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Disrupting the disrupters: How the coronavirus will change the gig economy

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SALT LAKE CITY — Working in the American gig economy was already hard enough.

Just ask Jonathan Cousar. He began driving for Uber in New York City in 2014, which was “great at first,” he said.

“When I first started driving, Uber had just come into this area,” Cousar told KSL.com. “And it was really awesome, because they were charging maybe four to five times what they charge now and they had a lot fewer drivers, so each individual driver could actually get a decent amount of trip requests.”

Over time, however, the number of drivers shot up and fares went down. Driver earnings “began to plummet,” Cousar said.

“Back then (in 2014) you could have made $30 to $40 an hour during morning and afternoon rush hour,” he said. That had come all the way down to about $15 an hour before expenses in a 2019 survey by Ridester, a website that covers on-demand transportation for which Cousar now writes.

And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Seemingly overnight, demand for ride-hailing services fell off a cliff. For the first time, Congress made self-employed and contract workers eligible for a form of unemployment in the March coronavirus aid bill — but states then had to figure out how to implement the new program, delaying aid to gig workers by weeks or even months.

The virus fallout has been nothing short of “devastating” to the industry and its workers, Cousar said. “The main sources of business are the afternoon and morning commute to work, airport business and nightlife,” he said. “All of that was shut down.”

Here in Utah, gig workers got some relief in mid-April when the Department of Workforce Services unveiled the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, Utah’s implementation of the congressional mandate to bring unemployment aid to the self-employed. Kevin Burt, director of the department’s Unemployment Insurance Division, said the state had to create the program “from scratch.”

“Pandemic Unemployment Assistance was certainly a brand-new program,” Burt said. “It was different, and it does cover a group of individuals that historically are not eligible for unemployment insurance.” The program has been federally funded through the end of the year and can be used for up to 39 weeks, he said.

Last week the state saw about 1,300 new claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and 8,800 ongoing claims, down from peaks of about 7,500 new and 18,000 continued claims, Burt said.

Solutions and the future

Not every job in the gig economy has suffered like ride-booking services. Food delivery apps, for instance, helped restaurants reach customers even when dine-in service was prohibited.

And some are exploring new models. Eric Nalbone is the vice president of marketing for Drum, a new app that lets users earn commissions for word-of-mouth product and service referrals, “drumming” up business for companies.

“So the business wins,” Nalbone said. “They’re able to really leverage their customers, and people who know the business already, to spread the word about that business. And the individuals win because they actually get compensated for this valuable service that they’re providing” — a service that people already provide for free all the time, he said.

Drum launched a pilot program last fall, Nalbone said, and didn’t originally intend to launch nationally until this summer. But once the pandemic hit, Drum’s leadership saw a need for its service and expanded in April instead. “This is certainly a time when more businesses need support and more individuals need support than ever before,” he said.

Still, for Uber and Lyft drivers, the outlook remains challenging. Ridester released a report this week finding that, after expenses, many drivers are pocketing less than $5 an hour.

And the expiration of the extra $600 of weekly unemployment aid — another provision of the March coronavirus aid bill that ran out just last week — will make matters worse, Cousar said.

“Now that the $600 has run out, all of these drivers who’ve been sitting at home are going to get back out on the streets,” he said. “And drivers who are making $5 to $10 an hour — because there’s not a lot of business, but there weren’t a lot of other drivers out there, either — now they’re going to be competing with three to four times the number of drivers they’ve been up against these last few weeks.”

Cousar’s advice for workers in the gig economy?

“Get some new skills,” he said. “Learn to do computer programming. Learn software coding. Learn coding for websites. Because even before this (pandemic) happened, it was really difficult to earn much more than minimum wage driving for Uber and Lyft.”

That’s not to say gig work is a bad solution for everyone, Cousar said. He was once struck by data indicating a large number of Uber and Lyft drivers are over age 50.

“A lot of these guys are retired,” he said. “They have a little time on their hands and like to make a little extra spending money, and that’s a great way for them to do it.” But as for young drivers?

“The younger guys should get out of it so those guys can make some money at it. And the younger guys can go improve their skills, and up their game, and try to do something else.”

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GiG to power Hungary’s Casino Win online launch

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Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) has agreed a long-term contract with Hungarian land-based casino operator Casino Win to power the launch of its digital offering in the country.

Under the agreement, GIG will provide its platform, frontend development and managed services to Casino Win, which recently secured a licence to extend its offering to online.

Online licences in Hungary are only available to land-based operators that have a physical location in the country. Two of Hungary’s four operators are currently active online, with Casino Win set to launch its offering in the first half of 2021.

The deal with GiG is based on a combination of fixed fees and a revenue share structure, and, as such, GiG said it expects the partnership to make a positive contribution to revenue during the second half of next year.

“We are pleased to have GiG supporting our digital transformation and online player acquisition strategy as we expand into the regulated Hungarian online market,” Casino Win’s managing director Zsolt Kruppa said.

“We believe that by joining our efforts we can transfer the feel and look of our casino’s into an online offering that both caters for our current players as well as attracts new ones.”

GiG’s chief executive Richard Brown added: “Casino Win has a proven track record of success and have some of the market-leading land-based operations.

“We believe that this, in conjunction with GiG’s tailored online offering will lead to further success for the companies, while providing Casino Win’s customer base a seamless, high quality retail and digital experience.”

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Google Fiber gears up for a trial run of its 2-Gig tier

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While it may not exactly be “Déjà vu all over again”—to partially quote Yogi Berra—Google Fiber is gearing up for a 2 Gbps offering

In a Monday blog post, Google Fiber said it was teeing-up the new “2-Gig” tier for a trial run with select subscribers in Nashville, Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama next month as part of its Trusted Tester program.

In 2010, Google shook up the telecommunications industry when it first announced its plan to deploy a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) internet service with speeds of up to a 1 gigabit per second, which was 100 times faster than the average speeds of that era.

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While at the time cable operators and other service providers downplayed the need for 1-gigabit services, Google Fiber jumpstarted a rush to deploy the faster speed to residential and business customers. Today, 1G speeds are a almost table stakes across Verizon, Comcast, Charter Communications and AT&T, and other ISPs.

RELATED: CableLabs sticks a fork into DOCSIS 4.0 specification

At last year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, cable operators outlined their vision for delivering 10-gigabit data speeds, which includes the cable industry’s DOCSIS 4.0 specifications. DOCSIS 4.0 was designed to hit downstream speeds of up to 10 Gbps, which is twice the download speed of DOCSIS 3.1, and an upstream of up to 6 Gbps (quadruple the DOCSIS 3.1 upstream speed.)

 Google Fiber’s 2-Gig service costs $100 per month, which is $30 more than its 1-Gig service. It comes with a new Wi-Fi router and Wi-Fi mesh extender.

Google Fiber’s Amalia O’Sullivan, director of product management, said in Monday’s blog that the 2-Gig service will also be trialed in other Google Fiber cities late this fall. The 2-G service will also take a trial run Google Fiber Webpass, which is available in nine U.S. cities.

“This year has made this need for more speed and bandwidth especially acute, as many of us are now living our entire lives — from work to school to play — within our homes, creating unprecedented demand for internet capacity,” O’Sullivan said in her blog. “Google Fiber networks are designed so there’s plenty of capacity to allow our customers, with the right in-home hardware, to reach 2 Gig (and even faster) speeds. Our approach to network design allows us to keep our customers connected to the fastest speeds available.”

After the 2-Gig service passes muster with Google’s voluntary testers, it will be rolled across Google Fiber’s Nashville and Huntsville networks later this year, with plans to launch the service across most of the Google Fiber and Google Fiber Webpass cities early next year.

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GiG signs with Casino Win in Hungary

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GiG signs with Casino Win in Hungary


18 September 2020




(PRESS RELEASE) — Gaming Innovation Group Inc. has today signed a long term contract with Casino Win, one of Hungary’s leading land-based casino operators, for the provision of GiG’s platform, front-end development and managed services to launch their digital operation in the regulated Hungarian market.

Casino Win has been present in the Hungarian gambling market since 2016, and has always prioritized their players to ensure that they receive the highest possible levels of service, coupled with the latest gambling equipment and technology to provide the best gaming experience there is. To complement their successful land-based operations, Casino Win is now taking their operation to the next level by entering the online space.

Online licenses in Hungary are only available to land-based operators who have physical locations within the country. At present there are only four operators in Hungary of which two are already online, with Casino Win becoming the third in H1 2021. Casino Win own three casinos in leading locations across Hungary and offer an extensive selection of slots games as well as roulette, blackjack and poker.

The agreement is based on a combination of fixed fees and revenue share structure. The casino offering is expected to go live in H1 2021, and this partnership is expected to make a positive contribution to GiG’s revenues from the second half of 2021. The term of the contract is for an initial three year period.

Mr. Zsolt Kruppa Managing Director of Casino Win says: “Gaming Innovation Group is known in the iGaming industry as a reliable and trustful company with a history of success working with land-based operators like ourselves. We are pleased to have them supporting our digital transformation and online player acquisition strategy as we expand into the regulated Hungarian online market. We believe that by joining our efforts we can transfer the feel and look of our casino’s into an online offering that both caters for our current players as well as attracts new ones. We are looking forward to a long lasting and mutually beneficial partnership.”

Richard Brown, Chief Executive Officer of GiG says, “We are very pleased to move into the regulated Hungarian market supporting Casino Wins expansion into online. They have a proven track record of success and have some of the market-leading land-based operations. We believe that this, in conjunction with GiG’s tailored online offering will lead to further success for the companies, while providing Casino Win’s customer base a seamless, high quality retail and digital experience.”

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