The Hustle

Casino kingpins place a big bet

Here’s a crash course on the state of media in 2020. Yesterday, Warren Buffett said sayonara to his newspaper empire, and a casino company powered Barstool Sports to a $450m valuation. What does it mean? Probably nothing good for the old guard. Today:


January 30, 2020

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Here’s a crash course on the state of media in 2020. Yesterday, Warren Buffett said sayonara to his newspaper empire, and a casino company powered Barstool Sports to a $450m valuation. What does it mean? Probably nothing good for the old guard. Today:

Sports betting heats up: Barstool hits $450m valuation in deal with casino company

Barstool Sports just hit the jackpot.

The casino kingpin Penn National Gaming is buying a 36% stake in Barstool, in a deal that values the controversial sports and pop-culture blog at $450m, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Barstool’s brash founder, Dave Portnoy, celebrated the news in the most #onbrand way possible: with a fake press conference beamed from the surface of the moon.

The chips might be stacked in Barstool’s favor

Portnoy said he wants Barstool to be the biggest gambling company in the country. Here’s why that could be a strong bet:

But are the odds as good as they look?

There’s just one potential hitch: Portnoy’s reputation for acting like a neanderthal and attracting the frattiest of frat bros. A few lowlights from Barstool’s recent past:

The company’s checkered history doesn’t seem to be scaring off investors — Penn National’s stock took off after the announcement.

What’s next: Expect more tie-ins between media companies and gambling outfits. Last year, ESPN launched a new show called “Daily Wager” that caters to viewers who bet on sports.

Capitalize on it: Our Trends story explains how you can pounce on the growing sports-gambling industry.

2019 was a big year for Bitcoin scams

Bitcoin is still a fringe currency, but it’s catching on in a crime-infested corner of the internet, The New York Times reports.

This week, the crypto-crime watchers Chainalysis found that the total amount of sales on “darknet” markets (the sketchy parts of the web) grew 70% last year, to more than $790m worth of crypto-cash.

Bitcoin is gaining wider acceptance — but more people are getting ripped off

Illicit transactions make up a tiny fraction of all crypto flow: just 1.1%. Still:

The Chainalysis report says 3 threads tie all this sketchy activity together:

Scams are the biggest threat. Think you’ll strike gold buying Bitcoin? You might just be a sucker.

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The future of customer service might cut out the humans

Eventually, robots are going to replace us all. Some startups are betting on it.

As Fast Company reports, a gaggle of them are raising money to create armies of AI-powered customer-service avatars. They’re supposed to look and talk just like humans.

But they call it the Uncanny Valley for a reason

The avatars are creepy, and most chatbots can’t hold a candle to a flesh-and-blood human. That said, there’s still big money in the idea that avatars could do the work of entire customer-service teams — eventually.

Press 0 to talk to a person

Some companies know that they can’t — and maybe shouldn’t — build systems to replicate all human interactions.

Uneeq, another company focused on “digital brand ambassadors,” has created nonhuman characters that might be just as effective.

Factory workers, watch out — they’re coming for your jobs, too

The AI startup Covariant says it has developed technology that allows robots to pick through packages more efficiently. The company says the robots are just as good as humans, or even better.

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These are the weirdest sites that shared your activity with Facebook

They belong on /r/riskyclick, because they sure sounded NSFW.

Yesterday, we told you about a new Facebook feature that lets you see the sites and apps that have shared your activity with the all-seeing eye of Zuck. We challenged you to beat our in-house champ, for the highest/most-concerning score (1,236 sites).

You delivered — but we gotta ask. What the heck are y’all looking at?

Here’s a sampling of some of the weirdest-sounding sites you told us about.

Snippets

🚘 Lyft is laying off about 90 employees — or 1.6% of its workforce.

🚬 Some cash-strapped jails are making money by selling inmates overpriced e-cigarettes.

🌯 Chipotle has a child-labor problem.

🕹The hot new collectors’ market: factory sealed, retro video games.

📹 A YouTuber with 5m+ subscribers admitted to faking his girlfriend’s death to get more viewers.

Want snippets like these in your browser? Download our Chrome extension here.

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