly critical of Paul’s foray into athletics but did give him props for encouraging women in boxing and pushing to unionize MMA fighters. He was less generous in his assessment of Paul’s plans for betr sportsbook.
“Betr is not just a sports media company. They raised over $50 million in financing from investors. And the primary reason they received so much money is probably the other part of their business. One that’s a little less wholesome, and potentially a lot more lucrative,” Jones began.
“TikTok-ifying sports betting is like crackifying candy”
He was also concerned about the sportsbook’s focus on micro-betting, citing NCPG Executive Director Keith Whyte and other evidence that this type of betting is more addictive than other forms of wagering. Combine that with his young audience and betr’s mission to “TikTok-ify” sports, he was concerned about the potential harms to young people.
“TikTok-ify is a scary phrase to hear any time. But TikTok-ifying gambling is downright frightening. Especially when you consider that TikTok and gambling are both hyper-addictive. It’s like crackifying candy,” said Jones. “Now we got to be clear, the major sports books like FanDuel and DraftKings. They’ve gotten into some form of micro-betting and even use the same software from the same company that Jake Paul and betr are using. But the major difference the most troubling difference is that neither of these companies has a co-founder who was young, made his name online, and has cultivated a young audience.”
Jones continued and notoriously did not hold back his feelings about Paul’s venture into sports betting. While the monologue is clearly intended to be entertaining and incisive, it paints a disconcerting picture of how the industry is viewed by some mainstream people:
“Jake Paul is willing to walk young people up to what might be an extremely addicting form of gambling knowing that the house always wins because, at the end of the day, a bookie is a bookie is a bookie. Even if you dress it up with a flashy app, Instagram clout, and a poorly placed “karma” tattoo, Jake Paul is still just a bookie, but most bookies don’t also happen to be massively influential former Disney stars who are also boxers, and that’s why Jake Paul has to be stopped.”
Paul fights back at responsible gambling question
Things did not get any better when Jones actually spoke with Paul one-on-one. Paul gave the standard pitch for betr, noting its appeal for those who find sports betting too complicated and the simplicity of micro bets. When Jones asked about the potential for addiction among Paul’s young audience, he was not as well spoken.
Jones asked, “Do you worry that experts say that micro-betting is one of the most addictive forms of gambling given that your audience is younger people?”
“My audience is older people and I get like what you’re trying to like, be like a hero here and like save the day and like paint me in a bad light. I mean, you’re trying to and probably with a lot of your guests like you get one over on them and they’re not smart enough to keep track of what you’re doing,” Paul responded.
When given a second opportunity to answer the question, Paul managed to come up with this:
“For sure. And that’s why it’s always gamble responsibly. Only bet with money you’re willing to lose. The house always wins. Download betr but gamble responsibly.”
Currently, betr is live in Ohio and Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission was similarly concerned about Paul’s young audience with one commissioner, Eileen O’Brien, voting against giving the company a sports betting license.