Michael Owen Blasted for Backing Unlicensed Crypto Casino, Misleading NFT Scheme
Former England soccer star Michael Owen has been criticized for promoting Punt Casino, an unlicensed crypto casino, in violation of UK gambling laws, The Athletic reports.
Separately, the ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid striker has been ordered by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to cease promoting an NFT (non-fungible token) concept that claimed to be “the first-ever (NFTs) that can’t lose their initial value.”
Owen, who scored 40 goals for England and won the Ballon d’Or in 2001, was unveiled as Punt Casino’s “global brand ambassador” in February. The accompanying press release said he would appear in various commercial and online ad campaigns for the casino and included by a quote attributed to Owen.
“I’m a strong believer in the power of crypto, so teaming up with an innovative platform like Punt Casino feels like a natural fit,” it read.
Worth a Punt?
Owen’s profile is also a natural fit for the UK gambling market, despite Punt Casino’s lack of licensing in that jurisdiction. Its name, “punt,” is a specifically British slang word for betting.
The Athletic said it made “inquiries,” after which tweets by own promoting the casino were deleted and its operations were “geo-blocked” for UK users.
Punt Casino is a fully licensed Curacao casino operating under the rules and regulations associated with that license,” a spokesperson told The Athletic. “We do not target or promote our casino to customers of any countries and/or jurisdictions not allowed by such license.”
The statement is carefully worded. It is not clear whether the terms of Punt Casino’s Curacao license allowed it to target the UK, although regulatory oversight in the tiny Caribbean island is notoriously lax.
Owen’s tweets in support of the NFT scheme have also been deleted after the ASA’s intervention. The ex-footballer claimed on Twitter last month that “Despite the critics, my NFTs will be the first ever that can’t lose their initial value.”
NFTs are digital tokens that can represent ownership of an underlying virtual item. Each NFT is unique. Once minted, it exists as a permanent and unique proof of title that cannot be edited, deleted, or copied.
The market in NFTs soared throughout 2021 but has plunged in recent months. The average price is now less than half of its March 2021 peak.
The concept behind Owen’s NFTs is that each token contains code that ensures it cannot be sold for less than the original purchase price. But no asset is immune from market pressures, and if no one wants to buy a token at the original price, it is effectively worth nothing.
The ASA said the tweet was likely to mislead the public.
The authority is currently conducting a wide-ranging review of the issues surrounding NFT advertising.
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