Connect with us

Latest

Microvast, a Leading Innovator of EV Battery Technologies, to List on Nasdaq Through Merger with Tuscan Holdings Corp.

Published

on

Microvast, a Leading Innovator of EV Battery Technologies, to List on Nasdaq Through Merger with Tuscan Holdings Corp.

HOUSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Microvast, Inc., a leading global provider of next-generation battery technologies for commercial and specialty vehicles (“Microvast” or the “Company”) and Tuscan Holdings Corp. (Nasdaq: THCB) (“Tuscan”), a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company (“SPAC”), announced today that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement that will result in Microvast becoming a publicly listed company. Upon the closing of the transaction, the combined company will be named Microvast Holdings, Inc., and is expected to be listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the new ticker symbol “MVST.”

Microvast, founded in Houston in 2006, develops disruptive battery technologies for commercial and specialty vehicles, with research and development and production capabilities that span battery materials, multiple battery cell chemistries, modules and packs. The Company’s lower-cost batteries are designed specifically for commercial electric vehicles (EVs) that feature best-in-class fast-charging capabilities, high energy density, significantly longer cycle life and proven safety performance. Microvast’s batteries are now integrated in almost 30,000 vehicles, running in 160 cities in 19 countries, for a total of over 3.8 billion miles traveled on its batteries to date.

Microvast’s battery solutions are powered by its broad, proprietary intellectual property portfolio that spans all four major battery components and is fully owned and protected by more than 550 patents. Due to its highly differentiated, vertically integrated R&D and industrialization system, we believe Microvast delivers faster product development, tighter cost control and greater customization to its customers than does its competitors. As a result, the Company is supported by marquee customer partnerships with industry leaders, including CNH Industrial, Oshkosh Corporation and a leading German luxury sports car company, among others, as well as R&D partnerships with BMW, the United States Council for Automotive Research and Argonne National Laboratory.

The market opportunities for Microvast are significant, with a focus on commercial vehicles such as light, medium and heavy-duty trucks, vans, buses, trains, automated guided vehicles, port equipment and mining trucks. Currently, this is generating a robust, and probability weighted, pipeline estimated at $4.1 billion through 2025, and signed contracts with total value of over $1.5 billion through 2027.

Given its unique focus on battery solutions for commercial EVs, Microvast believes it is poised to capitalize on a large and rapidly growing global commercial vehicle market comprising over $1 trillion in annual sales, more than 10 million vehicles, and a commercial EV total addressable market of $30 billion.2 Commercial EV sales currently represent 1.5% of the market but penetration is expected to reach almost 9% in 2025, representing a CAGR of 55%, from 2020 to 2025,3 as battery solutions like Microvast’s continue to displace traditional combustion engines due to improving cost and performance, as well as favorable government regulations to address climate change. Battery developers are expected to play a pivotal role in the EV value chain, with 30–40% of an EV’s value residing within the battery itself.4

Commenting on today’s significant milestones, Microvast’s founder, Chairman, CEO and President, Yang Wu, said, “In 2008, we set out to power a mobility revolution by building disruptive battery technologies that would allow electric vehicles to compete with internal combustion engine vehicles. Since that time we have launched three generations of battery technologies that have provided our customers with battery performance far superior to our competitors and that successfully satisfy, over many years of operation, the stringent requirements of commercial vehicle operators. Today’s announcement marks the beginning of our next chapter working with our marquee customers and R&D partners to pave the way for the mass adoption of commercial electric vehicles, and we are thrilled to team up with Tuscan to advance the path to electrification.”

“In Microvast we have found a disruptive technology company operating in a large, addressable market with a long runway of future growth that has developed long-term competitive advantages and has established a multi-year track record of proving its capabilities. We believe that climate change is one of the world’s greatest challenges and opportunities. It will take a concerted global effort to reengineer the economy in a manner that empowers citizens of the world to thrive sustainably. We are encouraged by the progress and are fortunate to be in a position to help support a company that we believe can play an important role in that future,” said Stephen Vogel, Chairman and CEO of Tuscan. “Mr. Wu and his excellent management team have established Microvast as precisely that pioneering leader within the electric vehicle battery industry.”

Ahmed Fattouh, CEO of InterPrivate Capital, said, “The Microvast team has not only developed cutting-edge battery technology that is highly attractive to its suite of market-leading customers and partners, generating over $100 million in 2020 revenue, but also operates a vertically integrated production process for its battery solutions that is unique in the industry, enabling both enhanced customer service and the opportunity to achieve excellent margins.” InterPrivate partner Brian Pham added, “We are pleased to help drive Microvast’s next phase of growth as it looks to capitalize on the large demand for its products that will come from the electrification of the commercial vehicle market as a public company.”

Microvast’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Wu, will continue to lead the combined company along with the current management team. Mr. Vogel, Tuscan’s Chairman and CEO, will remain as a director of the combined company and will be joined by Dr. M. Stanley Whittingham, who was recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his ground-breaking work on lithium-ion batteries. InterPrivate’s CEO, Mr. Fattouh, is expected to become a board observer.

Transaction Overview

The transaction reflects an implied equity value of the combined company of $3 billion, based on current assumptions, with a $10.00 per share PIPE subscription price. The transaction is supported by strategic partner Oshkosh Corporation as well as funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, Koch Strategic Platforms and InterPrivate Investment Partners. Upon closing, the combined company will receive up to $822 million in cash, comprised of an oversubscribed $540 million PIPE and up to $282 million in cash held in trust by Tuscan, assuming no redemptions by THCB stockholders.

The boards of directors for both Microvast and Tuscan have unanimously approved the proposed business combination, which is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2021, subject to, among other things, the approval by Tuscan’s stockholders of the merger and the concurrent PIPE transaction, satisfaction of the conditions stated in the definitive agreement and other customary closing conditions, including that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) completes its review of the proxy statement, the receipt of certain regulatory approvals, and approval by The Nasdaq Stock Market to list the securities of the combined company.

Advisors

Barclays and Houlihan Lokey are acting as financial advisors to Microvast and Shearman & Sterling LLP is acting as legal advisor to Microvast. Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC is acting as financial advisor to Tuscan, EarlyBirdCapital, Inc. is acting as capital markets advisor to Tuscan, and InterPrivate Capital is acting as strategic advisor to Tuscan. Greenberg Traurig LLP is acting as legal advisor to Tuscan, and Graubard Miller is acting as special SPAC counsel to Tuscan. Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC is acting as sole placement agent for the PIPE financing. Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP is acting as legal advisor to Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC.

Conference Call and Webcast Information

Investors may listen to a pre-recorded call discussing the proposed business combination later today at 8:00 am EST. The call may be accessed by dialing 1 (877) 407-3982 for domestic callers or 1 (201) 493-6780 for international callers. Once connected with the operator, please ask to join the “Tuscan Holdings Corp. and Microvast, Inc. Business Combination Announcement Conference Call.”

A replay of the call will also be available today from 11:00 am EST to 11:59 pm EST on Monday, February 15, 2021. To access the replay, the domestic toll-free access number is 1 (844) 512-2921 and the international number is 1 (412) 317-6671. Participants should provide the conference ID of “13715815.”

To access the webcast, please visit the Investor Info section of Microvast’s website at www.microvast.com.

About Microvast

Microvast, Inc. is a technology innovator that designs, develops and manufactures lithium-ion battery solutions. Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Houston, TX, Microvast is renowned for its cutting-edge cell technology and its vertical integration capabilities which extend from core battery chemistry (cathode, anode, electrolyte, and separator) to battery packs. By integrating the process from raw material to system assembly, Microvast has developed a family of products covering a broad breadth of market applications. More information can be found on the corporate website: www.microvast.com.

About Tuscan

Tuscan Holdings Corp. is a blank check company whose business purpose is to effect a merger, capital stock exchange, asset acquisition, stock purchase, reorganization or similar business combination with one or more businesses. Tuscan’s management team is led by Stephen Vogel, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Tuscan is listed on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “THCB.”

About InterPrivate

InterPrivate Capital is a private investment firm that invests on behalf of a consortium of family offices. The firm’s unique independent co-sponsor structure provides its investors with the deep sector expertise and transaction execution capabilities of veteran deal-makers from the world’s leading private equity and venture capital firms. Affiliates of InterPrivate Capital act as sponsors, co-sponsors and advisors of SPACs, and manage a number of investment vehicles on behalf of its family office co-investors that participate in private and public opportunities, including PIPE investments in support of the firm’s sponsored business combinations. For more information regarding InterPrivate Capital, please visit www.interprivate.com. For more information regarding InterPrivate’s SPAC strategy, please visit www.ipvspac.com.

Additional Information and Where to Find It

In connection with the proposed transaction (the “Proposed Transaction”) involving Tuscan Holdings Corp., a Delaware corporation (“Tuscan”) and Microvast, Inc. a Delaware corporation (“Microvast”), Tuscan intends to file relevant materials with the SEC, including a proxy statement. This document is not a substitute for the proxy statement. INVESTORS AND SECURITY HOLDERS AND OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES ARE URGED TO READ THE PROXY STATEMENT AND ANY OTHER RELEVANT DOCUMENTS THAT ARE FILED OR WILL BE FILED WITH THE SEC, AS WELL AS ANY AMENDMENTS OR SUPPLEMENTS TO THESE DOCUMENTS, CAREFULLY AND IN THEIR ENTIRETY WHEN THEY BECOME AVAILABLE BECAUSE THEY WILL CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT MICROVAST, TUSCAN, THE PROPOSED TRANSACTION AND RELATED MATTERS. The proxy statement and other documents relating to the Proposed Transaction (when they are available) can be obtained free of charge from the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. These documents (when they are available) can also be obtained free of charge from Tuscan upon written request to Tuscan at Tuscan Holdings Corp., 135 E. 57th St., 17th Floor, New York, NY 10022.

No Offer or Solicitation

This communication is for informational purposes only and is not intended to and shall not constitute a proxy statement or the solicitation of a proxy, consent or authorization with respect to any securities in respect of the Proposed Transaction and shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy or subscribe for any securities or a solicitation of any vote of approval, nor shall there be any sale, issuance or transfer of securities in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such jurisdiction.

Participants in Solicitation

This communication is not a solicitation of a proxy from any investor or securityholder. However, Tuscan, Microvast, and certain of their directors and executive officers may be deemed to be participants in the solicitation of proxies in connection with the Proposed Transaction under the rules of the SEC. Information about Tuscan’s directors and executive officers and their ownership of Tuscan’s securities is set forth in Tuscan’s filings with the SEC, including Tuscan’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019, which was filed with the SEC on March 13, 2020. To the extent that holdings of Tuscan’s securities have changed since the amounts included in Tuscan’s Annual Report, such changes have been or will be reflected on Statements of Change in Ownership on Form 4 filed with the SEC. Additional information regarding the participants will also be included in the proxy statement, when it becomes available. When available, these documents can be obtained free of charge from the sources indicated above.

Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This communication contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements include, but are not limited to, statements about future financial and operating results, our plans, objectives, expectations and intentions with respect to future operations, products and services; and other statements identified by words such as “will likely result,” “are expected to,” “will continue,” “is anticipated,” “estimated,” “believe,” “intend,” “plan,” “projection,” “outlook” or words of similar meaning. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements regarding Microvast’s industry and market sizes, future opportunities for Tuscan, Microvast and the combined company, Tuscan’s and Microvast’s estimated future results and the Proposed Transaction, including the implied equity value, the expected transaction and ownership structure and the likelihood and ability of the parties to successfully consummate the Proposed Transaction. Such forward-looking statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of our management and are inherently subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties and contingencies, many of which are difficult to predict and generally beyond our control. Actual results and the timing of events may differ materially from the results anticipated in these forward-looking statements.

In addition to factors previously disclosed in Tuscan’s reports filed with the SEC and those identified elsewhere in this communication, the following factors, among others, could cause actual results and the timing of events to differ materially from the anticipated results or other expectations expressed in the forward-looking statements: (1) inability to complete the Proposed Transaction or, if Tuscan does not complete the Proposed Transaction, any other business combination; (2) the inability to complete the Proposed Transaction due to the failure to meet the closing conditions to the Proposed Transaction, including the inability to obtain approval of Tuscan’s stockholders, the inability to consummate the contemplated PIPE financing, the failure to achieve the minimum amount of cash available following any redemptions by Tuscan stockholders, the failure to meet the Nasdaq listing standards in connection with the consummation of the Proposed Transaction, or the occurrence of any event, change or other circumstances that could give rise to the termination of the definitive agreement; (3) costs related to the Proposed Transaction; (4) a delay or failure to realize the expected benefits from the Proposed Transaction; (5) risks related to disruption of management time from ongoing business operations due to the Proposed Transaction; (6) the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; (7) changes in the highly competitive market in which Microvast competes, including with respect to its competitive landscape, technology evolution or regulatory changes; (8) changes in the markets that Microvast targets; (9) risk that Microvast may not be able to execute its growth strategies or achieve profitability; (10) the risk that Microvast is unable to secure or protect its intellectual property; (11) the risk that Microvast’s customers or third-party suppliers are unable to meet their obligations fully or in a timely manner; (12) the risk that Microvast’s customers will adjust, cancel, or suspend their orders for Microvast’s products; (13) the risk that Microvast will need to raise additional capital to execute its business plan, which may not be available on acceptable terms or at all; (14) the risk of product liability or regulatory lawsuits or proceedings relating to Microvast’s products or services; (15) the risk that Microvast may not be able to develop and maintain effective internal controls; (16) the outcome of any legal proceedings that may be instituted against Tuscan, Microvast or any of their respective directors or officers following the announcement of the Proposed Combination; (17) risks of operations in the People’s Republic of China; and (18) the failure to realize anticipated pro forma results and underlying assumptions, including with respect to estimated stockholder redemptions and purchase price and other adjustments.

Actual results, performance or achievements may differ materially, and potentially adversely, from any projections and forward-looking statements and the assumptions on which those forward-looking statements are based. There can be no assurance that the data contained herein is reflective of future performance to any degree. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements as a predictor of future performance as projected financial information and other information are based on estimates and assumptions that are inherently subject to various significant risks, uncertainties and other factors, many of which are beyond our control. All information set forth herein speaks only as of the date hereof in the case of information about Tuscan and Microvast or the date of such information in the case of information from persons other than Tuscan or Microvast, and we disclaim any intention or obligation to update any forward-looking statements as a result of developments occurring after the date of this communication. Forecasts and estimates regarding Microvast’s industry and end markets are based on sources we believe to be reliable, however there can be no assurance these forecasts and estimates will prove accurate in whole or in part. Annualized, pro forma, projected and estimated numbers are used for illustrative purpose only, are not forecasts and may not reflect actual results.

________________________________________

1 Includes the exchange, pursuant to the definitive merger agreement, of $57.5 million of bridge notes issued by Microvast to a PIPE investor and its affiliates, for shares of common stock of Tuscan upon the closing of the transaction.

2 Global commercial vehicle (“CV”) unit sales based on Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimates; annual sales estimates based on industry research; Microvast’s estimated 2025 total addressable market, calculated as $1 trillion annual CV sales * 9% EV penetration * 35% (mid-point) battery share of EV value is estimated at $30 billion.

3 Based on sales in key markets (U.S, Europe, China, Japan & South Korea), which comprise the majority of global sales and where EV penetration is expected to occur first; sales in additional global markets could provide further upside potential.

Latest

Column | Troubled ‘turbantor’ Harbhajan and his aggressive instincts

Published

on

Column

The retirement of Harbhajan Singh from all forms of competitive cricket in December 2021 brought to close the career of a gifted cricketer who courted controversy at every turn of his career. During the first years of the 21st century, he was arguably the best spin bowler in the world and though his wicket-taking abilities hit a plateau after that, he sustained himself by the versatility that saw him play all formats of the game at the highest level with reasonable success. He was a regular in the national side and part of the team that won the International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 World Cup in 2007 and the ICC World Cup in 2011. Though he lost his place in the national squad in 2015, he continued playing in Indian Premier League (IPL) till he chose to hang up his playing boots last month.

Harbhajan Singh

Chennai Super Kings bowler Harbhajan Singh bowls during the 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) match. Photo by Sajjad Hussain/AFP


Harbhajan kickstarted his career during the 1997-98 season when he found himself playing for the national side in March 1998 within four months after making his debut for Punjab in Ranji Trophy. His performances at the junior level and the absence of top quality off-spin bowlers were factors that prompted the selectors to try out this rookie bowler, then still in his teens. He did not set Kaveri on fire on his Test debut, which took place against Australia at Bangalore. Within one month, he made his bow in One Day Internationals (ODIs) as well but a string of below-par performances saw him lose his place in the side soon thereafter.

Harbhajan Singh

Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh appeals to the umpire at Buffalo Park in East London 19 October 2001. Photo: Tirsa Ellis/AFP


After going through a period of near oblivion when he was also thrown out of a training programme in National Cricket Academy on charges of indiscipline, Harbhajan staged a comeback to the national side in the winter of 2000-2001 with a performance that will be remembered by followers of the game in India for all times. Australia, led by Steve Waugh, had landed in India to conquer the “final frontier”. The visitors were on a high, having won the previous 15 matches on the trot and looked forward to creating a new world record with 17 consecutive triumphs in Tests, while also winning the series. And when they won the first Test at Mumbai by a margin of 10 wickets, everyone thought that they were on their way to attaining both their goals.

Harbhajan Singh

Indian players incluing Sourav Ganguly (R), Harbhajan Singh (3rd L), Shiv Sundar Singh (fourth from L, with helmet), VVS Laxman (2nd from R) run to celebrate India’s victory over Australia. Photo: Arko Datta/AFP


The Kolkata Test against Australia in February 2001 is known as “Laxman’s Test”, for his knock of 281 runs in the second innings which helped India to script a magnificent turnaround and win this game, after trailing in the first innings by 274 runs. Harbhajan also had a crucial role to play in this victory as he took 13 wickets (7 for 123 in first innings and 6 for 73 in the second), including a hat-trick on the first day. In the last Test at Chennai, Harbhajan again played a stellar role, bagging 15 wickets for 217 runs (7 for 133 in first and 8 for 84 in second innings) to finish the series with a tally of 32 wickets. Aussie batsmen did not have any answer for his wiles and even such accomplished performers as Rickey Ponting and Adam Gilchrist appeared shell-shocked while facing him. Australian media nicknamed him as “Turbanator”- a tribute to his destructive capacity with the ball.

Harbhajan Singh

Indian spinners Anil Kumble (L) and Harbhajan Singh at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground in New Delhi. Photo: Ravi Raveendran/AFP


Harbhajan’s career did not ever attain the stratospheric heights that this performance promised. The surfeit of limited overs’ cricket made him focus more on restricting runs than on “buying” wickets. This resulted in bowling a flatter line without “giving the ball air”; the classic loop which is the hallmark of a top-class off-spinner also disappeared. This made him a less destructive bowler except on helpful surfaces and the returns also started growing thinner. When Anil Kumble returned to the side after recovering from an injury, Harbhajan moved into the slot of support spin bowler.

Harbhajan Singh

Injured spinner Harbhajan Singh watches the action on the first day of the third Test Match being played at the MCG in Melbourne 26 December 2003. Photo: William West/AFP


A finger injury caused Harbhajan to return home during the tour to Australia in 2003-04. He returned to the side the next season and was amongst wickets with most of the games being played at home. However, the arrival of Greg Chappell as coach and the exit of Sourav Ganguly as captain of the national side in 2005 caused hiccups in Harbhajan’s career. He was the first Indian cricketer to publicly criticise Chappell and his methods and said that the coach was “instilling fear and insecurity” in the side. Though his explanation was called for, Harbhajan managed to escape action and issued a statement lauding Chappell soon thereafter!

Harbhajan Singh

Gerg Chappell (L), talks with Harbhajan Singh (R), during a net practice session at The Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium in Mohali. Photo: Raveendran/AFP


Harbhajan found himself in the midst of one of the biggest controversies in cricket when India toured Australia in 2007-08. In the second Test at Adelaide, Australia lodged a formal complaint that he indulged in racial abuse against Andrew Symonds. The relations between the two sides were at a low ebb and this incident even threatened to disrupt the conduct of the remaining part of the tour. Harbhajan vehemently denied the charges and the Indian team management supported him. But Mike Proctor, the match referee, found him guilty and slapped a punishment. India promptly appealed against this verdict and got a stay, which allowed the tour to go on. Eventually, the ICC appeals Commissioner Justice John Hansen overturned the verdict of the match referee and absolved Harbhajan.

Harbhajan Singh

(L to R) Australian players Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden are seen along side Indian player Harbhajan Singh and assistant Indian team manager M.V. Sridhar prior to the start of the appeal hearing against a three-match ban imposed on Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh by the ICC at the Adelaide Federal Court, 29 January 2008. Photo: Robert Cianflone/Pool/AFP


Controversy continued to dog Harbhajan even after the closure of this episode. During the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches in 2008, he slapped fellow India teammate S Sreesanth after the game between Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians, which the latter side, led by Harbhajan, lost. The slapping of a national player in full view of television cameras drew widespread criticism and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) moved fast and initiated action against Harbhajan.

Harbhajan Singh

Indian cricketers Harbhajan Singh (L) and S Sreesanth. Photo: AFP


Incidentally, this was not the first time that Harbhajan had got physical with Sreesanth. During the Champions Cup trophy match in 2007, he had shoulder charged the fast bowler when he was walking to the top of his bowling mark. BCCI had chosen to ignore this incident despite it being witnessed across the country. But the “slapgate” was too serious to be brushed under the carpet and Harbhajan was barred from playing the remaining matches of that season of IPL, besides a five-match suspension from ODI’s.

Harbhajan’s international career took a severe reverse when he was injured during the tour to England in 2011. He was not selected for the tour to Australia in 2011-12 and his appearances in international matches became sporadic after that. He played his last Test in August 2015 and his final appearance in an ODI took place two months later, though he continued to play domestic first-class cricket till 2017. Since then, his appearances on the cricket field were limited to playing in IPL, where he picked up 150 wickets in 13 editions.

Harbhajan Singh

Harbhajan Singh hold his Man of the Series trophy after India defeated Australia by two wickets in the the third test, hence winning the series in Madras 22 March 2001. Photo: Ravi Raveendran/AFP


A tally of 417 wickets in Tests and 269 scalps in ODI’s makes Harbhajan the second most successful off-spinner to play for India, after Ravichandran Ashwin. He could also wield the willow effectively as evident from a total of 2,224 runs in Tests with 2 centuries and 9 fifties. He was also the first spin bowler from India to adjust to the demands of all versions of cricket effectively. But his tendency to create controversies and lack of amenability to discipline cast a cloud over his career which could have reached much greater heights given the prodigious talent he was blessed with.

Sreesanth

S Sreesanth with teammate Harbhajan Singh. Photo: Alexander Joe/AFP


Followers of the game from Kerala could be forgiven for not harbouring a soft spot towards this highly competitive cricketer as he is considered to be the bugbear of Sreesanth and the source of all troubles that the Kochi born pacer found himself in. News reports indicate that the two cricketers subsequently spoke to each other and resolved their differences. But it would be difficult for the fans to forgive so easily as the bad taste created by those incidents does not vanish quickly. The same is the case with cricketers and cricket-loving public of Australia, as could be understood from the observations in the autobiography of Gilchrist, despite Harbhajan and Symonds sharing the same dugout in IPL.

In retrospect, one is forced to conclude that it would have been better for Indian cricket if the aggressive instincts of Harbhajan Singh were channelled properly on the cricket field and outside.

(The author is a former international umpire and a senior bureaucrat)

Continue Reading

Latest

Sports Betting’s Next Big Election Battles Are in California

Published

on

Sports Betting’s Next Big Election Battles Are in California

TEMECULA, Calif. — Legal sports betting in the United States accelerated in 2021 as a flurry of states either overcame legislative logjams, as Ohio did just before Christmas, or signed off on online wagering, as New York did just after Election Day.

But those efforts are likely to pale in comparison to the all-out lobbying, campaigning and legal jousting in 2022 involving what a DraftKings executive recently called “one of the holy grails” in sports betting: California.

By November, Californians may be asked to vote on as many as four sports betting initiatives. That’s why deep-pocketed interests, including national sports books and Native American casinos, have been gearing up to spend $200 million to persuade voters in California to support their particular proposal — or to reject the others.

One measure that has already qualified for the state ballot, sponsored by powerful tribes in California, would add sports wagering, but only in person, at tribal casinos or horse racing tracks. Online betting initiatives, now gathering signatures, dangle the prospect of making bets anywhere through the internet. Others offer a middle ground.

If one of the measures passes, nearly two-thirds of Americans will live in states that allow or regulate sports betting. And with California and New York on board, sports wagering would essentially be national in scope, fueling a market that Goldman Sachs recently estimated could grow to $40 billion in revenues in a decade from $900 million now.

Yet gambling expansion in California has often fallen short or been torpedoed by competing interests. Indeed, California’s card rooms, which primarily operate around larger cities and offer a more limited range of games, just filed a lawsuit to invalidate the qualified tribal measure.

“We’re never going to get sports betting figured out at any level unless California comes on board,” Jason Giles, executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association, said at a recent sports betting conference at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula. “That will be the game changer for the United States.”

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in 2018 to strike down a federal law banning commercial sports betting in states other than Nevada, more than 30 states have authorized sports wagering, including about a dozen in the last year. More than 20 states have gone live.

New York just started mobile sports betting after awarding licenses for it to two coalitions featuring marquee names, Caesars Sportsbook and Bally’s Interactive. Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio signed a bill legalizing sports betting in late December. And legislators in Wyoming and Arizona, among others, quickly approved sports betting.

“Look at this massive expansion across the country and where we are — it’s becoming very mainstream,” said Brandt Iden, a former state representative in Michigan who pushed to legalize sports betting in his home state. Iden is now head of government affairs for Sportradar, which collects and analyzes data for sports books. “I talk to legislators who say, you know what, I don’t support gambling, but everybody is doing it.”

Of the holdouts, Texas considered several bills in 2021, and some lawmakers expect momentum when the legislature reconvenes in 2023. Florida, meanwhile, is a mess: A federal judge recently blocked the Seminole Tribe’s new sports betting app, and DraftKings and FanDuel are racing to gather enough signatures to get a referendum on the 2022 ballot.

In California, gambling — mostly on slot machines and blackjack — has been legal for two decades on tribal lands under compacts negotiated with the state. The state also permits gambling at horse racing tracks, which was legalized in 1933, and card rooms, which trace their lineage to poker-playing miners during the Gold Rush.

Any changes would require constitutional amendments through a voter referendum, or legislation backed by the voters.

Previous attempts have bogged down; online poker, for instance, failed in part because the tribes themselves were split. But now there appears to be less resistance on moral and philosophical grounds.

“If we think about progressive legislation, or legislation to protect consumer welfare, California lies at the forefront, whether we want to talk about minimum wage or privacy protection,” said Marc Edelman, a law professor at Baruch College who has written extensively on sports gambling. “If California legalizes sports gambling it becomes very unlikely that another state would arise as the consumer-oriented opposer of sports gambling.”

This time, the push to expand gambling began before the pandemic, from a coalition of 18 tribes that have dominated casino gambling in the state.

Across the United States, tribal gambling generated $27.8 billion in revenue in its fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2019, to Sept. 30, 2020, despite the pandemic. California is the biggest state, with 66 tribal casinos on federally recognized lands, mostly far from the coast, yielding about $8 billion, with much of that coming from slot machines.

Under the tribes’ initiative, which is backed by a political action committee that has raised more than $13 million, sports wagering would be permitted at tribal casinos and horse tracks. Roulette and games played with dice, such as craps, would also be allowed under the proposal, which qualified for the ballot in May 2021 after collecting more than one million valid signatures.

One thing that is not included is online betting, because the initiative is intended to be “a very measured, incremental step,” said Mark Macarro, tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians in Riverside County.

“We think this is the right thing to do for tribes and tribal sovereignty,” he said at the conference here. “There’s enough skittishness out there about what could happen to brick-and-mortar facilities.”

The initiative would also create a new civil enforcement tool allowing anyone suspicious of any illegal gambling operations to file lawsuits. It is this provision that has fueled two separate but related efforts by California’s card rooms to defeat the tribes, and to get their own sports betting measure passed.

California has more than 80 card rooms ranging from pub-like places with a few poker tables to sleek behemoths with 270 tables accompanied by restaurants and plentiful A.T.M.s. Collectively, they employ 23,000 people in urban areas, many of them Asian, Black and Hispanic, and pump in $300 million in federal, state and local tax revenues each year, according to the California Gaming Association, a trade group.

Many municipal budgets rely heavily on the card rooms to finance vital services and bolster juvenile justice and other programs, said Mayor Tasha Cerda of Gardena, which has two card rooms. She has backed an initiative that would permit sports betting at the card rooms, tribal casinos and racetracks, as well as allow for internet sports betting. That initiative has raised $450,000 to date. Meanwhile, some of the bigger card rooms have poured more than $24 million into a “No” campaign against the tribes’ initiative.

During a recent tour of Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, adjacent to SoFi Stadium, the host of the Super Bowl next month and the College Football Playoff national championship in 2023, Deven Kumar, the casino’s general manager, estimated sports betting could increase revenues — already hurt by the coronavirus pandemic — by 20 percent to 25 percent. He and James T. Butts Jr., Inglewood’s mayor, warned that the tribes’ civil enforcement provision could drain their existing business by up to 75 percent, compounded by the inevitable legal costs.

“They are attempting to make gambling a monopoly at the expense of others,” Butts said. “They are not the disenfranchised group they once were. The minority majority cities deserve the opportunity for equity as well.”

In the city of Hawaiian Gardens, where the Gardens Casino supplied 68 percent of the tax revenues in the 2019-20 municipal budget, Keith A. Sharp, the casino’s general counsel, said sports betting could transform Sundays at the casino — now mostly empty — into bustling periods where customers could wager on N.F.L. games while also playing baccarat or other games.

If the card rooms were hobbled, however, Nary Chin, a longtime card dealer and single mother of four, said she feared for her future.

“I learned English in the card room, not school,” said an emotional Chin, who immigrated from Cambodia in 1984. “I am very grateful. This is my home. If I didn’t have this job, I don’t know what I’d do.”

The third initiative comes from online sports books, including DraftKings and FanDuel, that want to enter California for the first time and offer online betting.

The measure requires those companies to partner with tribes, and its supporters say voters can pass both their initiative and the tribes’ in-person one. Most of the state’s profits would be dedicated to homelessness measures, and to the tribes themselves. It would also allow betting on nonathletic events, like award shows and video game contests, but not youth sports or elections, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

“We view brick-and-mortar as very complementary to mobile,” Jonathan Edson, FanDuel’s senior vice president for business development, said at the sports betting conference.

“California is one of the holy grails in sports,” added Jeremy Elbaum, senior vice president for business development at DraftKings.

The supporters, buffeted by an initial $100 million from seven sports books, have lined up mayors in Long Beach, Oakland, Fresno and Sacramento, plus advocates working to combat a homeless crisis. They are confident they will collect enough signatures to be certified by the June ballot deadline.

“We are focused on ongoing stable revenue to fund the key programs that we know we need,” said Tommy Newman, vice president for engagement and activation at the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “If we’re honest, this is regulating and capturing value from something that is happening, for people in communities that absolutely need the investment.”

In November, a fourth initiative arrived supporting both online and in-person betting, backed by a different group of tribes, including the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

“Out-of-state and international gaming operators want to rewrite the balanced system California has created so that the future belongs to them, paying a pittance to serious local and statewide social problems, and trying to divide the Tribes by offering temporary riches to a few while taking future growth opportunities away from the rest,” the tribes wrote in their application to the California attorney general.

A lawyer for the tribes, Scott Crowell, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Some gambling analysts believe that a plethora of initiatives may confuse voters, who may just say no to everything. Another wild card is a lawsuit filed in December by two card rooms claiming that the qualified tribal initiative violates the state constitution, which says initiatives can focus only on one subject, because the tribes are trying to add retail sports betting as well as add more table games.

Still, no matter the outcome of the lawsuit or the ballot measures, many sports and technology companies are building audiences through free-to-play games, contests, fantasy sports and national marketing campaigns, even in states where sports betting has not yet been cleared, said Rob Phythian, founder and chief executive of SharpLink Gaming, a technology company.

Teams like the Minnesota Vikings have hired companies like SharpLink to build fantasy games. That could be consequential in California, where there are 19 teams in the N.F.L., M.L.B., N.B.A., N.H.L. and W.N.B.A. — by far the most of any state.

“We’re just a bridge to betting,” Phythian said. “It’s sort of like training the muscle.”

Continue Reading

Latest

Addressing maternal health inequities | AAMC

Published

on

By

Addressing maternal health inequities | AAMC

Kysha Shaw lives with a lot of uncertainty. Among other things, the 42-year-old single mother of three worries about COVID-19, schools closing, and drug use and crime in her West Baltimore neighborhood.

“I love this community, but it can be really sad,” she says. “You see people begging for shoes and clothes. You might see someone slumped over with a needle in their arm. People sell drugs in front of the convenience stores.”

But Shaw is determined to keep herself and her children healthy, which she’s done thanks in part to an innovative effort called B’more for Healthy Babies Upton/Druid Heights (BHB U/DH). Founded in 2011, the program is part of a citywide initiative and is a partnership between the local community, the University of Maryland Medical Center, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

BHB-U/DH supports mothers and babies in West Baltimore, where 92% of residents are Black and 66% of children live below the federal poverty level. It provides prenatal education, support groups, smoking cessation, some rental assistance, and connection to a range of social services. Among other achievements, the effort has reduced infant mortality by 75%.

Experts believe that programs like BHB U/DH are essential if the United States hopes to address the inequities in maternal health found in so many crowded cities and remote rural towns.

The statistics are striking: Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women. Black women are twice as likely to experience serious perinatal complications. And early indicators suggest that COVID-19 is only exacerbating such inequities.

What’s more, advanced degrees and full bank accounts don’t close the gap. In fact, a college-educated Black woman faces a 60% greater risk of maternal death than a White woman with no high school diploma. Why is that? Experts point to the effects of subtle and explicit racism as well as weathering, the biological fallout of ongoing stress that can cause premature aging and related health problems.

Faced with this worrisome reality, researchers and providers are working to improve the health of vulnerable pregnant people before, during, and after childbirth.

“It’s incredible, some of the things I’ve heard our moms go through when they’re seeking care. It’s heartbreaking.”

Kamilah Dixon-Shambley, MD
Medical director of Moms2B

“Inequities are so pervasive and persistent that they require multisector efforts,” says AAMC Health Equity Research Analyst Funmi Makinde, MPH. “We need to address transportation, employment, and housing as well as physician shortages, and we need more diverse providers. We need high-quality data that are shared publicly to ensure accountability. The list goes on.”

Throughout all this work, it’s crucial to include the perspectives of patients who are often overlooked, experts say. In one recent survey, 20% of Black, biracial, and Latinx people felt their medical requests were refused or ignored, compared with 11% of White people.

“It’s incredible, some of the things I’ve heard our moms go through when they’re seeking care. It’s heartbreaking,” says Kamilah Dixon-Shambley, MD, medical director of Moms2B, an Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center program that provides yearlong supports and health education to low-income new and expectant mothers. “It’s crucial that patients and the community can trust their providers.”

Below, AAMCNews profiles multifaceted efforts to address maternal health inequities across the country.

Data that save lives

In 2006, California officials noted a worrisome trend: Maternal mortality was on the rise, even as the state recorded the most births nationwide.

Hoping to reverse the disturbing death rate, they turned to Stanford University School of Medicine to co-found the multistakeholder group that became the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC).

Serious number-crunching has fueled much of the CMQCC’s work. For one, it collects and analyzes hospitals’ raw data to quickly identify areas ripe for improvement, including racial and ethnic disparities.

“We send hospitals back reports, and they are flabbergasted when data are broken down by race and ethnicity. They may see that their Black patients have 6 percentage points higher C-section rates than Whites,” says CMQCC Medical Director Elliott Main, MD. “That really spurs them on to look at addressing racism in labor and delivery.”

CMQCC experts also use data to identify the need for and then create step-by-step provider toolkits on key causes of birth-related complications. One on postpartum hemorrhage, which covers such crucial moves as measuring and effectively treating blood loss, reduced disparities between Black and White patients by nearly 80%.

“The standardized protocols in toolkits take away a lot of provider subjectivity,” Main says. “Subjectivity is the entrée for biases that impact patient care.”

And hospitals in the collaborative — there are more than 200 of them — can receive training on implementing the toolkits. “A toolkit that sits on the shelf does nothing,” he adds.

“We send hospitals back reports, and they are flabbergasted when data are broken down by race and ethnicity. … That really spurs them on to look at addressing racism in labor and delivery.”

Elliott Main, MD
Medical director of the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative

All of these efforts have borne fruit: Since the launch of the collaborative, California’s maternal deaths have dropped by 65%.

Now, the CMQCC is crafting additional equity-related recommendations, such as handing expectant patients a staff-signed commitment promising to treat every patient with dignity and engage them in all birth-related decisions.

Also high on the CMQCC agenda is assessing the approaches of maternal mortality review committees, the bodies that study every pregnancy-related death.

“Often a problem is that review materials are medical-centric, and obviously the patient can’t tell her own story,” says Main. “We’re now exploring interviewing family members who lost a relative for their perspective. I think that’s going to be the future of committee reviews.”

Hands-on help

Pregnancy always brings some stress, but the tension is much higher for patients who struggle to understand English and the intricacies of the U.S. health care system.

That’s why Crista Johnson-Agbakwu, MD, founded Valleywise Health’s Refugee Women’s Health Clinic in Arizona in 2008.

Since then, the Phoenix-based center has served more than 16,000 patients, many from countries across Africa. Arizona, which ranks high on the list of states resettling refugees, is now integrating evacuees from Afghanistan, says Johnson-Agbakwu.

“These are people who have escaped war and gender-based violence and other human rights atrocities,” she notes. “It’s important to understand the communities’ needs and meet the priorities they identify.”

To help do that, the clinic hires cultural health navigators (CHNs) — lay health care workers steeped in the culture and language of those they serve. “CHNs deeply understand patients’ background, religion, and lived experience and can interpret their health care through those lenses.”

CHNs offer patients ongoing supports, from accompanying them to prenatal visits to facilitating a smooth hospital discharge. And they can chart all interactions in electronic health records so that physicians know what’s been done or discussed.

“These are people who have escaped war and gender-based violence and other human rights atrocities. It’s important to understand the communities’ needs.”

Crista Johnson-Agbakwu, MD
Founder of Valleywise Health’s Refugee Women’s Health Clinic

Like Baltimore’s BHB, Ohio’s Moms2B, and similar programs, the clinic’s supports are accompanied by classes on perinatal health. But its offerings include a tour of the hospital labor and delivery unit — a crucial support for participants unaccustomed to Western, medicalized births.

“Things like IV lines and beeping noises and blood pressure cuffs can be very scary for this population,” says Johnson-Agbakwu. “They’re used to being mobile in labor and can interpret what we do as tying them to the bed. The tour helps demystify a lot of this.”

In all its work, the clinic strives to honor patients’ perspectives. “We try to go beyond checking the boxes of ensuring medical care,” she says. “We are engaging in care that’s anchored in mutual respect. That’s a piece that can be missing in achieving maternal health equity.”

Reaching rural patients

Many of the patients treated by Vidant Health in eastern North Carolina face significant pregnancy-related risks. More than half are overweight or obese, and many have diabetes or hypertension. The poverty rate of this population is twice the national average, and nearly all live in remote rural areas.

Black people — who comprise roughly a third of Vidant’s birthing patients — often fare the worst. In one recent nine-year period, they represented nearly 70% of maternal deaths in the region.

And Vidant Medical Center, based in Greenville, is the only large hospital in an expanse covering 29 counties.

Since 2017, Vidant has been working to support providers throughout the region in efforts to ensure high-quality care during obstetrical emergencies.

One major focus is drills in birth-related crises. These simulations — hundreds have been held in 18 hospitals over the past three years — cover emergency cesarean sections, maternal resuscitation, and more.

The scenarios unfold realistically: A Vidant staff member assumes the role of a patient, and the local team races to save her — calling for emergency assistance, rushing to get instruments, and suggesting necessary maneuvers.

“In a small hospital, these emergencies happen maybe once every two or three years,” which makes it tough to keep skills fresh, says James deVente, MD, PhD, medical director of obstetrics at Vidant Medical Center. “We give them a chance to practice skills over and over so that when something actually happens, they’re ready.”

Traveling to provide training is not always the best option, though. So Vidant providers have also logged thousands of hours advising local providers on how to handle their toughest perinatal cases.

Now, in an effort launched in July 2020, Vidant experts also remotely treat high-risk patients, working in collaboration with 15 local obstetricians.

“Patients often need to drive 60 miles or more each way to be seen [at Vidant],” says Alan Sacks, MD, who heads the Maternal Outreach Through Telehealth for Rural Sites (MOTHeRS) Project. “Appointments can be a costly ordeal in wages lost for a day off from work, child care, and transportation. The project is patient-centered. We basically go to them.”

In addition to telehealth services like remote ultrasound, the effort screens all participants for food insecurity. Those in need immediately receive a food package and are connected to a local food bank. All patients with diabetes or obesity also receive ongoing nutrition counseling.

Sacks highlights another key component of the program: mental health care.

“Mental health disorders carry a 50% increase in severe maternal morbidity and mortality. Nearly 9% of maternal deaths are attributable to mental health disorders. All of these figures are higher in African American patients. The situation and statistics are tragic and can fuel a worrisome intergenerational cycle.”

Looking ahead, Sacks hopes to expand the MOTHeRS Project to additional remote locations. Meanwhile, Vidant’s efforts so far have made a difference. For example, the infant mortality rate in the region dropped by 24% in recent years.

“There’s more work to be done,” says deVente. “But we set out to make this region a better place to give birth and be born, and I think we’ve succeeded in doing that.”

Continue Reading

Trending